The Gospel

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by Paul Washer

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel…” Romans 1:16

Before we consider Paul’s boldness in preaching the Gospel, we must understand something of the Gospel that He preached. It is a sound principle of communication to define terms prior to any debate or proper discussion. This clears the playing field and allows those involved to know where the others are standing or what they mean when they speak. Among Evangelicals today, theological terms are so broadly defined that we can no longer suppose that we are talking about the same thing even though we are using the same words. This is especially true with regard to the Gospel.

The first thing worth considering in our text is the definite article, “the”. Paul did not have “a” Gospel that was peculiar to him. His was not a “Pauline” Gospel as opposed to a “Petrine” or “Johannine” Gospel[1]. Though something of the personalities of these apostles is evident in their presentation, the Gospel they shared was the same. They would know nothing of the frequent language of our day that speaks of different variations, versions, and flavors of the Gospel as though there could be more than one.[2]

Secondly, Paul did not have “a” Gospel that was peculiar to a certain culture. He did not preach one variation to the Jews and another to the Gentiles. Though he was aware of cultural differences, and used the unique inroads provided by each culture, his Gospel was not adapted to “fit” the culture or to be less offense to it. In fact, the offensiveness of the Gospel to both Jew and Gentile was the very thing that put his life in constant danger. It is doubtful that the Apostle Paul would understand contemporary evangelicalism’s overwhelming preoccupation or obsession with minutely understanding a specific culture and adapting its message and methodologies to it. Paul understood that ultimately, all men of every culture are suffering from the same malady, and only one message has the power to save them.

Finally, Paul did not have “a” Gospel that was peculiar to a single epoch in world history. There were undoubtedly significant changes in the Roman Empire with each passing decade of Paul’s life, yet he preached the same Gospel at his death that he did at the start of his apostolic ministry several decades earlier. Without doubt, he would be taken back at the contemporary Christian conviction that each passing decade brings a new generation of people who require a new presentation or adaptation of the Gospel.

It is clear from Scripture that there was an unbroken continuum between what Jesus did and communicated to His followers and what Paul believed and preached. This truth holds up under the greatest scrutiny. In the Gospel of Jesus, God is love. He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and unrighteous alike.[3] At the fullness of time,[4] He gave His greatest demonstration or proof of love by sending His beloved Son that men might not perish, but have eternal life through Him.[5] In the Gospel of Paul, God is love. He has not left Himself without a witness of His mercy, but He does good to all men and gives them rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying their hearts with food and gladness.[6] In the fullness of time,[7] His love reached its crescendo in the giving of His Son to die for our fallen race while we were yet helpless sinners and enemies of God.[8]

In the Gospel of Jesus, men are evil and enslaved to sin.[9] They are bad trees bearing bad fruit.[10] They hate the light of God’s revelation, and do not come to it for fear their evil deeds will be exposed.[11] Their hearts are full of evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, and slanders. Even the highest and most lofty moralists among men are nothing but whitewashed tombs full of dead men’s bones.[12] In the Gospel of Paul, the same indictment is served against our fallen race – “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”.[13] There is no one righteous, not even one. There is no one who understands or seeks after God. They have all turned away and become worthless. There is no one who does good, and there is no fear of God before their eyes.[14] For this reason, the Law serves only to convict men of their sin, crush their self-righteous hopes, and leave them without excuse and totally dependent upon the mercies of God.[15]

In the Gospel of Jesus, all unbelieving men stand condemned before God and His wrath abides upon them.[16] The Galileans who died at the hands of Pilate and the eighteen upon whom the tower of Siloam fell did not suffer these things because they were greater sinners than other men, but rather all men deserve the same fate, and it is only divine mercy that keeps them from it. All deserve death under the wrath of God, and will die in due time if they do not repent.[17] In the Gospel of Paul, the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against the ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in their unrighteousness.[18] Those who continue with a stubborn and unrepentant heart are storing up wrath against themselves that will be revealed on the Day of Judgment.[19]

In the Gospel of Jesus, the cross is the “great essential” and the culminating work of redemption. It was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to enter into His glory.[20] Thus, He taught His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things, and be killed, and be raised on the third day.[21] In Gethsemane and Golgotha,[22] He revealed that His sufferings were not confined to the mistreatment of men or devils. On the cross, He drank the full cup of God’s wrath and died forsaken.[23] In the Gospel of Paul, this same great theme is found on every page. He preached to men as of first importance what he had also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.[24] He demonstrated with great and irrefutable proofs that Christ was the sin-bearer who became a curse and died under the wrath of God as a propitiation for His people.[25] He proclaimed, “Christ crucified” even though it was a stumbling-block to the Jews, and foolishness to the Gentiles.[26] The cross was not a minor theme for Paul. It was everything, it held him captive and constantly constrained him.[27]

In the Gospel of Jesus, men are called to repent of their sins and believe the Gospel.[28] Those who obey the call are promised eternal life.[29] The rest are warned that they will perish under the wrath of God if they continue in their unrepentant and unbelieving state.[30] In the Gospel of Paul, the very same promises and warnings are given. The apostle solemnly testified to both Jews and Greeks of repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. He proclaimed that God has commanded all people everywhere to repent,[31] and he warned men not to be deceived by empty works, for the wrath of God is coming upon the disobedient.[32]

In the Gospel of Jesus, genuine conversion is always accompanied by sincere and costly discipleship. Jesus frequently culled the large crowds that followed Him by making radical demands upon them: “If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple.”[33] He even warned His own disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.”[34] In the Gospel of Paul, the same radical demands of discipleship are found. With regard to holiness, believers are admonished to come out from this world and be separate.[35] With regard to righteousness, they are commanded to consider themselves dead to sin and alive to God asinstruments of righteousness.[36] With regard to faithfulness, they are encouraged to endure in spite of the many tribulations and persecutions that are certain to come against all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus.[37]

In the Gospel of Jesus, men are taught that a mere profession of faith alone is no sound evidence of salvation. Jesus warned that not everyone who says to Him, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only those whose lives are marked by obedience to the will of God.[38] He was adamant that the fruit of one’s life is the proof of salvation, and that everyone who does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.[39] In the Gospel of Paul, are found the same solemn warnings. He admonished those who have professed faith in Christ to examine themselves and test themselves to see if they are truly in the faith.[40] He warned men about having a form of godliness, but negating its power, and professing to know God, but denying Him by their deeds.[41]

Finally, the Gospel of Jesus abounds with warnings about future judgment and the terrors of hell. In fact, Jesus spoke more about this dreadful matter than all the other prophets and apostles combined. According to Jesus, a great day of judgment is coming when men will be separated as sheep from goats, and a great multitude will hear, “Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels.”[42] The matter was so crucial to Jesus that He gave the following warning even to those whom He considered to be His friends:

“I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that have no more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear the One who, after He has killed, has authority to cast into hell; yes, I tell you, fear Him!”[43]

The Gospel of the Apostle Paul agrees with Christ in the matter of judgment and hell. He writes that the wicked are storing up wrath for themselves to be revealed in the day of God’s righteous judgment and wrath.[44] He warns believers and unbelievers alike that they should not be deceived by the empty words of those who would deny the coming reality of divine retribution and wrath. God will not be mocked. Whatever the disobedient sows, he will also reap.[45] Like Christ, Paul is both explicit and unapologetic in his warnings:

“The Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the Gospel of our Lord Jesus. These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power.”[46]

From the texts we have just considered, it is obvious that there is no contradiction or deviation to be found between the Gospel of Jesus Christ and that which the apostle Paul preached and defined in his epistles. In like manner, Moses and the prophets, the writers of the four Gospels, and the other contributors to the New Testament stand in perfect agreement with Christ regarding this “faith which was once for all handed down to the saints.”[47] There is but one Gospel, which stands above the editor and the censor, and which must not be changed, adapted, or repackaged. Any attempt to do so, regardless of the reason or motivation, will result in a different Gospel, which is no Gospel at all.[48] We must put aside every foolish and dangerous notion that we can improve upon the Gospel for the sake of the Gospel, and stand with that great cloud of witnesses throughout the history of the Church, who preached “Christ crucified and raised” according to the Scriptures!

This is an exerpt from “The Gospel Power and Message” by Paul Washer available throughReformation Heritage Books or Amazon.

[1] The words “Petrine” and “Johannine” refer to Gospel as preached by Peter and John respectively.

[2] The differing opinions regarding the Gospel are often categorized as different variations of the same truth, or coming at the same truth from different angles, or even emphasizing different aspects of the same truth. This fails to recognize that the different “variations” are often nothing more than different Gospels. The Reformed Gospel is completely different from the Catholic Gospel; a faith-based Gospel is a contradiction of a works-based Gospel; a truly Evangelical Gospel stands in contrast to an ultra-charismatic Gospel.

[3] Matthew 5:45

[4] Mark 1:15

[5] John 3:16

[6] Acts 14:17

[7] Galatians 4:4

[8] Romans 5:6-10

[9] Matthew 7:11; John 8:34

[10] Matthew 7:17

[11] John 3:20

[12] Matthew 23:27; Matthew 15:19

[13] Romans 3:23

[14] Romans 3:10-18

[15] Romans 3:19

[16] John 3:18, 36

[17] Luke 13:1-5

[18] Romans 1:18

[19] Romans 2:5

[20] Luke 24:26

[21] Matthew 16:21

[22] i.e. “the garden and the cross”

[23] Luke 22:42; Matthew 27:46

[24] I Corinthians 15:3-4

[25] II Corinthians 5:21; Galatians 3:10-13; Romans 3:23-26

[26] I Corinthians 1:23

[27] Romans 1:1; II Corinthians 5:14

[28] Mark 1:15

[29] John 5:24

[30] Luke 13:1-5; John 3:18-36

[31] Acts 20:21

[32] Ephesias 5:6

[33] Luke 14:25-26

[34] Matthew 16:24-25

[35] II Corinthians 6:14-20

[36] Romans 6:11-14

[37] Acts 14:22; II Timothy 3:12

[38] Matthew 7:21

[39] Matthew 7:16, 20; 7:19

[40] II Corinthians 5:17

[41] II Timothy 3:5; Titus 1:16

[42] Matthew 25:41

[43] Luke 12:4-5

[44] Romans 2:5

[45] Galatians 6:7; Ephesians 5:6

[46] II Thessalonians 1:7-10

[47] Jude 1:3

[48] Galatians 1:6-7

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