Introduction

Patrick Henry, that patriot and Founding Father of our country, said:

“It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded not by religionists but by Christians, not on religions but on the Gospel of Jesus Christ”.

What is the Gospel of Jesus Christ? Is the Gospel presented by most churches in this 21st Century the same Gospel that Patrick Henry spoke of? In Patrick Henry’s generation, the United States of America was founded on Christian principles by men who had often given their lives and fortunes to establish a country that honored God and the Lord Jesus Christ. It was a Gospel for which men sacrificed their all.

What about the Gospel taught today? According to Barna polls, today’s Gospel has lots of adherents – the great majority of Americans claim to be Christians, but according to those same polls, the lives of most professing Christians seem little different than the lives of unbelievers. In fact, in a poll on divorce, the divorce rate among Baptist and independent churches in the Midwest and south – the Bible belt – was higher than among atheists.

Apparently the Gospel being taught today does not require changed lives. Many would applaud that statement, affirming that salvation (according to their gospel) is all of and by grace. They say any teaching that says God requires or prohibits certain behavior smacks of a “works” Gospel, totally forbidden (according to their gospel). Dr. Charles Stanley goes so far as to say that all one has to do is make a one-time sincere confession of faith; he says thereafter one has salvation that cannot be lost. According to him, no sins – pornography or adultery or rape or murder or even apostatizing from the faith – can change the fact that such a person’s salvation is secure in the hand of God.

One form or another of Charles Stanley’s gospel is the widely accepted gospel in much of the western world, certainly in the United States. It is understandable why the huge majority of Americans who claim to be Christians appear as worldly as their unbelieving friends.

Tragically, that gospel is not the Gospel of the Bible. Those who rely on such a gospel are doomed to a tragic ending and condemnation by God.

This article will examine the Gospel of the Lord Jesus – the Biblical Gospel. What is it? What does it contain? Why is it so powerful and life-changing?

The Biblical Gospel

The Good News

The meaning of “gospel” is good news. The first four books of the New Testament are called the Gospels. The primary subjects of those four books is the life and person of the Lord Jesus Christ and his teachings and commands. When the angel announced the birth of Jesus to the shepherds, he said, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord”[1] (Luke 2:10-11). 

The Gospels reveal to us the coming to earth of God himself in human form, born of a virgin girl. Before his birth on earth, Jesus was known as “The Word.” John said, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). John testified about Jesus, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).

A Limited Good News

Likely the best loved summary of the Gospel is found at John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” In this verse, the good news is God’s great love for the world and his provision of salvation for it, that those who believe in God’s Son will not perish but have eternal life. Wonderful news, indeed!

But the Gospel described in John 3:16 suggests something more than only God’s loving provision of his Son and eternal life for those who believe in him. It limits the good news to those who believe in the Son. All others will perish.

Did you notice that the good news of John 3:16 contains that warning? That warning is amplified just twenty verses later in John 3:36: “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him.”

John 3:36 begins with the good news – whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but the last half of the verse is a clear warning that those who reject the Son have God’s wrath remaining on them. That sounds like very bad news for those who reject the Son.

Paul also stated the good news in a slightly different way, and with a different warning:

“Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation — if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel” (Colossians 1:21-23).

Paul begins by stating our natural condition – alienated from God and his enemies because of our evil behavior. Then he tells us the good news –God has reconciled us by Christ’s sacrificial death so we can be holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation. But then he limits the good news to those who continue in the faith. And not just to those who continue, but to those who are established and firm in their faith, not moved from the hope held out in the Gospel.

Paul warns the Corinthians in the same way: “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.  By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:1-2).

Paul verifies the good news of his gospel by saying that those who received it are saved by it. But then again the warning – only those are saved who hold firmly to that gospel. Those who don’t hold firmly to it believed in vain.

The Biblical Gospel Authenticates Itself

The good news proves itself to be true. Here we must go back to the first announcement of the angel to the shepherds: “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.”

Christ, from the Greek, means Messiah in the Hebrew. Both mean “the Anointed One.” There are said to be over 300 prophecies in the Old Testament of the Bible pertaining to a coming Anointed One – the Messiah. The Gospel of Matthew takes pains to go through prophecy after prophecy to show how those prophecies were fulfilled in Jesus Christ.

Why is that important? There are many religions in the world. Four familiar ones are Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Islam. Why should we prefer Christianity over the others? Aren’t all simply different roads that lead to God? That’s the argument of ecumenists – those who are eager to claim that all religions have merit and lead to salvation with God after death of the body.

Jesus Christ Fulfilled Prophecy

Christianity is the only religion that is authenticated by prophecy. Over thousands of years, dozens of different authors, guided by the Holy Spirit, wrote of a coming Anointed One. One wrote he would be born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14), another that he would be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2), that he would be in Egypt (Hosea 11:1), that he is the Son of God (Psalm 2:7), that he would be preceded by a messenger (Malachi 3:1), that he would teach in parables (Psalm 78:2), that he would make the blind see (Isaiah 29:18), that he would make the deaf hear (Isaiah 35:5), that he would heal the lame (Isaiah 35:6), that he would speak what God commanded him to speak (Deuteronomy 18:18), that he would be rejected by the Jews (Isaiah 53:3), that he would ride the foal of a donkey into Jerusalem being hailed as king (Zechariah 9:9), that he would be betrayed (Psalm 41:9), that he would be betrayed for 30 pieces of silver (Zechariah 11:12), that his disciples would flee (Zechariah 13:7), that the betrayal money would be used to buy a potter’s field (Zechariah 11:13), that he would be silent when accused (Isaiah 53:7), that he would be mocked and insulted (Psalm 22:7-8), that he would be flogged (Isaiah 50:6), that they would mock him, spit on him, beat him, and pull out his beard (Isaiah 50:6), that evil men would surround him (Psalm 22:16), that he would be pierced (Zechariah 12:10), that he would intercede for those who killed him (Isaiah 53:12), that his garments would be divided and they would cast lots for his clothing (Psalm 22:18), that none of his bones would be broken (Psalm 34:20), the suffering he experienced by the crucifixion (Psalm 22:14-15), that he would be forsaken by God (Psalm 22:1), that it was God’s will that he die as a guilt offering (Isaiah 53:10), that he would be killed (Isaiah 53:8), that he would be buried in a rich man’s grave (Isaiah 53:9), that he would live again (Isaiah 53:11), and that he would be resurrected from the grave (Psalm 16:9-10).

All of the above prophecies and many more were fulfilled by Jesus Christ.

To me, the most amazing of all the fulfilled prophecies is that of the timing of the coming of the Christ – the Anointed One. Daniel prophesied,

“Know and understand this: From the issuing of the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the ruler, comes, there will be seven ‘sevens,’ and sixty-two ‘sevens'” (Daniel 9:25).

There are many interpretations of this prophecy which date the coming of the Christ. Almost all of them fall within the lifetime of Jesus Christ.

The better view, according to Sir Robert Anderson, is that the exact date of the authorization of the rebuilding of Jerusalem (in the 20th year of Artaxerxes Longimanus the king  (Nehemiah 2:1) was March 14, 445 B.C. Precisely 483 years later to the day (of 360 day years, using Jewish and Babylonian calendars), Jesus’ triumphal entry as king occurred when he rode the donkey’s foal into Jerusalem and was hailed along the route by crowds who cried, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Luke 19:38).

If this view is correct, if would make understandable Jesus’ reply to the Jewish religious leaders who were trying to stop the crowd from praising Jesus, “I tell you, if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out” (Luke 19:40). Jesus may have meant the stones would cry out because the exact time of fulfillment of the prophecy of the coming of God’s Christ as King had occurred and the fulfillment of that prophecy had to be acknowledged by shouts of praise or the stones themselves would cry out. Seemingly confirming that view is Jesus’ statement, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes (Luke 19:42).

That view also supports the prophecy of the time of Christ’s death – the same as the year of his coming as king. Daniel prophesied, “After the sixty-two ‘sevens,’ the Anointed One will be cut off and will have nothing. The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary (Daniel 9:26). The Christ was killed a few days after his triumphal entry into Jerusalem. In further fulfillment of Daniel’s prophecy, in 70 A.D. the Romans came and destroyed Jerusalem and the temple, killing hundreds of thousands of Jews and selling thousands into slavery throughout the world.

The Biblical Gospel Includes Fulfilled Prophecy

Part of the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is that it is based on the proofs of fulfilled prophecy. We need not have a blind faith. The Christian faith and the Gospel of our Lord Jesus are based on the evidence of fulfilled prophecy.

Jesus said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them” (Matthew 5:17). Jesus fulfilled all the above prophecies and many more not listed there.

How important is it that Jesus fulfilled the prophecies? By fulfilling them, Jesus set Christianity apart from all other religions. Consider the explanation in Saving Faith[2] by this author, pages 243-244:

Probability studies have shown it would be virtually impossible for any person to accidentally fulfill the prophecies about the Christ. Perhaps the best known study to show how unlikely it is that the prophecies could have been fulfilled accidentally is by Josh McDowell in Evidence That Demands a Verdict.[3]  

According to Josh McDowell, the science of probabilities shows that coincidence is ruled out. Josh related a study done by Peter Stoner published in Science Speaks. Mr. Stoner considered only eight of the many prophecies about the Christ, namely that he would be born in Bethlehem, that he would be preceded by a messenger, that he would enter Jerusalem on a donkey, that he would be betrayed by a friend, that he would be betrayed for 30 pieces of silver, that the money would be thrown in God’s house and then used to buy a Potter’s field, that he would remain silent before his accusers, that he would have his hands and feet pierced and that he would be crucified. According to the science of probabilities, the chance that any man could fulfill just those eight prophecies is 1 in 1017 – 1 in 100,000,000,000,000,000.

To understand how large that number is, Mr. Stoner illustrates it by supposing we take 1017 silver dollars and lay them on the state of Texas. There are so many they will cover the state of Texas two feet deep. Then mark one of the dollars and mix it into the Texas-wide mass of silver dollars. Blindfold a man and tell him he can travel anywhere in Texas in order to choose one, and only one, silver dollar. What chance would he have of selecting the marked one? That is approximately the same chance that anyone could through coincidence fulfill those eight prophecies. Jesus not only fulfilled those eight prophecies, but all the other prophecies about the Christ except those yet to be fulfilled at his second coming. Mr. Stoner considered the probabilities from Jesus having fulfilled 48 prophecies to be 1 in 10157, a number too vast, and a probability too infinitesimal for the mind to grasp.

There is good evidence to prove that Jesus fulfilled many prophecies. That evidence proves that Jesus is who Scripture prophesied he would be – the only begotten Son of God, the Christ and Lord. We do not have a faith that relies on blind acceptance of stories and fables, but rather a faith that is proved genuine by reasonable, evidentiary proofs.

The Biblical Gospel Is Exclusive

Jesus was proved to be the person Scripture says he is because he fulfilled so many prophecies about the coming Anointed One – the Messiah. No other religion has hundreds of prophecies about someone who would come at some specified future time that were perfectly fulfilled in one person. No other religion has prophecies about a sacrificial death followed by a triumphant resurrection, all fulfilled in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Because Jesus was proved to be who Scripture’s prophecies said he would be, what he said can be trusted. Christianity is different from any other religion because Jesus said,

         “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).

Unlike the ecumenists, Jesus said only one way leads to God – and that is through him. Christianity is exclusive. Jesus is the only way! No wonder Christianity is so often hated by those practicing other religions.

The Biblical Gospel Is Convincing

In the first sermon on the day of Pentecost, when God had poured out his Holy Spirit on those assembled in the upper room, Peter preached: “. . . Seeing what was ahead, he [King David] spoke [prophesied] of the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to the grave, nor did his body see decay.  God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact . . . Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:31-33, 36).  It was convincing! About 3000 men were converted that day from that first sermon.

The Apostles taught that the Lord Jesus fulfilled the many prophecies of the coming Messiah and was the long-awaited Christ. After his conversion, Paul grew more and more powerful and baffled the Jews living in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Christ (Acts 9:22). Apollos was another early preacher. It was said he vigorously refuted the Jews in public debate, proving from the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ (Acts 18:28). Peter told Cornelius and his friends, “All the prophets testify about him [the Lord Jesus] that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name” (Acts 10:43).

As was his custom, Paul went into the synagogue, and reasoned with them from the Scriptures (Acts 17:2. See also Acts 8:32-35). Every Sabbath the Jews gathered in their synagogues. In their studies they looked forward with great eagerness to the coming of their Messiah. Paul pointed them to Jesus as he proved from the Scriptures that the Lord Jesus Christ is their Messiah. Paul said, “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). 

Somehow the present-day church no longer emphasizes those truths of first importance. It is faith-building to know that the coming of our Master and Lord was foretold over many centuries to be the exact manner in which he came.

We should emphasize to unbelievers that we do not talk about a blind faith, but rather that God revealed his Son, Christ Jesus the Lord, to mankind in the Scriptures over thousands of years. When Jesus came he meticulously fulfilled the prophecies, proving to all that he is the Anointed One of Scripture, the Christ, who came to bring salvation to mankind. We are truly without excuse if we fail to come to him and receive him as our Lord.

The Biblical Gospel Contains the Whole Counsel of God

As we’ve alluded to earlier, some think the Gospel is simply “good news,” and it surely contains good news. But there is much more to the “good news” than seems to be taught and preached these days. We need to know the whole counsel of God. The Gospel is the whole counsel of God.

Paul warned the Ephesian elders, “I declare to you today that I am innocent of the blood of all men. For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God. Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. So be on your guard!” (Acts 20:26-31).

In the following paragraphs, we’ll review teachings and commands of Jesus – part of the Gospel of Jesus Christ – that further define the requirements of salvation. Because we know we are saved by grace, through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9), each and every requirement shown below must be part of a saving faith. We know these must be part of a saving faith because in all instances obedience to the conditions are required in order to have salvation.

Holiness and Righteousness

The Biblical Gospel warns that God is holy and righteous and that he requires that those who would be saved also be holy and righteous. We are warned, “Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14). Jesus warned, “I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:20). 

We Must Do the Will of God

Jesus warned those who called him Lord, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 7:21). Jesus continued, “Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’  Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’” (Matthew 7:22-23). 

The Biblical Gospel includes obedience to the will of God. That obedience is part of a saving faith. Paul said he was to call people “to the obedience that comes from faith” (Romans 1:5).

The Teachings and Commands of Jesus Are the Will of God

Jesus said that everything he did and said while on earth was what his Father told him to do and say (John 8:28, 12:49-50, 14:10, 14:24, and 14:31). Thus everything Jesus said and did was the will of God. Is it any wonder he is the source of salvation for all who obey him? (Hebrews 5:9).  Or that he ended his great commission with the command to teach new disciples to obey all that he commanded them? (Matthew 28:20).

The Apostle John agrees: “We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. The man who says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But if anyone obeys his word, God’s love is truly made complete in him” (1 John 2:3-5).

Punishment for Those Who Do not Obey Jesus

Paul warned the Thessalonians, “God will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the Gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power” (2 Thessalonians 1:8-9). It seems important that we know and obey the Gospel of our Lord Jesus, doesn’t it? That is what this article is all about.

We Must Repent

The Biblical Gospel requires each of us to repent. Repent means to turn from our sin and turn to God. It was Jesus who said, “Unless you repent, you too will all perish (Luke 13:3, 5). Jesus sent the twelve out. They went out and preached that people should repent (Mark 6:12).

We Must Believe in Jesus as LORD

The Biblical Gospel requires us to believe Jesus is who he claims to be. Jesus warned, “If you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins” (John 8:24).

Who did Jesus claim to be?

Jesus said, “You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am” (John 13:13). Jesus also described his Lordship: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matthew 28:18). “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty” (Revelation 1:8).

What did Jesus’ disciples preach?

Paul answered that: “We do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake” (2 Corinthians 4:5). Peter wrote, “In your hearts set apart Christ as Lord” (1 Peter 3:15). Paul explained, “For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living” (Romans 14:9). As Paul summed up his ministry to the Ephesian elders he said, “I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus” (Acts 20:21 See also Acts 5:14, 9:42, 10:36, 11:21, 16:15, 18:8).

We Must Believe in Jesus as Lord to Be Saved

Paul explained how to be saved: “If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved (Romans 10:9. See also Acts 16:31 and Romans 10:13). To the Colossians Paul acknowledged “you received Christ Jesus as Lord” (Colossians 2:6).

We Must Be Born Again

The Biblical Gospel requires an unusual thing. When Nicodemus came to Jesus by night to inquire of him, Jesus said to him, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again” (John 3:3).

Jesus continued, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit” (John 3:5-8).

How Are We Born Again?

Scripture tells us that when we pledge love and obedience to Jesus as our Lord, he asks the Father to give us the Holy Spirit (John 14:15-17. See also John 14:21, 23 and Acts 5:32). God then becomes our Father (see Hebrews 12:9). As our Father, God commands we call no one else on earth father, for we now have one Father, and he is in heaven (Matthew 23:9). We cannot be saved if we do not have the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:9).

Sons of God

Paul taught, “If by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God” (Romans 8:13-14). Paul told the Colossian believers, “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ” (Galatians 3:26).

We Are New Creations after Being Born Again

Paul related being in Christ to being born again: Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Paul contrasted the believer’s former self, his former way of life with the new self:

You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness (Ephesians 4:22-24).

Paul commanded, “Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator” (Colossians 3:9-10).

The Fruit of the Spirit Is Given to Born Again Believers

After we are born again as new creatures, having received the Holy Spirit and as children of God our Father, we will begin to experience and display the fruit of the Spirit. Paul described it: The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23).

We Must Bear Fruit

Yes, the Biblical Gospel requires that we bear fruit. Jesus warned, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. . . . “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing (John 15:1-3, 5).  Jesus warns we must remain in him if we are to bear fruit.

We Must Receive the Kingdom like a Little Child

The Biblical Gospel requires humility. Jesus warned, “I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it” (Luke 18:17).

We Must Forgive Others

The Biblical Gospel requires that we forgive others if we would be saved. The prayer for forgiveness (in the Lord’s Prayer) is conditional. We are to ask for forgiveness to the extent that we forgive others. Lest that be unclear, Jesus continued by saying, “If you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matthew 6:14-15). Jesus died on a cross so our sins could be forgiven. If we can be saved without our sins being forgiven, Jesus died for no reason.

Lest that still not be convincing, Jesus told the parable of the man who owed the King a huge amount. The servant begged for time to pay; instead the King graciously forgave the entire debt. But that servant thereafter threw a fellow servant in prison until he should repay a small amount owed to him. When the King learned of it, he reinstated the entire debt and turned the wicked servant over to the torturers until he should repay all, which he could never do.

The warning for you and me is what Jesus said then: “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart” (Matthew 18:35).

We Must Love Jesus More than Any Other

In reciting requirements for those who would be his disciples, Jesus said, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26). We know this does not mean literal hate, but it means the love for them must be as hate in comparison to the love we have for the Lord Jesus.

We Must Take Up Our Cross and Follow Jesus

Jesus took up his cross and was crucified on it to provide forgiveness of sins for all those who will believe in him. He requires that we do the same. He said: “Anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:27). Crosses are to be crucified on; we are to die to self. “For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin” (Romans 6:6). “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires” (Galatians 5:24).

We Must Give Up Everything We Have

Jesus used the illustration of a king with 20,000 men coming against a king with an army of 10,000. He said that the king with 10,000 men would seek terms of peace – in those days it meant giving up everything they had so they could live. Jesus added, “In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:33).

We Must Be Conformed to the Likeness of Jesus

Paul told us of a requirement of the Gospel that was predestined by God: For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers (Romans 8:29). The Apostle John taught the same: Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did (1 John 2:6).

We Are Not to Sin

Jesus warned, “The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 13:41-42).

Jesus stressed the danger of sinning when he warned: “If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out. And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than to have two feet and be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, where ‘their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.’Everyone will be salted with fire” (Mark 9:43-49).

The Apostle John reinforces that message: “You know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin. No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him” (1 John 3:5-6).

Continuing In Sin Will Prevent Salvation

Paul detailed many sins that if continued would prevent a person from having salvation. He warned the Galatians, “The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:19-21).

Likewise he warned the Corinthians, “Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God(1 Corinthians 6:9-10).

The Lord Jesus spoke to the Apostle John, saying, “The cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death” (Revelation 21:8).

The Biblical Gospel – Salvation from God’s Wrath

Why is forgiveness of sins, salvation and eternal life so important? As we saw earlier, in our natural selves we are alienated from God and are enemies of God in our minds. In our natural selves, we reject the Christ and are subject to the wrath of God and eternal condemnation to hell.

God’s wrath? God so loved the world. Why should we speak of such unpleasant things as punishment and wrath? Shouldn’t we be positive and seek to encourage people to come to our churches? They’ll surely be offended if we talk about wrath and punishment and hell!

That seems to be the position of many churches, doesn’t it? But consider that the Gospel is meaningless without the good news of God’s righteousness and holiness that necessarily lead to his judgment, wrath and punishment. If there is no wrath and punishment, why is forgiveness of sins important? If that is not important, then surely repentance is not important either. If those are true, then much of the Bible is useless or false or both. The first command of Jesus was to repent. The Scripture speaks much of sin and of Jesus’ death on the cross to redeem us from the penalty of sin and to atone for our sins.

The full message of the Gospel includes God’s anger, his wrath, and his hatred of sins and yes, his hatred of sinners – the wicked. Many today wish to think that God hates the sin but loves the sinner. That is a phrase made up by men, but is not found in Scripture. Consider Psalm 5:4-6: You are not a God who takes pleasure in evil; with you the wicked cannot dwell. The arrogant cannot stand in your presence; you hate all who do wrong. You destroy those who tell lies; bloodthirsty and deceitful men the LORD abhors.

God hates all who do wrong. Notice here that it is the people who do wrong that God hates. Further examples: “Because of all their wickedness in Gilgal, I hated them there. Because of their sinful deeds, I will drive them out of my house. I will no longer love them; all their leaders are rebellious (Hosea 15:9).

Apparently the Israelites caused God to love them less because of their wickedness. God said, “I will no longer love them.” It is because of their wickedness that God hates certain men. Scripture reinforces that again: The LORD examines the righteous, but the wicked and those who love violence his soul hates (Psalm 11:5).

The truth of the Gospel is not that God loves sinners but hates the sin. The truth is that God hates both the sinner and the sin. Fortunately for all of us who have become believers in the Lord Jesus, while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. He was willing to provide a ransom for us so we could be reconciled to God.

Friend David Servant[4] recently wrote about God’s wrath as part of the Biblical Gospel:

Believing that God is loving and merciful while denying that He is wrathful is akin to believing in Jesus but not Christ. So not only is the common “all-love-no-wrath” portrayal of God completely unscriptural, it is also completely illogical to the point of nonsense.

Moreover, to deny God’s holy wrath is to deny the Bible, which is full of thousands of references to that aspect of His character. To deny God’s wrath is to deny the very thing from which Scripture says we have been saved (see Rom. 5:9). To deny God’s wrath is to make meaningless Christ’s death on the cross, where He became the “propitiation for our sins”(see Rom. 3:25, Heb. 2:17, 1 John 2:2, 4:10). To propitiate means to appease someone’s wrath, which is what Jesus did through His suffering – He appeased God’s wrath. Thus the wrath of God is foundational to the gospel. Without it, there is no gospel.

Some years ago during a question and answer session at a large pastors’ conference hosted at a Texas mega-church, I asked the successful senior pastor this simple question: “Is it ever appropriate for a pastor to preach about the holiness, wrath or judgment of God?” He laughed as he tossed my written question into the trash can and said, “God called me to preach the good news.” He sent a clear message to the hundreds of pastors present that those who hoped to be successful like him should stick with positive sermons, because the holiness, wrath and judgment of God don’t fit into the category of “good news.”

His response sounded logical, but was it biblical?

The fact is, if God is not holy and wrathful, then there is no good news to tell because there is no hell, no one is in any danger, no one needs to be saved, and no one needs to repent and believe in Jesus. God’s wrath is foundational to the gospel, as Paul makes ever so clear in his defense of the gospel in the first three chapters of Romans. Verse after verse there is devoted to establishing the fact that “the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men” (Rom. 1:18). There Paul wrote, “According to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus” (Rom. 2:16, emphasis added). God’s judgment was part of Paul’s gospel.

Scripture also says that John the Baptist preached the gospel (using the very word “gospel”; see Luke 3:18), yet his message was all about God’s judgment and the need for repentance (see Luke 3:1-18).

Jesus preached what the Bible calls the gospel (see Mark 1:14-15; Luke 4:18), yet He regularly warned sinners of God’s wrath and called them to repentance (see, for example, Matt. 4:17; 5:22, 29-30, 8:11-12; 10:28; 11:20-23; 13:41-42, 49-50; 18:19; 22:13; 23:33; 24:50-51; 25:30).

As the early apostles obeyed Jesus and went everywhere preaching the gospel, they, like Jesus, often warned of God’s judgment and called sinners to repentance, which by itself certainly implies the idea of God’s wrath. Paul, for example, declared in Athens, “God is now declaring to men that all everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead” (Acts 17:30-31, emphasis added).

All of this being so, it is a grave error to say that preaching the good news prohibits the mentioning of God’s judgment. Yet the successor of that senior pastor who laughed at my question has followed the guidance of his predecessor and has now built the largest congregation in the United States. He recently said on a nationally-televised secular interview that he never uses the word “sinner,” would never condemn people who visit his church by using that term, and certainly does not preach any sermons that mention God’s wrath. There are tens of thousands of other pastors just like him.

How sad it is when so many preachers attempt to tone down the idea of God’s wrath, apparently embarrassed about it, and so they use many softening expressions to hide the actual truth. Hell, for example, is rarely mentioned, and when it is, it is often only spoken of as “a place where you will be eternally separated from God” (which might actually sound quite appealing to people who have spent all of their lives trying to keep themselves separated from God).

Conclusion

The Gospel of our Lord Jesus contains everything the Lord Jesus said and did while on earth. The New Testament books Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John recite that and is the reason they are called the Gospels.

It is good news that Jesus revealed to us whole character of God – his holiness, righteousness, his justice as well as his love, mercy, kindness, and long-suffering. If he had not, how would we know we needed to be saved from sins that cause God’s wrath to well up against us? How would we know we must live lives in obedience, love, purity, holiness, and righteousness to be pleasing in his sight?

Those who recognize that God’s love, holiness and righteousness also requires his condemnation and punishment of those who sin (the wicked) will understand the fear of God that Scripture says is the beginning of wisdom. How could we gain such wisdom if the whole counsel of God were not given to us?

The Gospel of our Lord Jesus also makes clear that a saving faith contains more than just mental assent or agreement or belief in certain facts. As recited in this article, there are many facets to the diamond of saving faith that all must be satisfied if we are to have eternal life. Be sure you understand this is not my opinion. This is said by our Lord Jesus himself. It is the Biblical Gospel.

I wonder how many pastors teach this Biblical Gospel. Based on the other deviations from Scripture and false doctrines taught in our churches, I suspect very few. Yet the Biblical Gospel is the blueprint for salvation – the expression of the love of God so that mankind can be reconciled to him.

My hope is that you, the reader, will challenge your former beliefs with what you read here. Then challenge what you read here against what is said in Scripture. Make sure everything I’ve written is correct. When you come to recognize that it is the Biblical Gospel and that all true believers must conform to it, then take action. Don’t let this be just another Christian article you’ve read and then move on to the next one. The Lord judges us on what we do! So take action; change that which needs to be changed. Do that which must be done. Search the Scriptures so that you may do what is says, so you can be conformed to the likeness of our Lord Jesus.

Salvation is at stake.

The Gospel of our Lord Jesus is good news only to those who conform their lives to accept it and live accordingly. For all others, it will be the very instrument that condemns them on judgment day. God will remind them that they knew, they heard, but they didn’t turn from their sin and believe and obey. They chose not to have the saving faith required in the Biblical Gospel.

Don’t be one of them!!!


[1]The Holy Bible : New International Version. electronic ed., Lk 2:10. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996, c1984.

[2] Koerselman, Bernard. Saving Faith, pages 243-244, San Diego, California: Berean Publishers, 1990.

[3] McDowell, Josh. Evidence That Demands a Verdict, Vol. I., pp 166-167. San Bernadino: Here’s Life Publishers, Inc., 1991.

[4] David Servant may be contacted at Heaven’s Family, P.O. Box 12854, Pittsburgh, PA15241, Tel: (412) 833-5826 or e-mail david@shepherdserve.org, and his writings found at www.shepherdserve.org.