The One and Only True Gospel

Back to the Goodnews

by David A. DePra


Most believers know that the word, “gospel,” in the New Testament, means, “good news.”  It means, “good news,” not only in the English, but also in the original Greek.


So, THE Gospel, in every way, is GOOD news.  The Gospel is not a threat of punishment.  The Gospel is not an expression of God’s anger.  Now, that does not mean that there are not consequences for refusing the Gospel -- because there are always consequences for refusing good news.  But the GOSPEL of Jesus Christ is GOOD news.


Now, I think that we tend to think of the Gospel as a message of salvation through Jesus Christ.  That is true -- and the message of salvation IS included in the Gospel.  But there is much more included in the Gospel.  Rather than think of the Gospel as merely a message, think of it as a proclamation and a revelation of the Truth about a PERSON -- Jesus Christ. 


The gospel is a proclamation and a revelation of God through his Son Jesus Christ – inclusive of His redemptive work.  So if you want to boil it down, rather than the Gospel being simply a message in the form of words -- it is the Living Word, Jesus Christ, and all that is revealed and accomplished from out of Him. 


Paul, An Apostle


In his epistle to the Galatians, Paul addresses the absolute essential of both believing and preach the ONE and ONLY gospel.  Paul begins the epistle by writing:


Paul, an apostle, not of man, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ and God, the Father who raised Him from the dead.


Paul immediately makes sure that his readers understand that no PERSON appointed him to be an apostle.  That is an important point -- because NONE of the apostles were appointed by men.  All of them were directly chosen and appointed by Jesus Christ.  But Paul is the only apostle that was not among those who knew Christ when He was here as a man – yet nevertheless he was also directly appointed by Jesus Christ.


There are those today who try to say that there were fifteen or twenty apostles, or more.  Some who make this claim may be doing it because they fancy themselves to be an apostle.  But there is no biblical basis for saying that God ever intended for there to be more than twelve apostles.  Of course, Judas disqualified himself.  And the apostles tried to replace him by drawing lots – with Matthias being chosen.  But the eleven had no business doing anything to replace Judas.  Jesus never told them to do that.  In fact, he told them to tarry – in other words, WAIT -- for the giving of the spirit.  Drawing lots was never how an apostle was chosen and would never be how God would appoint an apostle.


We need to remember that the Book of Acts is not a doctrinal book -- but is simply an honest narrative of what happened – similar to much of the OT.  So while Acts is absolutely the inspired word of God -- included in that inspired word of God in the Book of Acts are some serious mistakes of the apostles.  This account of drawing lots to find the will of God is not the only mistake by the apostles described by the book of Acts -- but it is one of them. 


Paul was chosen directly by Jesus Christ to replace Judas.  But Paul was the only apostle chosen AFTER the resurrection of Christ – through an appearance of Jesus to Paul   Therefore, Paul is able to say, “I was chosen, not of men, but by Jesus Christ.” 


The Judaizers


One primary reason why Paul had to proclaim his apostleship to the Galatians was that there were a group of professing believers – self-appointed teachers – who were continually undermining both Paul’s teaching and his authority as an apostle.  Paul calls them, “men from James,” and, “those of the circumcision.” They were the Judaizers – those who tried to define Christianity as, “Judaism with Christ added.”  In short, these were former Jews who claimed to be converted to Christ, but who demanded that Christians were still under the law.  They had created an Old Testament version of Christianity – and were demanding that it was the real Truth; the real gospel.


The Galatians churches had been brought into great deception by these false teachers.  As Paul says in chapter 3, the Galatians had been, “mesmerized,” or, “bewitched,” by these false teachers – they had been deceived into a man-made religion that preached righteousness by the law. 


You will also note that Paul says that he is writing his epistle to the CHURCHES in Galatia.  Note the plural – there were several churches involved.  Paul also says that his epistle is coming from, not only himself, but from, “all the brethren which are with him.”  So there are many believers involved in this matter – both those who know the Truth, and those who are now deceived by, “another gospel.”


Another Gospel


Beginning in Galatians 1:6, Paul gets into the very serious situation that has prompted his epistle to the Galatian churches.  He says, “I marvel that you are so soon removed…”  In NT Greek, it really says, “I marvel that you are so RAPIDLY removed….”  Indeed, Paul is really saying, “I am astonished at how rapidly you have removed yourself from Christ -- from Him that called you into the grace of Christ.  You have deserted Christ as the One in whom you have your faith, and are now under ANOTHER gospel.”


Can we wrap our minds around the seriousness of what had happened in Galatia?  The Galatians – who KNEW the Truth of Jesus Christ – had fallen into deception.  They had been deceived into removing their faith FROM Jesus Christ – and have transferred their faith over into a false gospel.  In short, their faith was no longer solely in Christ, but was now their own works; was now in themselves.


It is vital to note that Paul never says that the Galatians believed that they were saved by works.  No.  The issue is the means by which we live the Christian life.  The Galatians were trying to live the Christian life – they were trying to walk with Christ – not on the basis of faith, but upon the basis of their own works.


To get an idea of how serious this is we need only turn to the end of the epistle.  There, Paul says, “Christ is of no effect to you.”  He also says, “You have fallen from grace.”  Add this up and it is clear that these folks are no longer walking in the Truth.  They are not living in Christ – they are living in a false Christianity.  They are in darkness and in spiritual deception. 


Spiritual deception is MORE than doctrinal deception, although the two eventually go together.  Spiritual deception is a false knowledge, not merely of doctrine, but of Jesus Himself.  It results in a mind that is corrupted by error – a mind that is, rather than renewed according to the Truth, is degraded by error.  It is a mind in which error is at home; makes sense; and finds an anchor in the unbelief of the one deceived.


The Galatian error, which was righteousness by works, is able to deceive people who want their own righteousness – either because they are ignorant of the fact that they have NO righteousness of their own, or will not accept that they have NO righteousness.  Righteousness by works is their substitute for the Truth. 


Many Christians assume that legalism is merely, “Christianity with a little bit too much law.”  Most don’t give it a second thought, and casually accept it as being one expression of Christianity.  Well, read the words of Paul.  Does it sound as if this indifference reflects the mind of God, or reflects Paul’s attitude?  No.  Paul says they are under ANOTHER gospel.  That means they are walking in a false gospel; a false Christianity – they have, “another Jesus.”  He says those that are teaching this error are, “accursed.”  Indeed, in chapter three, Paul says that if you are under the law you are under a curse.  This is obviously a dire situation – a matter of spiritual life and death.


Paul’s warned that they were under, “another gospel.”  That is a bit of a play on words -- because he is actually saying that they are under, “another good news.”  Another good news?  Paul states directly that there is NOT, “another good news” -- but note the play on words:  The Galatians thought that their false gospel WAS good news.  To them, to be able to establish their own righteousness through works WAS good news.  It was the object of their faith.  This is just how completely deceived they had become.  They thought their false gospel was, “good news.”


Deceived people can be very happy.  They can be happy because their deception is giving them what they want – and they are deceived into thinking that God is in it.  Deceived folks will be at home in their deception until God brings something to disturb it.  Then they will have to make the choice as to whether to turn to Christ and the Truth.


Maybe we ought to ask why God took the time to see to it that this epistle became part of His inspired Word – available to millions if not billions?  Seems like perhaps this is a warning to all of His people as to the possibilities in our own heart.


A False Christ


The true gospel of Jesus Christ is a proclamation of Christ and all He has done, but just as importantly, the gospel is all that Christ IS -- within the believer.  In a nutshell, the gospel of Jesus Christ includes all of the Truth of Jesus Christ – revealed in the believer and experienced by the believer.


There is only one Truth.  That Truth is a Person. Thus, once we begin to preach another gospel, we are not just misrepresenting a message.  We are misrepresenting Jesus Christ Himself.  Indeed, all that is not of the Truth misrepresents Christ – whether it be doctrinal or simply conduct. 


One elementary example:  The Catholics used to teach, and maybe they still do, that if you eat meat on Friday -- and died before you made it to confession -- you would go straight to hell. They also believed the same thing about missing mass on Sunday.  Of course, I could name a lot of things Protestants teach that are also nonsense.  But my point is this:  Are such teachings no more than a bad message?  Are they simply false doctrines? -- just a misinterpretation of a Bible verse?  Well, those teachings are all of that – but in the end they are a misrepresentation of God Himself.  For if I say that I go to hell for missing mass once, or for eating meat on Friday, then I am saying something about the nature and character of God.  I am describing God – I am stating how He deals with humanity.  I am describing the kind of God that we must follow and grow to know.    


So when we talk about another gospel, the real issue there is not that we are preaching a wrong message.  No.  It is that we are preaching the wrong Jesus and the wrong God.  We are preaching ANOTHER GOSPEL.  The fact is, you must take every doctrine back to what that  doctrine says about God Himself – His nature and His character and His dealings. 


Note that Paul did not say that the Galatians had removed themselves from a MESSAGE.  No.  he said, “I am shocked that you have so quickly removed yourself from HIM…”  They had taken their faith off of Christ.  Not just off of a message.  This had to do with their personal relationship with Christ Himself.


Perversion of the Gospel


Paul says there is no other gospel, “…but there be some who trouble you.”  Those who troubled them were the Judaizers – those who taught an OT version of Christianity.  Paul says they were, “PERVERTING the gospel of Christ.”  Now, that word, “pervert,” in the NT Greek, means, “to turn something around.”  It means to morph something – in this case, Christ Himself and the Truth about Him -- into a different form.  In other words, it means to replace the Truth with error; it means to replace the real Jesus with one that fits your deception.


Paul then states, “If 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 which you have received, let him be ACCURSED.”  Does that sound serious?  Well, I hope it would sound serious to us all.  I hope we would begin to see the essential of believing the Truth, and the essential of listening to only those who teach the Truth.


John the apostle said, “No lie is of the Truth.”  There is only one Truth because there is only one Jesus Christ -- who IS the Truth.  And something is either Truth or it is not.  And if it is not Truth then it is a lie; error – and it is not of Jesus Christ.


We need to understand that Truth is eternal.  It NEVER changes.  Truth is not dependent upon whether we believe it or know it.  But what this means is that while we cannot decide what the Truth is -- we must discover what the Truth is.  That is only possible if we are discovering Christ Himself.


We discover Truth as God reveals Christ IN US -- by bringing us into an inward realization of His Son.  Note that this is not merely facts or information – but it is inward revelation.  We must keep our hearts open continually and ask God to do whatever it takes to accomplish this purpose.


Now, a lot of folks get nervous when you begin to talk about God’s desire to bring us into an inward realization of Jesus Christ.  They get nervous and think you are saying that God is going to begin to reveal stuff that is not in scripture.  Some of these same people would have you believe that the only way you can come to know God is with a Bible in your lap, a concordance beside it, learning the meaning of Bible verses.  Now, I am all for Bible study.  We must know the Bible and believe it is the inerrant Word of God – we need to believe it is the written Truth of God. But what good is that going to do any of us if we do not know the One about Whom the Bible speaks?  It is possible to be a walking encyclopedia of biblical doctrine and not know Jesus in an inward, life changing way.  In fact, you can be a walking encyclopedia of the Bible and not even be saved.  We must have that inward revelation.


As far as any concerns about God revealing Christ in an inward way -- all that God reveals by His spirit will always agree with the Bible – because, as noted earlier, there is only one Truth; one Christ; one gospel -- and the written Truth of the Bible and the living Truth who is a Person Who God reveals will always agree.   


Now ask:  If there is only ONE TRUTH – then if I believe something other than the Truth, then what am I believing?  Untruth – in other words, I am believing error.  Worse, I may actually walking in error.  I may have removed myself from the One who IS the Truth.


This is what was happening in these churches in Galatia and it was a horrible situation with which Paul had to deal.  What made it worse was that these Judiazers were behind it all.  They were going around to different churches, trying to undermine Paul’s preaching.  They were teaching righteous by the law – another gospel.


So, if there is one thing we need to remember for now, it is that there is only one Truth, one Gospel, one Jesus.  Anything we teach -- our teaching and our doctrine -- represents that One Jesus.  And it is not OK if it is not the Truth.  It is not OK if it constitutes another gospel.


In chapter 4, Paul summarizes the solution to the Galatian problem.  He says:


My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you.”  (Gal. 4:19)


The Greek word translated, “formed,” means, “to inwardly realize and express.”  An inward realization or knowledge of the Living Christ is the only solution to all error.  It certainly was the solution to the false gospel of righteousness by works – for realizing Christ will reveal to us that HE – by His presence in us – is our righteousness.


We need to ask God to give us discernment to be able to know if we are getting off the track.  But more than that, we need to ask God to do whatever it takes to reveal His Son in us, so that we may know Him and be set free by the Truth to walk with Him now and forever.


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