Scripture Statement: The Gospel is Christ.

Scripture Reading: 1 Corinthians 15:1-4

            Christ died for our sins is what the Gospel of God is about. This message of redemption through Christ is what the apostles preached wherever they traveled.  The Book of Acts records many sermons by Peter and Paul; the sum and substance of their proclamation focused upon Christ’s death and resurrection for lost humanity. The center of gravity concerning God’s Gospel is Jesus. The Gospel is about God’s grace. What does grace mean to you? Do you stand in awe of God’s grace as you reflect upon Paul’s brief summary of God’s Gospel to the Corinthians? Does the word grace awaken within you a spirit of rejoicing?

Have you lost the sense of sin with all its hideousness? Have you lost the sense of grace? Are you conscious that apart from sin, grace has no meaning within this world? When you think upon the Gospel of Christ, are you immediately conscious that the very heart and center of forgiveness focuses upon the Christ as set forth by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4?  Are you aware that God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself (2 Corinthians 5:17-19)? Are you mindful that Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection set up a new relationship between God and individuals who respond to Jesus as Lord?

This essay calls attention to the original apostolic preaching. The climax of apostolic preaching is the Gospel story of the resurrection of Jesus. The word Gospel is equivalent to the Greek word κήρυγμα (khrugma, “What is preached, message, proclamation”). What Christians frequently hear from the pulpits in many fellowships does not resemble the apostolic preaching of the first century. The Gospel is not about singing without the accompaniment of an instrument, one cup on the communion table, the manner of distributing the bread in the Lord’s Supper (break or pinch), grape juice or wine in the communion, women must not cut their hair, and so on.[1] The primary objective of this essay is to call attention to the true nature of the Gospel of God. The Gospel reveals how Christ became sin for the world (2 Corinthians 5:21). Upon the Cross, Jesus accomplished redemption for lost humanity (John 19:30). It is the Cross of Jesus that interprets sin and righteousness and love.

When individuals in the ancient world listened to the words of the Gospel, they realized that the Gospel is about the death and resurrection of Jesus for salvation. Without the finished work of Christ upon Calvary, there is no reconciliation with God. It is only in Christ that God reconciles the world unto Himself. One cannot reflect upon the Cross without a consciousness that the wealth and glory of the Gospel of Jesus centers on His Cross. To the world at large, the message of the Cross is an outrage and a scandal. Yes, to the so-called wise of the world, the Cross is foolishness. In spite of the negative attachment to the Cross of Jesus by unbelievers, nevertheless, to the believer, it is through the Cross that Jesus draws humanity unto Himself. Paul summarizes his Gospel to the Corinthians about 58 AD. He writes with brevity as he seeks to capture the very essence of God’s Good News:

Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. 2 By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. 3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importancea: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures. (1 Corinthians 15:1-4)[2]

This is the very heart of the Gospel (εὐαγγέλιον, euangelion, “good news, gospel”) or center of Paul’s message (κήρυγμα, khrugma). The khrugma announces the mighty acts of God in accomplishing salvation for a lost and dying world. Paul’s preaching was centered in the proclamation of the facts concerning the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. Paul delivered to the Corinthians what he had received concerning Jesus. How did Paul receive this message of redemption? Paul discloses that his revelation came directly from God the Father through the Lord Jesus. Listen to Paul as he unfolds this divine encounter from God:

But when God, who set me apart from birtha and called me by his grace, was pleased 16 to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not consult any man, 17 nor did I go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went immediately into Arabia and later returned to Damascus. 18 Then after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Peterb and stayed with him fifteen days. 19 I saw none of the other apostles—only James, the Lord’s brother. 20 I assure you before God that what I am writing you is no lie. 21 Later I went to Syria and Cilicia. 22 I was personally unknown to the churches of Judea that are in Christ. 23 They only heard the report: “The man who formerly persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.” (Galatians 1:15-23)

            In this pericope (The Resurrection of Christ), one is confronted with the message of proclamation—preaching Jesus, or preaching the faith. Paul’s preaching was centered in the proclamation of the facts of His death, His burial, and His resurrection. It is belief in this message about Christ that one is confronted with the eternal kingdom of God. When one announces the Good News of God’s way of salvation in and through Christ, one recounts His life and work of redemption. One also focuses upon His sufferings, death, and resurrection from the dead. In the life of Jesus, one observes divinely guided history prophesied by the prophets as having reached its climax in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. In the epistles of Paul, one is confronted with the very heart of his message—the Gospel of God.

            One cannot read Paul’s letters without a consciousness of the importance and weight of the death of Christ upon the Cross. The Cross is not foolishness to God. Paul, in his First Epistle to the Corinthians, identifies the message of the Cross as God’s way of redemption for lost humanity. He writes: “For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness (μωρίας, mwrias, “folly”) of what was preached (κηρύγματος, khrugmatos, “proclamation”) to save (σῶσαι, swsai) those who believe” (1 Corinthians 1:21). It is not through foolish preaching, but rather through the folly of the proclamation that God chooses to save the ones believing (τοὺς πιστεύοντας, tous pisteuontas, “to the ones believing”) the message of salvation, which message is about Christ’s atonement for salvation upon the Cross. Surely, Paul is calling attention to the content of the message, that is to say, the foolishness of the thing preached—the Cross.

            The crucifixion demonstrates God’s wisdom. Paul was not unaware of the reaction of the world around about him concerning his message. He goes to the very heart of the reaction of both Jews and Gentiles: “ but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles” (1:23). How could God justify sinful humanity? God devised a way that He could be just and, at the same time, justify sinful men and women. It is only in Christianity that one is confronted with the depravity, or degeneracy, of the human race, and, at the same time, to offer a remedy for his or her corruption. How? Christ is the answer! Listen to Paul as he enumerates God’s wisdom:

 Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him. 30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31 Therefore, as it is written: “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.”b (1:26-31)

            Jesus is God’s wisdom. In God’s wisdom, He made Jesus “our righteousness, holiness and redemption.” This is the Good News to a lost humanity. It is in the Gospel that one witnesses “righteousness from God” apart from works. Paul begins his Roman Epistle with a reference to the sheer wonder of God’s Gospel: “For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith’” (Romans 1:17). In verse 17, Paul expresses emphatically where the righteousness from God is revealed—“in it” (ἐν αὐτῷ, en autw), that is to say, in the Gospel. In Paul’s Second Epistle to the Corinthians, he expresses the Gospel this way:

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21 God made him who had no sin to be sina for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:17-21)

            It is only in Jesus that one receives this “righteousness” that belongs to God. It is not infused righteousness, but imputed righteousness, that is to say, a righteousness credited to one through faith. This righteousness is “from God,” not through meritorious deeds. It is in this vein that Paul speaks of Abraham: “What does the Scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness’” (Romans 4:3). Paul’s Epistle to the Romans also sets forth how God dealt with the problem of justifying sinful humanity and demonstrating His justice at the same time.[3] Again, one observes that Jesus is the answer to the sin problem. Paul calls attention to the Good News of God—righteousness from God through faith in His Son:

But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25 God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement,a through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— 26 he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus. (Romans 3:21-26)

The only righteousness that enables one to stand before God is the righteousness that is imputed to one through faith in God’s Son. The righteousness that justifies is the “righteousness from God” Himself. This righteousness from God is what the Gospel of God is all about. In other words, the Gospel is the κήρυγμα (khrugma, “message” or “proclamation” of God’s Good News) of the early Christians. Today, many within the Christian community confuse preaching with teaching, that is to say, with ethical instructions following one’s conversion to Christ. Much of the so-called preaching in the church today would not have been recognized in the first century. This distinction is preserved in the Gospels, the Book of Acts, and the Epistles. Teaching (διδακή, didakh) in the New Testament is primarily concerned with ethical instructions, not a pattern for a worship service with five prescribed rituals to be performed on Sunday morning. The apostles did not convert the world to Christ through ethical instructions, but rather through the proclamation of Jesus as God’s way of salvation. 

Preaching is primarily the public proclamation of the message of redemption to the non-Christian world. It was by the κήρυγμα (khrugma), not by διδακή (didakh) that it pleased God to save the “ones believing.” Preaching comes with the proposition of the “Good News” (εὐαγγέλιον, euangelion, “Gospel”)—salvation by faith in the finished work of Christ upon Calvary.  As one listens to many preachers in the pulpit with their message, one quickly becomes aware that many Christians are seeking to run the kingdom of God without the Cross. For many church leaders, the Cross has been replaced by what is known today within many Churches as “pattern theology.” One does not understand Christ if one does not understand the Cross.

            As cited above, Paul defines his Gospel in First Corinthians 15:1-4.  In verse one, he drives home the substance of his proclamation: “Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand.”  The word Gospel is from the Greek word εὐαγγέλιον (euangelion) and the phrase “I preached” is from the Greek word εὐηγγελισάμην (euhggelisamhn).  If the Corinthians would hold fast to what he “preached,” they would be saved. In verses three and four, Paul reveals again what he preached, namely, the “Good News,” which is summarized as the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. What is to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness is the very thing that God chooses to save those who believe, namely, Jesus crucified.

            The Cross of Christ sets forth a new humanity. Just a cursory reflection upon the Cross of Christ reveals that His Cross is, in effect, God’s searchlight into the hearts of men and women. It is in the Cross that God makes known His love and the sins of fallen humanity. In the Cross, one also observes God’s power and the helplessness of the human race to save itself. It is the death of Christ that reverses the evil fortunes of humanity. The death of Christ is the pivotal point in which God deals with the sins of civilization. The Cross discloses God’s holiness and people’s contamination, or corruption. It is through the Cross of Jesus that Christians now live in a new heaven and a new earth in which righteousness dwells—righteousness from God by faith. The Cross is not an after thought on the part of God. John writes: “All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast—all whose names have not been written in the book of life belonging to the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the worlda (Revelation 13:8).

            The story of the crucifixion abounds throughout the New Testament writings. In fact, only three books in the New Covenant writings fail to mention the crucifixion—Philemon and Second and Third John. In the English translation of the Book of Matthew, one observes two chapters (26 and 27) on the crucifixion, which consist of one hundred and forty-one verses in the NIV. Also in the Gospel of Mark, in the NIV, one observes two chapters (14 and 15) on the crucifixion, which also consists of one hundred and nineteen verses. Attention is called to the English translations into chapters in order to illustrate the attention allotted to the Crucifixion by both Matthew and Mark. John devotes nearly half of his Gospel to Passion Week.

Luke, in the Book of Acts, sets forth the death and resurrection of Christ as the center of preaching among the apostles and other disciples. Today, one cannot help but wonder if the apostles were with us today, would they recognize what is commonly called preaching today? For instance, among many preachers and leaders, the “center of gravity” of Christianity has been transferred from the Cross to the particular dogma of a fussy or hard-to-please group. Just a cursory reading of the Book of Acts reveals that the preaching centers in the death and resurrection of Jesus. This message about Jesus’ death and resurrection is the Good News proclaimed by the apostles for the salvation of men and women.

Luke opens his second book with words that set forth the centrality of the preaching by the apostles as well as the disciples of Jesus. Luke writes with brevity about the resurrection of Jesus: “After his suffering, he showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3). In the next chapter, Luke gives some of the comments by Peter in his Pentecost message, which message illustrates the focus of the preaching in the first century. Peter, after citing the prophecy of Joel (835 BC), focuses his attention on God’s set purpose for the events transpiring. He then speaks the following words as he draws attention to the cross and the resurrection:

“Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. 23 This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men,b put him to death by nailing him to the cross. 24 But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him. (2:22-24)

One cannot read this sermon without a consciousness of God’s initiative in the salvation of the world. Jesus is the thrust of this message. Again, Peter proclaims: “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ” (2:36). On another day, Peter, while in the Temple, speaks to onlookers following the healing of the crippled beggar (3:1-10) about their actions concerning Jesus of Narazeth: “You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you. 15 You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this” (3:14-15). Peter, in this sermon, calls attention to the prophets in order to give credence to his message about Jesus as God’s Annointed One for the salvation of Israel: “But this is how God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, saying that his Christa would suffer” (3:18). Then Peter concludes his discourse about Jesus’ resurrection: “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ” (2:36). This sermon, like the one on the Day of Pentecost, sets forth the essence of the preaching of Peter. His preaching is about the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus.

Sometime afterwards, Peter and John were brought before the Sanhedrin for preaching Jesus. Once more, one is confronted with the substance of their preaching. This confrontation with the Sanhedrin had its beginning with the healing of the beggar. Luke states: “They were greatly disturbed because the apostles were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead” (4:2). The day after their arrest (4:5), Peter speaks boldly about Jesus: “Then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed” (4:10). Peter then goes to the very heart of the Gospel: “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (4:12). Between verses 10 and 12, he cites Psalm 118:22 concerning the Stone that the builders rejected, which Stone was none other than Jesus whom they crucified and God raised from the dead.

Later, they (Peter and John) were brought before the Sanhedrin for teaching Jesus as God’s way of salvation. The word teaching (διδαχή, didach) is employed by the religious leaders to describe the κήρυγμα (khrugma) of Peter and John. Even though one announces the Good News of salvation in and through Jesus, nevertheless, there is a sense in which one does teach as well as preach Jesus. One way of teaching is to interpret the Messianic prophecies concerning the coming of the Messiah as foretold by God in Genesis 3:15. Some confusion exists within many Churches of Christ over the word “teaching,” which is basically associated with their brand of orthodoxy, not teaching about Jesus or ethical instructions. The word teaching (διδαχή, didach) is employed in two different senses—teaching about Christ and His ethical instructions to His disciples.  Only the context can determine the meaning one should attach to the word teaching. Luke informs his readers that after their release from the Sanhedrin that: “Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching (διδάσκοντες, didaskontes) and proclaiming (εὐαγγελιζόμενοι, euangelizomenoi) the good news that Jesus is the Christ”a (Acts 5:42).

Stephen’s sermon before the Sanhedrin is a classic example of teaching and preaching Jesus as God’s only way of salvation. His defense before the Sanhedrin also included the death of Jesus (7:51-53), which immediately brought about his own martyrdom from the Jewish Supreme Court (7:54-60). Stephen started with Abraham and developed the fulfillment of His promise from Abraham to Joseph in Egypt and then to the birth of Moses in Egypt (7:17), and, ultimately with deliverance from Egyptian bondage under Moses’ leadership. Stephen gives the history of Israel with its ultimate fulfillment in Jesus the Messiah. Yet, Israel rejected God’s Gospel by crucifying God’s Son. Listen to Stephen as he points out to the leaders of Israel their customary practice of rejection of God’s prophets:

You stiff-necked people, with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are just like your fathers: You always resist the Holy Spirit! 52 Was there ever a prophet your fathers did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered him— 53 you who have received the law that was put into effect through angels but have not obeyed it. (7:51-53)

This message by Stephen sets forth an example of teaching and preaching combined. Saul, who later became a defender of God’s Gospel, gave approval to the death of Stephen (8:1). After his conversion to Christ, Paul, too, became one of the most ardent defenders of God’s Gospel. Just a cursory reading of Paul’s speeches in the Book of Acts also reveals that his sermons focused on Jesus as God’s way of salvation. After Stephen’s death, the next chapter also details another conversion. In the eighth chapter of Acts, one is introduced to one of the seven deacons chosen in Acts 6 to represent widows that were neglected in the distribution of funds. Later, Philip, one of the seven, evangelized in Samaria and “proclaimed (ἐκήρυσσεν, ekhrussen) the Christ there” (8:5). In this same chapter, Luke writes: “But when they believed Philip as he preached (εὐαγγελιζομένω, euangelizomenw) the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women” (8:12).

Following this mission, he received a word from an angel of the Lord to go to the desert road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza (8:26).  Luke then records the conversion of the Ethiopian (8:40). When Philip approached the chariot, he inquired of the eunuch concerning the Scripture he was reading (Isaiah 53). He asked as to whether he understood this prophet. It was at this point that Luke says, “And beginning from this Scripture, he preached to him Jesus” (8:35, my translation). The NIV translates this way: “Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus” (8:35). Another conversion is reported in Acts 10—the conversion of Cornelius and his household. Peter’s sermon begins with verse 34 and ends with verse 43. This sermon also focuses upon Jesus as God’s way of redemption. One cannot read this sermon without a consciousness that the Good News is about Jesus. The following is the essence of the sermon preached by Peter:

Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism 35 but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right. 36 You know the message (τὸν λόγον, ton logon, “the word”) God sent to the people of Israel, telling the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. 37 You know what has happened throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached— 38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him. 39 “We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a tree, 40 but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen. 41 He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen—by us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. 42 He commanded us to preach (κηρῦξαι, κηρυχαι, “to proclaim”) to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. 43 All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” (Acts 10:34-43)

Paul and Barnabas began their first missionary journey with a stop over at Cyprus.  When they arrived at Salamis, Luke informs his readers that they “proclaimed (κατήγγελλον, kathngellon, “they announced”) the word of God in the Jewish synagogues” (13:5). As they traveled through the island, the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, sent for Barnabas and Paul because he wanted “to hear the word of God” (13:6-7). What did the preaching of the “word of God” include? After leaving Cyprus, Paul and Barnabas went to Pisidian Antioch and attended a synagogue. During this visit, they were encouraged to speak if they had words of encouragement. At this point, Paul stood up and recounted, in part, the history of Israel to the time of David. He then took this history as a jumping off point to stress that Jesus descended from David—“From this man’s descendants God has brought to Israel the Savior Jesus, as he promised” (13:23). Following this teaching, he then declared the very heart of God’s Good News to the nation of Israel:

Brothers, children of Abraham, and you God-fearing Gentiles, it is to us that this message of salvation has been sent. 27 The people of Jerusalem and their rulers did not recognize Jesus, yet in condemning him they fulfilled the words of the prophets that are read every Sabbath. 28 Though they found no proper ground for a death sentence, they asked Pilate to have him executed. 29 When they had carried out all that was written about him, they took him down from the tree and laid him in a tomb. 30 But God raised him from the dead, 31 and for many days he was seen by those who had traveled with him from Galilee to Jerusalem. They are now his witnesses to our people. 32 We tell you the good news: What God promised our fathers 33 he has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising up Jesus.  (13:26-33).

Is this the kind of preaching that is heard from many pulpits today? The sermons examined in the Book of Acts reveal the Good News of God to a lost humanity. In this message of redemption, Paul again drives home the Gospel of God as revealed in Jesus:  “Therefore, my brothers, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. 39 Through him everyone who believes is justified from everything you could not be justified from by the law of Moses” (13:38-39). Paul’s second missionary journey included a visit to Thessalonica (17:1-9). Again, one observes the subtance of Paul’s preaching. Listen to him as he seeks to capture the hearts and souls of the Thessalonians through the Gospel:  As his custom was, Paul went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, 3 explaining and proving that the Christa had to suffer and rise from the dead. ‘This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Christ,b’he said” (17:2-3).

Also, Paul at Athens preached the death and resurrection of Jesus. Listen to Paul as he sets before the Athenians the Gospel: “For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead” (17:31). In Corinth, Paul also preached the same message. In his correspondence to the Corinthians, he reminds them that “For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2). For Paul, his message was “the message of the Cross” (1:18) or the “message of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:19). Paul’s message was about a dead man named Jesus whom God raised from the dead (Acts 25:19). Paul in his defense before King Agrippa narrated his preaching:

But I have had God’s help to this very day, and so I stand here and testify to small and great alike. I am saying nothing beyond what the prophets and Moses said would happen— 23 that the Christb would suffer and, as the first to rise from the dead, would proclaim light to his own people and to the Gentiles.” (Acts 26:22-23)

One of Paul’s earliest Epistles (Galatians), written about AD 49, sets forth the very essence of the Gospel: “who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father” (Galatians 1:4). Just a few verses later, he burst forth in a stinging condemnation of anyone who preaches another Gospel than this. Listen to him as he pronounces a curse on anyone who preaches another way of salvation than by faith in Jesus:

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7 which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! 9 As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned! (1:6-9)

Many Christians are preaching another gospel, which is contrary to the true Gospel. Some Christians confuse their so-called “doctrine of Christ” with the Gospel of God. The Gospel is Good News about salvation by grace through faith in His Son Jesus Christ. As one peruses the Epistles of Paul, one cannot help but observe that it is Calvary, not Bethlehem, that is the focus of Paul’s Gospel. The Incarnation had to occur in order that there might be an Atonement for the sins of men and women (Romans 3:21-26). The Cross of Jesus is supreme and crucial to God and to the human race.  Paul writes: “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (5:8). Again, he pens: “ Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us” (8:34). Paul did not discount the Incarnation of Christ as he focuses upon the Gospel. In his Epistle to the Romans, he begins with the Gospel:

Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God— 2 the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures 3 regarding his Son, who as to his human nature was a descendant of David, 4 and who through the Spirita of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of Godb by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 1:1-4)

            The Apostle Peter, toward the end of his life, echoes his preaching with the following words: “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed” (1 Peter 2:24). John also sets forth the heart of the Gospel in his First Epistle: “He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also forb the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:2). Earlier, John, in his Book of Revelation (written before the death of Nero) gives greetings and doxology by expressing the Gospel in concise phraseology: “To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood” (Revelation 1:5). The Atonement of Christ is of such a nature that there can be no compromise. One cannot compromise the Gospel of God. The death of Christ effected salvation for both men and women.

CONCLUSION

            What does it mean to preach the Gospel? Just a persusal of the various religious journals within the Churches of Christ reveals that in different circles, or various fellowships, numerous ideas have been identified as the Gospel. As a result of misunderstanding the Gospel of God, this misapplication has generated the party spirit that disrupts the unity of the Church. Paul, as cited above, does not allow for the preaching of another gospel. When the Cross is not the center of Christianity, then, in due time, Christianity losses its influence. Justification by faith is a relic of the past in many fellowships that profess faith in Christ. Justification is practically obsolete in many churches and religious journals, especially among many within the Churches of Christ. The Good News of God is that He has made provisions for the salvation of men and women by faith in His Son Jesus, not works of law. Jesus’ death upon the Cross established a new relationship between God and humanity. It is only God’s grace through Christ that can right all wrong. One can say that Christianity has grown out of the Cross of Calvary.

The proclamation of God (the Gospel) centers on what God has done for humanity. On the other hand, teaching declares what God expects men and women to do. With the Incarnation of Christ, one is conscious that human life has acquired a fresh dimension. In other words, the powers of the world beyond has made an impact upon humanity in this world of sin. The Gospel is about how one can enter upon a new life—a life that results in eternal life. Eternal life is a present possession of those in Jesus the Messiah. The Gospel is about the great divine event—God entered time in order to rescue His creatures.  Why does the Gospel no longer radiate from the faces of God’s children? Why is there so little love among many Christians? Is it not from a lack of understanding the true nature of the Gospel of God! At the Cross of Jesus, one sees the sins of humanity at its worse—the very nadir of moral evil. It is the Gospel that has moved the world, not law. In Jesus, one sees incarnate righteousness and love. Jesus tasted death for every person; He reigns from the deadly tree. What is the Gospel of redemption? One can say unhesitatingly, it is the Cross.

To preach Jesus is to preach God revealing Himself in the Christ. Again, the revelation of God is also seen on the Cross. As one reflects upon the Cross, one observes an actual objective transaction of God; God does something that is absolutely essential for the salvation of the world. The Cross of Jesus is the divine act of reconciliation. It is at the Cross that the pride of men and women is finally broken. The Cross of Christ differentiates Christianity from world religions. In the Incarnation, God is the One who comes to men and women in order to resue them from condemnation. The sins of civilization is the cause of the Incarnation, that is to say, the Savior’s descent. When one preaches Jesus, one preachers the personal activity of God on the Cross. Jesus is the very heart of the Gospel. Why? It is in His person that God unites the human and the divine natures. When one puts his or her faith in Jesus, God accepts this one for eternal life. Remember, the Christ who came is the Gospel. It is in the Incarnation and the death of Chirst that one witnesses the divine-human movement of humiliation.

In conclusion, I call attention to a speech by Allen Bailey (second cousin of mine), which speech confirms what is happening within many Churches of Christ. I am citing this printed article of his speech, not to condemn him, but rather, to illustrate that the true nature of the Gospel has been lost among many of God’s people. In 1994, Bailey, one of the participants in a preachers’ study conducted by some of the major leaders in the one-cup and nonSunday school movement, makes a startling, but true, statement concerning a lack of understanding about “grace” within this movement. His admission is quite revealing. He writes with frankness about this deficiency of grace within this movement:

Brothers, sisters, and friends, please listen. I do have some concerns and sympathy toward the confusion on this problem. By and large we have all been raised with law-law-law and little or no grace taught. I was raised in a congregation with three full length (sic) gospel meetings every year. I don’t remember preachers preaching the subject of grace. I worked closely with several congregations in Missouri, and though I attended their meetings for thirteen years, I cannot remember one lesson given on grace. I have been preaching for nineteen years and have just recently began to teach on Grace. We must remember that to preach grace is to preach Jesus Christ for “grace and truth came by Jesus Christ” (John 1:17).[4]

            Within this movement (one cup and nonSunday school movement), one still observes this lack of preaching on grace. The Gospel is about the Word becoming flesh, that is to say, the Eternal entered into the sphere of the external history of time. The Incarnation is a historical fact. Christianity is based on historical facts, not theories. With the coming of Christ, He brought life and light and peace. Christ entered into the sphere of human history in order to atone for the sins of people. In Christ, one sees the injury caused by the fall of Adam and Eve made good, which blessing God promised in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:15). This coming of Christ is the central statement of the Christian faith. Listen once more to Paul as he captures the essence of the Gospel of God:

Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him. 30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31 Therefore, as it is written: “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.”b (1 Corinthian 1:26-31)

When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God.c 2 For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3 I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. 4 My message (λόγος μου, logos mou, “my word”) and my preaching (κήρυγμα μου, khrugma mou) were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, 5 so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power. (1 Corinthians 2:1-5)

            In the Gospel of God, one sees the “wisdom of God” in that He made Jesus “our righteousness, holiness and redemption.” Salvation is by grace through faith in Jesus as Savior. It is in the Gospel that one observes God’s power for redemption. Paul sets forth this concept in his Epistle to the Romans:

I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. 17 For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last,a just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”b (Romans 1:16-17)

 


[1] This author (Dallas Burdette) spent seventeen years in a movement that did not preach the Gospel, but rather taught five acts to salvation and five acts for worship. Almost every sermon dwelt upon these issues. During this time, I  never heard a sermon on grace. Even today, within this movement, if one preachers on grace, one is accused of heresy.  This fellowship, as a whole, taught and still teaches salvation by works,  not salvation through the finished work of Christ upon Calvary.

a Or you at the first

[2] All Scripture citations are from the New International Version, unless stated otherwise.

            a Or from my mother’s womb

                b Greek Cephas

b Jer. 9:24

a Or be a sin offering

[3]For a detailed study on the Book of Romans concerning “imputed righteousness,” see Dallas Burdette, Overview of Romans [ON-LINE]. Available from www.freedominchrist.net (accessed 14 May 2006), located under caption Biblical Studies and then, under the subheading New Testament and then, under Overview of New Testament Books

a 25Or as the one who would turn aside his wrath, taking away sin

a Or written from the creation of the world in the book of life belonging to the Lamb that was slain

b  Or of those not having the law (that is, Gentiles)

 

a  Or Messiah; also in verse 20

 

a  Or Messiah

 

a  Or Messiah

b  Or Messiah

 

b  Or Messiah

 

a  Or who as to his spirit

 

b  Or was appointed to be the Son of God with power

 

b  Or He is the one who turns aside God’s wrath, taking away our sins, and not only ours but also

 

[4] Allen Bailey, “False Teachers” in 1994 Preachers’ Study (Buffalo, Missouri: Christian’s Expositor Publications, 1996),  78, 79.

b  Jer. 9:24

 

c  Some manuscripts as I proclaimed to you God’s  mystery

 

a  Or is from faith to faith

 

b  Hab. 2:4