The Good News - Home
The One True Gospel
By David A. DePra
The gospel of Jesus Christ is the Truth. I’m talking about the gospel revealed in the Bible. There are not MANY gospels. Neither are there many versions of one gospel. No. The gospel is not a matter of opinion, debate, or speculation. I cannot make up a gospel that suits me. There is ONE gospel – the good news of salvation through Jesus Christ, and it is the one revealed in scripture.
I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed. For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ. (Gal. 1:6-10)
If you read these words of the apostle Paul, I’m not sure how he could have used stronger language to emphasize the essential of preaching the true gospel, and only the true gospel. To be guilty of, "perverting," the true gospel would be an awful thing. Not only that, but what about the fact he says that those who preach, "another gospel," are to be, "accursed?" Do we take that seriously? Well, hopefully we do. But if you look at Christianity today, not only do you have differing gospels – meaning many are WRONG – but you have heresy. And yet Paul’s words remain. God wants the Truth preached. The Truth and only the Truth. There is no compromise with this fact.
Why is this so important? If preaching the true gospel were merely a command of God, this would be enough reason to obey it. But the reason preaching the Truth of the gospel is so important is that the gospel is a REVELATION OF GOD HIMSELF. The gospel that I present is my presentation of God – and of His plan through Jesus Christ. Thus, I am either telling the Truth about God, or I am lying about Him; misrepresenting Him. And THAT is going to affect the spiritual lives of those who believe what I preach. This is why it is important, and why we must preach the Truth.
The True Gospel
Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent you, and believe the gospel. (Mark 1:14-15)According to scripture, the briefest summary of the gospel is the three word phrase, "Repent and believe." Of course, the good news of Jesus Christ contains more than just that – the gospel is really all that pertains to the Christian life. And the entire gospel message is predicated upon the Redemption Jesus won for us. But I am here talking about what the Bible says that WE MUST DO in order to be saved -- how are we to respond to the Truth of the Redemption? That's the part of the gospel I want to talk about here. The answer is easy to discover. The introductory words of the gospel are, "repent and believe." And actually, everything else comes under them as a heading as far as what we must do to be saved.
Jesus preached, "Repent and believe." But so did John. In fact, all through the NT, when the question is asked as to how to be saved, or wherever the gospel is preached to the unsaved, the message is always, "repent and believe." Sometimes the emphasis is more on repentance, and sometimes it is more on faith. But you cannot separate the two – if you leave either of these out of the gospel message, you are preaching, "another gospel."
It is vital to see that REPENT and BELIEVE is a summary of the gospel. So let’s look at just a few of the places where this is stated directly.
In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea, And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. (Mat 3:1-2)
And they went out, (as sent by Jesus) and preached that men should repent. (Mark 6:12)
I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish. (Luke 13:3)
But when Jesus heard that, he said unto them, They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick. But go ye and learn what that means, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. (Mat 9:12-13)
And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. (Luke 24:46-47)
Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ. (Acts 20:21)
For godly sorrow works repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world works death. (2 Cor 7:10)
When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then has God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life. (Acts 11:18)
Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call. (Acts 2:37-39)
But those things, which God before had showed by the mouth of all his prophets, that Christ should suffer, he hath so fulfilled. Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord; And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you: (Acts 3:18-20)
And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commands all men every where to repent: Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead. (Acts 17:30-31)
Whereupon, O king Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision: But showed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judaea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance. (Acts 26:19-20)
Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, (Heb 6:1)
And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shall be saved, and thy house. (Acts 16:30-31)
That if thou shall confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shall believe in your heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shall be saved. (Rom 10:9)
As I mentioned, you cannot separate REPENTANCE from BELIEVING. They stand or fall together. We see this in many of these passages. But WHY is that so?
You cannot separate REPENT from BELIEVE because if you repent you ARE believing. And if you believe, you ARE repenting. How so? Well, it goes back to the sin you are repenting of: UNBELIEF. Thus, if you repent, you are repenting of unbelief, which means you are turning from unbelief -- and BELIEVING! Or, to put it backwards, if you are believing – and your faith is real, then it was only possible for you to do that if you turned from your UNBELIEF by repenting of it!
This is really so simple that it is easy to miss. It is simply NOT possible to repent of unbelief unless you are turning to Christ by faith. And it is simply NOT possible to put faith in Christ unless it is the result of turning from unbelief. Thus, you REPENT BY BELIEVING. The two are as ONE.
Unbelief is our failure to come to Christ. Thus, in order to come to Christ, we must repent of our failure to come to Him! That is the ONE SIN we must repent of – we must repent of our failure to come to Christ. And if we do repent of our failure to come to Christ, what will we do? We will COME TO HIM! In short, if we repent of unbelief, we will believe. Nothing could be more simple.
Now, of course, there are folks, mostly younger people, who haven't actually refused to come to Christ -- in the sense of seeing the Truth and rejecting it. Their, "failure," to come to Christ may have been based in ignorance. I think we can all identify with not realizing our blindness. But regardless, haven't we all sinned? -- and then failed to come to Christ once we recognized our sin? The point is this: A consciousness of need, especially when we know about Christ, is the beginning of accountability. We have ALL sinned and come short of the glory of God -- and have KNOWN IT. The question is therefore: What we are doing with our sin? Are we turning to Christ?
We ARE all born in Adam -- we are born spiritually dead and do inherit the sin nature. (see I Cor. 15:22) This Truth is fundamental to Christianity. But we are not responsible for being born in Adam -- we did not choose it. Yet this does not change the KIND of creature we are in Adam -- we are born with a sin nature. The question, therefore, is simple: When God brings light to us about our condition, how will we respond? Will we respond with neglect and indifference, or perhaps unbelief? Or will we realize that God is bringing deliverance and redemption to our attention through His Son? If you do respond in that way, then the gospel tells us that the way to salvation is to, "repent and believe."
Can we see that the good news of the gospel is not about God threatening us, pounding us, condemning us, and punishing us? No. The good news is not CONDEMNATION. It is ILLUMINATION. The good news shows us what we could not see otherwise -- yes, that in Adam we are dead sinners. We are that even though we did not sit up the night before we were born and choose to be. The good news also shows us that we have all, from one degree or another, whether it be through outward acts, or inward attitudes, AFFIRMED the sin nature. But above all, the good news shows us that in Jesus Christ there is deliverance and redemption back to God. Thus, regardless of our degree of neglect, ignorance, or unbelief, we can turn, and MUST turn to Christ by obeying the words, "repent and believe."
So again – the gospel message is essentially, "repent and believe." You cannot TRULY repent unless you believe. And you cannot TRULY believe unless you have repented – of unbelief. Thus, any gospel message that leaves out repentance and says that you need, "only believe," is, "another gospel." And any gospel that leaves out faith, and says that you need, "only repent," is likewise, "another gospel." No. You must REPENT and BELIEVE.
The ONE Sin
A key here is to see that UNBELIEF is the ONE SIN that we must repent of – in order to turn to Christ. Sure. This is because unbelief is the failure to turn to Christ. Thus, it is the one sin we must repent of -- because if we don’t repent of unbelief, and thus, don’t come to Christ, we remain in all of our other sins. The sin of unbelief vs. faith is therefore the one choice as to what is going to happen to all of our sins. Repent of unbelief and you will come to Christ by faith. All of your others sins will then find redemption.
Don’t misunderstand. This doesn’t not mean that all of our other acts of sin are to be taken lightly or that we don’t have to renounce them and repent of them. No. But the sin of unbelief is the sin that keeps us from turning to Christ with all of those other sins. In short, the sin of unbelief is our refusal or neglect to come to Christ by faith. That is WHY it is called, "unbelief." It is the refusal, or the withholding of faith. The only cure for it is therefore to turn and BELIEVE.
This goes back to the necessity of seeing, "original sin," or the heredity of sin. All human beings are born with the sin nature, because of the fall of Adam. As mentioned earlier, we are NOT responsible for the fact that we inherit the nature of sin. But we are responsible for what we do with it we see the way of deliverance through Christ. We are responsible for turning to Christ.
You will never turn to Christ, however, unless you see your condition. You won't even know what it means to turn to Him. At best, you will live in a religion based on Bible principles, and law-keeping. You will probably become legalistic, judgmental, and be governed by a religious spirit. Oh, you may KNOW the doctrines of grace, forgiveness, and redemption. But you won't know the reality of them in experience. You CANNOT know Christ in that way until you turn to Him as a dead sinner in need of grace. Unless you and I see our total spiritual bankruptcy, we will never value the riches of Jesus Christ. Unless we see our need for the grace of God we will never value the grace of God.
Now, can we see the utter impossibility of repenting and believing unless we see we are LOST? -- unless we see that we have a hopeless sin nature, and are a slave to sin? Sure. If I don't see this, I may believe that I can be right with God through works. I may think that the only thing wrong with me is my conduct, and therefore, the solution is better conduct. I may think that I can be saved by repenting of bad works. But no. I have to see my condition. I am an old creature that must become a NEW creature in Christ. I have to see that my only hope is NEW LIFE in Christ.
The Pharisees did not believe in the sin nature -- this is a documented fact. This accounts for their complete refusal to think of themselves as sinners. This is why they thought salvation was possible through study and good works. It was offensive to them when Jesus told them they were a, "bad tree," that needed to be made a, "good tree." Again -- we must see that the entire Adamic race is lost. But seeing this is NOT bad news. It is good news -- for then we will see that God offers us full deliverance through His Son.
Now can we see why the issue is really faith vs. unbelief? Sure. God says, "Repent and believe," and if we do, we will be saved. Faith in Christ opens the door to deliverance from the old creation. Repenting of unbelief brings the Cross to bear upon all of our sin, and SINS. But if we will not repent and believe, there can be no salvation -- no deliverance from the old creation. Unbelief shuts Christ out. It is therefore the ONE SIN that can condemn us, for it is ultimately the choice to refuse Christ's redemption for all sin.
In the final analysis, true repentance is towards GOD HIMSELF. The word, "repentance," in the NT Greek speaks of a, "change of mind, or heart attitude." It is a change of direction. But not just as a thing unto itself. No. True repentance is a change of attitude and direction with regards to GOD HIMSELF.
Never separate repentance from our personal accountability to God. My repentance is not simply a matter of my being sorry for things I have done. Or a matter of my being sorry for the consequences of sin. No. Repentance is a matter of seeing that I have violated God Himself, and have been living independently of Him. The sin of unbelief means that I have stood outside of accountability to God, and have lived to the disregard of Him AS GOD, and AS LORD. Thus, if I repent of unbelief, it will always result in my turning around and surrendering myself to Jesus Christ. Again – you cannot repent of unbelief unless you believe. You cannot repent of rebellion against God unless you surrender to Him. You cannot have a change of mind unless you renounce your old attitude towards God. You must repent AND believe.
Now, it ought to be self-evident, but can we see that repentance is absolutely impossible unless we SEE OUR SIN? Sure. You cannot repent of sin unless you see you have sinned. You cannot repent of unbelief and put your faith in Christ unless you see that you are guilty of UNBELIEF, and need a Savior. You CANNOT. Therefore, essential to the gospel is that sinners see both their sin of unbelief, and the Savior.
There are, however, two things that often pervert this essential part of the gospel. First, many people mistake the teaching of repentance for repentance itself. True repentance is not a matter of believing in the DOCTRINE of repentance. We need to see this. Of course, we DO need to believe in the doctrine – this is why the message is, "repent and believe." We must have that message and doctrine. We need that direction and teaching. But we need beware lest we make the mistake of thinking that our assent to the doctrine of repentance is equal to our actually repenting. No. We must repent – not just believe that we ought to repent.
The second thing – and this is becoming prominent today – that perverts the gospel of Jesus Christ, is that people are refusing to preach, and refusing to admit, that they are sinners. Today people are being told that all that they need to do is invite Jesus, "to come into their heart," and they will be saved. Well, if what is meant by that is that we repent of the sin of unbelief, and confess that we have been living as our own boss, then this would be acceptable. But unfortunately, most of the time this is NOT what is inferred at all. People today are being told that they need only acknowledge Jesus as their Savior, and that He will come into their hearts – and that all of this is possible without any repentance at all.
The utter nonsense of this error ought to be obvious. We have already seen that we must repent of UNBELIEF – of the sin of living as our own boss. We must repent of UNBELIEF – of the sin of failing to come to Jesus. How can we therefore COME TO JESUS without repenting of the sin of NOT coming to Him? How can we surrender our lives to Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord, but not repent of our being our OWN LORD? In short, how can we repent of sin without facing up to it through repentance? We cannot. The conclusion is inescapable: Unless we repent you cannot believe – unless we repent we cannot be saved.
Now, if you read back through all of the passages I quoted above, you will see that this is the Truth. Repentance is a turning away from myself, and my unbelief, TO CHRIST BY FAITH. Thus, if I don’t repent, I am not believing, I am not turning, and I am not having a chance of heart – from unbelief to faith. I am not believing and trusting Christ. By definition I am not. I must repent to believe on Christ and be saved.
For godly sorrow works repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world works death. (2 Cor. 7:10)
The sorrow of the world is sorrow that is the result of getting caught – I am experiencing consequences for my sin or behavior and therefore regret it. This always works death because it is self-serving. It is sorrow that has nothing to do with accountability to God. It has to do with the price I must pay. But godly sorrow is the result of seeing my hopelessness, of seeing the sin, and of seeing that I have sinned against God Himself. It leads to true repentance because it leads me to change my mind and heart towards God.
I hope this distinction is clear. Anyone can alter their conduct to conform to a list of rules or laws, if it means benefits, or if it will help them avoid penalty. Anyone can change to appease their guilt. This is why legalism is not the Truth. But TRUE change is possible only if the Holy Spirit shows us that we are sinners without hope, and that we have violated God Himself. Only then – if we yield to the conviction of the Spirit – is true repentance possible, because we are repenting of our unbelief towards God, and we are turning and putting our faith in Christ.
The Goodness of God
The goodness of God leads you to repentance. (Rom 2:4)
This verse becomes clear in light of everything else we have seen about repentance. The goodness of God leads us to repentance because repentance is unto LIFE. It is NOT a negative thing. It is a positive thing.
Repentance is not the result of God threatening us with punishment. It is the result of God showing us our sin and our need for Christ. Despite the fact that if we don’t repent, we cannot be saved, and will ultimately be judged, few people are converted through threat of punishment from God. And yet somehow, once we hear this, many cannot seem to reconcile telling people they are sinners with a gospel that is NOT a threat of punishment. Indeed, for hundreds of years the gospel has been presented AS a threat of punishment, rather than the way to LIFE.
I put it this way: The gospel does not say, "Repent and believe in Jesus or God will send you to hell!!!" No. Rather, the gospel says, "You are already a dead sinner on your way to hell. Repent and believe, for Jesus came to give you LIFE."
But this message absolutely mandates that we are TOLD we are sinners, and it mandates that we CONFESS that we are – all unto repentance. Can we see that? Unless we see our condition and our sin – we won’t repent. We won’t have any reason to repent. And we certainly won’t see the GOODNESS of God in giving us a Savior.
The fact is, we cannot see the goodness of God, let alone be led to repent, unless we see our badness. And we ARE bad. We are born that way. It is the nature of things. If you don’t see your sin, you won’t see your need for a Savior.
This is why the Bible says that the first step in salvation is always LIGHT. God must take the initiative to bring light into the consciousness of the sinner – so that he can see that his deeds are evil and that he needs to repent and turn to Christ. God alone can take this initiative, but then, once God does bring light, the sinner – yes, while still a dead sinner – has enough light to COME to Jesus. God does the drawing to Christ. We do the coming to Christ. (see John 6:44)
Never say that spiritual death means we cannot see light. We CAN. This isn't because WE can, of ourselves, find it. No. GOD brings the Light -- and will make sure we DO see it -- enough to enable us to choose Christ and LIFE. God will take the initiative to bring undeniable light to a dead sinner. And once we do receive light, we can choose light over darkness, or choose darkness over light. Doing so does not require that we are already saved -- as is taught by Calvinism. No. Light brings conviction and choice. It is not yet salvation. It is simply the Truth that we NEED salvation, and the Truth that Jesus is the only WAY. But when God does bring the Truth, we must respond by either faith -- or unbelief.
Jesus said that the Comforter would, "convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: Of sin, because they believe not on me." (John 16:8-9) Here we see that the Holy Spirit convicts the world – unsaved people – of the sin of unbelief. He does this by bringing light to our condition – by showing us that we have refused God through unbelief. At that point, the sinner is not yet saved. But if he allows the goodness of God to lead him to repentance, there will be a Godly sorrow. And that person will REPENT of his unbelief by putting his faith in Jesus Christ.
This is exactly what the apostle John wrote:
And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that does evil hates the light, neither comes to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that does truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God. (John 3:19-21)
If you read this passage, you will see that the eternal destiny of an individual is based on whether they COME TO THE LIGHT. God brings light into, "their world," and if they love darkness rather than light – because they don’t want to confess they have sinned against God – then this is the basis of condemnation. But if they confess what the Light exposes – their sin of unbelief – then they will believe and trust what Christ has done. Of course, refusing the Light is not a once for all thing. If as a sinner I refuse the Light, God will find a way to bring it back again. But in the end, I must choose.
As stated earlier, the ONE SIN that we must repent of to be saved is the sin of unbelief – the sin of failing to come to Jesus. And as I’ve already said, if we repent of the sin of failing to come to Jesus, then we will COME TO JESUS and believe. But then, after we do, God is going to continue to bring LIGHT. And we will continue to repent of SINS. This will not be repentance unto salvation in that case, but it will be repentance that is the result of salvation.
Now, having seen much about the nature of repentance, can we see that it is really the result of God’s DELIVERANCE? It is not a demand of God under threat of punishment. No. That is not the tone or intent of God. Rather, it is the offer of life through Jesus Christ. But if I will not embrace that offer, there is no option for me but eternal death.
Yet if I will not come into the Light, and will not allow God to expose me as a sinner, can we also see that I am going to view the conviction of the Holy Spirit as a negative thing? Sure. If I am comfortable in unbelief, I will probably not even accept that I could be guilty of it. Rather, I will be offended by any message that suggests that I need to, "repent and believe."
This is what is happening today everywhere. Christians by the thousands are being fed a message that excludes repentance, the need for the Cross, and the conviction of sin. False teachers like Robert Schuller and Joel Osteen openly preach that these things are NOT necessary. They say you can just come to Jesus and get everything He offers – but that repentance, as is taught in the Bible – is unnecessary. Or neglected as something that might offend people. This is a ANOTHER GOSPEL.
Excluding the need for conviction and repentance is equal to telling someone that they can come to Jesus all the while rejecting Him. It is equal to telling people that you can BELIEVE without repenting of UNBELIEF. It is really nothing short of telling people that you can remain IN ADAM – but enter into all that is of Christ. It is a lie – and the very essence of antichrist.
But the Truth is, the minute you see the goodness of God, you will be led to repentance -- because the goodness of God will show us how bad we are, and how we have violated Him. This will bring us to repentance. Any perception of the goodness of God that does not do that is purely religious. It is not real.
God says, "Repent and believe." This is the one true gospel. It means that on the basis of what Christ has done, we surrender ourselves to Christ, yes as Savior, but as LORD of us. To repent and believe is not only the SOLE MEANS by which we can be saved, but it is a dynamic under which we will continue to live as Christians.
The Good News - Home