Monday, December 3, 2007
"What exactly is the Gospel?"
2 Tim 2:8 (NIV) Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel.
The gospel is a message. It is also referred to in Scripture as a "word", a "doctrine", a "seed", the "good news", "the truth". Because God uses the message of the gospel to reconcile men to himself, it must be taught, heard, understood, believed, confessed and defended.
The Message is That Jesus is The Christ, that He Was Crucified, and Rose Again!
1 Cor 15:1-4 (NIV) Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you have 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. 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.
The Message Must Be Taught
Rom 10:14 (NIV) How, then, can they call on one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?
The Message Must Be Heard
Rom 10:17 (NIV) Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.
The Message Must Be Understood
Mat 13:17-23 (Phi) "Believe me, a great many prophets and good men have longed to see what you are seeing, and they never saw it. Yes, and they longed to hear what you are hearing, and they never heard it. Now listen to the parable of the sower. When a man hears the message of the kingdom, and does not grasp it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is like the seed sown by the roadside. The seed sown on the stony patches represents the man who hears the message and eagerly accepts it. But it has not taken root in him and does not last long--the moment trouble or persecution arises through the message, he gives up his faith at once. The seed sown among the thorns represents the man who hears the message, and then worries of this life and the illusions of wealth choke it to death and so it produces no 'crop' in his life. But the seed sown on good soil is the man who both hears and understands the message..."
The Message Must Be Believed
Heb 4:2 (Phi) For we too have had a gospel preached to us, as those men had. Yet the message proclaimed to them did them no good, because they only heard and did not believe as well.
The Message Must Be Confessed
Rom 10:8-9 (NIV) But what does it say? "The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart," that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming: That 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.
The Message Is Foolishness To Some, Good News To Others
1 Cor 1:18,21-23 (NIV) For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God... For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles.
1 Cor 2:2 (Phi) ...It was my determination to concentrate entirely on Jesus Christ. and the fact of his death upon the cross.
The Message Is True, and It Works
Col 1:5-6 (Phi) ...that hope that first became yours when you heard the message of truth. This is the Gospel itself, which has reached you as it spreads out all over the world. Wherever that gospel goes, it produces Christian character, and develops it, as it has done in your own case from the time you first heard and realized the truth of God's grace. (1 Thes 2:13)
The Message Was a Secret, But it is Now Fully Revealed
Col 1:25-26 (Phi) ...that I might fully declare God's Word--that sacred mystery which up till now has been hidden in every age and every generation, but which is now as clear as daylight to those who love God.
2 Cor 4:2-4,18 (Phi) ...We speak the plain truth and so commend ourselves to every mans conscience in the sight of God. If our gospel is "veiled", the veil must be in the minds of those who are spiritually dying. The god of this world has blinded the minds of those who do not believe, and prevents the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, the image of God, from shining on them... For we are looking all the time not at the visible things but at the invisible. The visible things are transitory: it is the invisible things that are permanent.
The Message Is Valuable, and Vulnerable; It Must Be Guarded
Because the gospel is an invisible message, it is thus vulnerable to attack. Jesus labeled Satan the "father of lies" (John 8:44-45,47). Satan's agents are "wolves in sheep's clothing" (Mat 7:15,22-23). Satan's efforts are to "infect" the gospel with lies (Act 13:9-10). Much of the New Testament is written to instruct and encourage us to protect the message (Eph 4:14-15).
Heb 2:1-3 (Phi) We ought, therefore, to pay the greatest attention to the truth that we have heard and not allow ourselves to drift away from it. For if the message given through angels proved authentic, so that defiance of it and disobedience to it received appropriate retribution, how shall we escape if we refuse to pay proper attention to that greater salvation which is offered us? For this salvation came first through the words of the Lord himself.
Mark 13:22-24 (NIV) "For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform signs and miracles to deceive the elect--if that were possible. So be on your guard; I have told you everything ahead of time."
2 Tim 1:13-14 (NIV) What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you--guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.
2 Cor 10:3-7 (NIV) For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ... You are looking only on the surface of things...
Strong Words About The Danger Of Corrupting The Message
1 Tim 4:1-3,6-7 (Phi) God's Spirit specifically tells us that in later days there will be men who abandon the true faith and allow themselves to be spiritually seduced by teachings of demons, teachings given by men who are lying hypocrites, whose consciences are as dead as seared flesh... You will be a faithful minister of Christ Jesus if you remind your church members of these things. You will show yourself as a man nourished by the message of the true faith and the sound teaching he has followed. But steer clear of all these heathen old wives' tales.
Gal 1:6-9 (Phi) I am amazed that you have so quickly transferred your allegiance from him who called you by the grace of Christ to another "gospel"! Not that it is another gospel, but there are men who are upsetting your faith with a travesty of the gospel of Christ. Yet I say that if I, or an angel from Heaven, were to preach to you any other gospel than the one you have already heard, may he be damned! You have heard me say it before and now I say it again--may anybody who preaches any other gospel than the one you have already heard be a damned soul!
False Teachers Either: 1) Add-To Or Modify The Message, or 2) Are "Antichrist"
Gal 3:1-5 (Phi) O you dear idiots of Galatia, who saw Jesus Christ the crucified so plainly, who has been casting a spell over you? I will ask you one simple question: did you receive the Spirit by trying to keep the Law or by believing the message of the gospel? Surely you can't be so stupid as to think that you begin your spiritual life in the Spirit and then complete it by reverting to physical observances? Has all your painful experience brought you nowhere? I simply cannot believe it! Does God, who gives you his Spirit and works miracles among you, do these things because you have obeyed the Law or because you have believed the gospel?
Gal 2:4-5 (Phi) In fact, the suggestion would have never arisen but for the presence of some pseudo-Christians, who wormed their way into our meeting to spy on the liberty we enjoy in Christ Jesus, and then attempted to tie us up with rules and regulations. We did not give in to them for a moment, for the truth of the gospel for you and all the gentiles was at stake. (Gal 5:1-10)
Gal 2:21 (Phi) I refuse to make nonsense of the grace of God. For if righteousness were possible under the Law then Christ died for nothing.
Rom 1:16-17 (NIV) For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: "The righteous will live by faith."
2) The "Antichrist" in Scripture is Any Minister Who Denies Jesus as The Christ
1 Jn 2:18-22 (Phi) ...You have heard of the coming of antichrist. Believe me, there are antichrists about already, which confirms my belief that we are near the last hour. These men went out from our company, it is true, but they never really belonged to it. If they had really belonged to us they would have stayed. In fact, their going proves beyond doubt that men like that were not "our men" at all.
1 Jn 4:1-3 (NIV) Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every Spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.
Hollywood Terminology and The Undiscerned Infection...
Hollywood has used the term "Antichrist" to refer to what Scripture refers to as "the Beast", and Christians have picked this up. The shoe fits, and we all know who is being referred to when the term "Antichrist" is used: "the Beast" of Scripture. But by misunderstanding the biblical meaning of antichrist, we may miss the important point that the enemy is within our camp.
2 Cor 11:13-15 (Phi) "God's messengers?" They are counterfeits of the real thing, dishonest practitioners masquerading as the messengers of Christ. Nor do their tactics surprise me when I consider how Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is only to be expected that his agents shall have the appearance of ministers of righteousness--but they will get what they deserve in the end.
Notice The Motive, And The Result
2 Pet 2:1-3 (NIV) But there were false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies... Many will follow their shameful ways and bring the way of truth into disrepute. In their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up.
1 Tim 6:3-5 (Phi) This is the sort of thing you should teach and preach, and if anyone tries to teach some doctrinal novelty and does not follow sound teaching (which we base on our Lord Jesus Christ's own words and which leads to Christlike living), then he is a conceited idiot! His mind is a morbid jungle of disputation and argument, things which lead to nothing but jealousy, quarreling, insults, and malicious innuendoes--continual wrangling, in fact, among men of warped minds who have lost their real hold on the truth but hope to make some profit out of the Christian religion.
Who Causes Division?
Rom 16:17-18 (NIV) I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and who put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people.
Jude 1:19 (NIV) These are the men who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit.
Jude 1:16-19 (Phi) These are the men who complain and curse their fate while trying all the time to mold life according to their own desires. They "talk big" and pay men great respect if it is to their own advantage. Now do remember, dear friends, the words that the messengers of Jesus Christ gave us beforehand when they said "there will come in the last days mockers who live according to their own godless desires." These are the men who split communities, for they are led by human emotions and never by the Spirit of God.
Are we "causing division" to rebuke false teachers; or are we obeying God?
Titus 3:10-11 (NIV) Warn a divisive person once, and then warn him a second time. After that, have nothing to do with him. You may be sure that such a man is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.
1 Tim 1:3-4 (NIV) ...command certain men not to teach false doctrines any longer nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. These promote controversies rather than God's work--which is by faith.
The Body of Christ, functioning properly, should be excising these false teachings and standing against the "wolves" (Titus 1:9). But somehow Satan has duped us into believing that if we obey God's instructions, we are the ones "causing division", instead of the false prophets and teachers (wolves) we are commanded to rebuke (Titus 1:11-2:1). Satan has attacked the church's "immune system", and we accept the wolves, who take advantage of the flock, in as "brothers" (2 Jn 7-11).
2 Thes 2:10 (NIV) ...They perish because they refuse to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie...
Biblical Examples of Rebukes & Principles for Protecting The Message
2 Tim 2:15-17 (Phi) For yourself, concentrate on winning God's approval, on being a workman with nothing to be ashamed of, and who knows how to use the word of truth to the best advantage. But steer clear of these unchristian babblings, which in practice lead further and further away from Christian living. For their teachings are as dangerous as blood-poisoning to the body, and spread like sepsis from a wound. Hymenaeus and Philetus are responsible for this sort of thing, and they are palpable traitors to the truth...
2 Tim 4:14-15 (NIV) Alexander the metalworker did me a great deal of harm. The Lord will repay him for what he has done. You too should be on your guard against him, because he strongly opposed our message.
Are We As Concerned About The Problem As The Writers Of Scripture?
2 Tim 4:2-5 (NIV) Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage--with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry. (Titus 2:15a)
2 Thes 2:15 (NIV) So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the teachings we have passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter.
Heb 13:9 (NIV) Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings.
Check It Out
1 Thes 5:21 (NIV) Test everything. Hold onto the good.
Acts 17:11 (NIV) Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.
1 Tim 4:11,16 (NIV) Command and teach these things... Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.
The Role of The Holy Spirit in The Discernment of False Teaching
While only some believers have the special spiritual gift of discernment, all believers have the ability by "the Spirit of Truth" to detect a false gospel. This is not dependent on knowledge or intelligence, it is a basic "smell test" of anyone who has received the Holy Spirit.
God has not promised us that He will tell us who to marry, what to do next, etc., although He may. But He has promised that He will always allow us to detect lies that would lead us astray. If we have really received the Holy Spirit, He will teach us which teachers are false and true, and this will be confirmed by others. Are we listening to the Spirit of Truth?
1 Jn 2:20-27 (NIV) But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth. I do not write to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it and because no lie comes from the truth. See that what you have heard in the beginning remains in you... I am writing these things to you about those who are trying to lead you astray. As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit--just as it has taught you, remain in him.
John 16:13 (Phi) "Yet when that one I have spoken about comes--the Spirit of truth--he will guide you into everything that is true."
Even If The Motives Are Wrong, If The Message Is Right--Praise God!
Phil 1:15-18 (NIV) It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of good will. The latter do so in love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.
John 5:24 (NIV) "I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life."
John 8:31-32 (NIV) ...Jesus said, "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."
Luke 24:45-47 (NIV) Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, "This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem."
Mark 16:15-16 (NIV) He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned."
John 3:16 (KJV) "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life."
Col 1:23 (Phi) This reconciliation assumes that you maintain a firm position in the faith, and do not allow yourselves to be shifted away from the hope of the gospel, which you have heard...