Gospel for Life: What the gospel isn’t

It’s imperative that we understand the gospel. We can’t botch this one up—it’s the most valuable piece of information in the world. Satan knows it—sadly many American churches don’t—they would rather major on minor themes—ones that aren’t so offensive.  Satan hates the gospel, he’ll do whatever it takes to obscure it, minimize it, distort it, and attack it. He’s doing a stellar job, too. Defining the gospel with clarity seems to be incredibly hard these days. So first, I’m going to show you four things the gospel is not.

WHAT THE GOSPEL ISN’T[1]

The gospel is not simply that we’re all okay.

The teaching throughout the entire Bible is that God is a judge. When God spoke to Moses describing his character, he made sure to include that he “does not leave the guilty unpunished.” Every sin will be accounted for and paid for in some way. For those who trust in Christ for salvation, Jesus will pay it. For those who reject him and his gospel, they will pay for it by receiving the full punishment for their sins: eternity in hell. I emphatically say: we are not all okay.

The gospel is not simply that God is love.

Here’s an instance where only part of the truth is told. It is no question that God is love—that’s crystal clear in 1 John. But that’s not the only word that describes God. God said his name was Jealous. The Bible says that he’s an “all consuming fire.” The Bible says that his wrath is being poured out against all unrighteousness. See, God is love, but he’s also a judge. To simply say that God is love is not the gospel—that message does not make any mention of our problem, which is that we are sinners in need of a savior. If there is no knowledge of sin, there is no need for salvation. Jesus is unnecessary. The cross is simply extraneous. God is love is true, but it’s not the whole truth—and therefore, it misleads.

The gospel is not simply that Jesus wants to be your friend.

This kind of mentality is rampant in youth groups. It’s the idea that Jesus is some hippy push-over who gets along with everyone and wants everyone to get along. He’s the friend that’s always saying “Can’t we all just get along?” But the Jesus of the Bible is not this way, and this is not the gospel. It’s true that Jesus desires intimacy with his children—but that message doesn’t have anything to do with salvation. The gospel, as Paul says, is “the power of God for salvation”—not the power of God for friendship.

The gospel is not that we should live rightly.

If that’s the gospel, we’re all doomed. The gospel is a message of grace, not works. The gospel is life-changing news, not rules. Most unbelievers equate Christianity with a new lifestyle. The gospel—the good news of Jesus Christ—is not live this way. It’s not behave! This message only breeds legalism and teaches people to rely on their own morality to get them into heaven.

This is the continuation of a series:

Part 1: Introduction

Part 2: The Bible

Part 3: Just one gospel

Part 4: Faith comes by hearing

Part 5: A confusing message?

Part 6: Objective reality– or nothing


[1] These four ideas are taken from The Gospel & Personal Evangelism by Mark Dever; Crossway, 2007

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