Gospel: Is OUR gospel in “the four gospels?”
That may look like a silly question. But have you ever thought about it? In answer to the question, I think many people would say, of course! Then I suspect this next passage we’ll look at would come to mind for most people who think of themselves as evangelical Christians.
16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
What a wonderful passage of Scripture, but I have a serious question for you. Does that verse contain OUR gospel? Many would then wonder what in the world I was talking about. I know how that statement can sound crazy because I once thought the same thing. What? That’s not OUR gospel! What could a person possibly mean by that? I know that for many people that’s the verse they’d quote to someone if they were trying to help them become a Christian and prepared for eternity. But is that what the person would need to hear? In answering this question, we always need to look to the Scriptures for an answer.
There’s a passage in I Corinthians that clearly states what one must do [or believe] to be saved.
I Corinthians 15:1-4
1 Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand;
2 By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.
3 For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;
4 And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: [Emphasis added]
Is this what John 3:16 tells us? Is there anything at all about the death, burial and resurrection of Christ in that passage? No, there is not! You can always read that into it because of what you may now know, but those facts are not there in that passage or anywhere in the whole book of John. You may then say, “But it’s implied!” Is it?
Surely you would agree that, with the exception of Judas Iscariot, the apostles were all men of God. But what was it that they believed to gain that status? Did they believe that Christ was going to die and pay the price demanded for their sins? Let’s look at the situation where Christ first briefed them concerning what was about to happen to Him.
21 And he straitly charged them, and commanded them to tell no man that thing;
22 Saying, The Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be slain, and be raised the third day.
Is there anything in the context to indicate that His disciples knew what He was talking about? He then goes on to say this.
23 And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. [Emphasis added]
Question: Is there anything in these verses that tells us He told them He was going to die for their sins, be buried, and then rise from the grave for their justification? No, there is not! It’s easy for us to read that into it because of what we now know from the writings of the Scriptures we now have, particularly from the writings of the Apostle Paul. But if we did not have that, there’s no way we would conclude that Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection was to be the object of our faith for salvation.
It was right after Christ’s crucifixion that an angel began the presentation of an introduction to the revelation of what had transpired at the cross and by our Lord’s resurrection.
1 Now upon the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came unto the sepulchre, bringing the spices which they had prepared, and certain others with them.
2 And they found the stone rolled away from the sepulchre.
3 And they entered in, and found not the body of the Lord Jesus.
I assure you they were completely surprised by the empty tomb, even thinking someone had stolen the body. Resurrection was by no means on their minds.
4 And it came to pass, as they were much perplexed thereabout, behold, two men stood by them in shining garments:
5 And as they were afraid, and bowed down their faces to the earth, they said unto them, Why seek ye the living among the dead?
6 He is not here, but is risen: remember how he spake unto you when he was yet in Galilee,
7 Saying, The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.
8 And they remembered his words,
9 And returned from the sepulchre, and told all these things unto the eleven, and to all the rest. [Emphasis added]
Question: Again, at this point did they know anything at all about how His death, burial, and resurrection would be the basis for our salvation? No, not one word about it! The fact that these things had happened, yes, but that this was what one later would need to believe for salvation was not yet given.
During the time of the earthly ministry of Christ people were told that they needed to believe this Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ, the Son of the living God. That’s what believing in “the name” of Jesus Christ is all about. It was to do with His title, His identity as the Messiah of Israel. He was much more than a prophet of God. He was the God/man, undiminished deity and true humanity in one person.
13 When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?
14 And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets.
15 He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?
16 And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.
17 And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. [Emphasis added]
There’s nothing about the cross and resurrection in this passage! In fact, when He even suggested such an idea, they completely rejected it. They even wanted to talk Him out of it.
20 Then charged he his disciples that they should tell no man that he was Jesus the Christ.
21 From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day.
Then notice Peter’s reaction to this.
22 Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee.
23 But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men. [Emphasis added]
Clearly, He was speaking of the cross in verse twenty-one. But there’s nothing here to indicate that His death, burial, and resurrection would be the basis for our salvation. At this point these men had no knowledge of that whatsoever. Therefore, it is obvious that they were not believing in that as a basis for their salvation. That knowledge would come later through the revelation given to the apostle Paul.
Many years ago, a dear pastor friend of mine told me an interesting story. A woman in his church told him of something she had recently heard. Lewis Sperry Chafer, the president of Dallas Theological Seminary at that time had come and spoken in the church where she attended. In his message, he made the comment that there in his last days, after many years of teaching and writing, he had made the discovery that our gospel is not in the gospels. He even expressed regret that at that late point in his life there was not much he could do to correct his error on this in his many writings and otherwise.
As I stated in my book, 22 Key Promises you can count on, there’s a whole list of things most people put forth as the means to their salvation. Upon asking about their salvation, here are things that are typically stated.
I’ve been baptized.
I try to live a good life.
I’ve repented of my sins.
I’ve asked God to save me.
I’ve given my heart to Jesus.
I went forward at my church.
I committed my life to Christ.
I try to live by The Golden Rule.
I do the best I can to please God.
I asked Christ to come into my heart.
I’m a member of … [they name a church].
I strive to live by The Ten Commandments.
I’ve asked God to forgive me of all my sins.
I’m hoping that the good works I’ve done will qualify me.
I don’t feel I’ve done anything that makes me deserve hell.
I think the good things I’ve done outweigh the bad I’ve done.
Is there anything at all in this list regarding believing in Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection as a basis for one’s salvation? Nothing at all! So, if the person has been trusting in one or more of the things on the above list, are they saved? Absolutely not! Why? Because all these things listed represent works of man for salvation. What does the apostle Paul in Scripture clearly tell us about that?
8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
9 Not of works, lest any man should boast. [Emphasis added]
4 Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt.
5 But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. [Emphasis added]
It is in the writings of the apostle Paul that we have God’s last words to us as to the means of salvation in our time. This is what Paul was talking about in this next passage we’ll read.
II Corinthians 5:15-16
15 And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again.
16 Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more.
It has been through Christ’s heavenly ministry [since the time of His crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension] that we have come to know these things through the revelation He gave the apostle Paul. Today our works have absolutely nothing to do with our attainment of salvation. In the past certain works were required as a manifestation of one’s faith. Christ spoke of these things during His earthly ministry. But that is no longer the case for us today.
II Corinthians 5:27-28
27 Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith.
28 Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.
Other means of pleasing God for salvation are given in other parts of the Bible, but it is in the apostle Paul’s writings that we have the words of Christ to us today.
I Corinthians 14:37-38
37 If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord.
38 But if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant. [Emphasis added]
The apostle Peter was an apostle to Israel, having a different gospel to present.
7 But contrariwise, when they saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me, as the gospel of the circumcision was unto Peter; [Emphasis added]
This message of “the circumcision” [God’s message to Israel] was something other men of God communicated. Men like James, an apostle to Israel, presented a different message that included the works of the Mosaic Law.
14 What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? [Emphasis added]
But please notice who James was addressing. Again, He was an apostle to Israel with God’s message to Israel. He was not like Paul who was the apostle to the Gentiles.
1 James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting. [Emphasis added
We are not a part of the twelve tribes of Israel. Most people never bother to look at WHO the recipients were of the writing, even though such statements are very important for our understanding of what follows. It is Paul who is OUR apostle, not James or anyone else. He is the one God used to provide His words, His message to us in his thirteen epistles. That includes the way of salvation for us today.
II Corinthians 5:18-21
18 And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation;
19 To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.
20 Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.
21 For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. [Emphasis added]
By faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ we are given freely the righteousness of God. It is His righteousness and not ours that positions us for God’s blessing both now and in eternity.
27 Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law [or principle]? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith.
28 Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law. [Emphasis added]
Some will say they believed in Christ’s work for salvation. But what did they add to that? If they add anything at all, it negates it. They’re not trusting in Christ alone. They’re throwing works into the matter. They’re obviously thinking their works have something to do with their attainment of salvation. They do not! God does not accept the offering of our works for salvation. Salvation only comes when a person realizes that their ONLY hope for salvation rests in what Jesus Christ did to provide for it. It is their faith in that and that alone that provides for them salvation.
It is this message that is OUR gospel. The gospel message to us today is nowhere to be found in the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. It is there that we have a historical record of the cross and resurrection, but it is not there that we have statements telling us that it is by faith in these things Christ did that provides salvation for us. Therefore, it is a correct statement to say that OUR gospel is not in the gospels.
It is by placing our faith solely in the work of Christ that we can have peace of mind and more regarding our status with God.
1 Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:
2 By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. [Emphasis added]
In conclusion, let me comment on the passage we started this study with. In doing so, let’s look at it again.
16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
What is this giving of His Son He speaks of in this verse? One might readily think he’s speaking of the cross. But that’s hindsight thinking. There’s no evidence of that in this passage or anywhere else in the four gospels. So how could we conclude that from this passage. Then, what’s to be believed about Him. The answer to that is that Christ was Israel’s Messiah. God gave His Son to be their anointed One, their King. But there’s nothing about His substitutionary work of the cross and Him dying for our sins, as well as His subsequent resurrection. Furthermore, as evidence of all this, when Christ was crucified, there was only sorrow and tears expressed by His followers. They weren’t rejoicing over Him providing a way of salvation for them. On the contrary! There was only sorrow being expressed. But it was then later, when full disclosure of the meaning of the cross and resurrection had come, that God’s people then “gloried” in the cross of Christ.
14 But God forbid that I should glory [boast], save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world. [Emphasis added]
God’s people became extremely glad He did what He did. But all that came out later through the revelation and writings of our apostle, the apostle Paul. Therefore, again, it can be rightly said that OUR gospel is not in the four gospels.