What Is the True Gospel?
By Herbert W. Armstrong
What is the true gospel that Jesus preached? Did Paul preach a different
gospel to the Gentiles?
Here, at last, is made plain the truth about the Kingdom of God.
WHY SHOULD there be such perplexity - such confusion - in every phase of life today? It should be the function of religion to point the way. Yet here, too, we find only confusion of tongues - hundreds of religious denominations and sects, in a babylon of disagreement. Even in the professing Christian religion of the western world, we find different sects and denominations preaching a variety of different GOSPELS! Some designate their Gospel as "The Gospel of Jesus Christ." Others call their Gospel "The Gospel of Salvation." Still others profess the "Gospel of Grace;" some "The Gospel of the Kingdom;" and some call their gospel "The ISRAEL Message."
WHY HAVE THEY LOST THE ONLY TRUE GOSPEL WHICH GOD SENT BY JESUS CHRIST?
How Many Gospels Are There?
Does it make any difference which Gospel we believe? Listen to the answer of the Eternal God as inspired in Paul's letter to the Galatians-the first chapter, the 8th and 9th verses: "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." And it is made a double-curse! For the next verse says: " . . . so say I now again, if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed!"
WHY, then has the world lost sight of that Gospel? WHY do people believe different gospels today? Jesus Christ said it is necessary to BELIEVE THE GOSPEL to be saved! Yet the many - the hundreds of millions - today, do not know what that Gospel is! Again, His parting commission to His apostles, being sent out as His ministers to build His church, was this: "Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel." They were to preach THE GOSPEL.
Jesus then said: "He that BELIEVETH and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned" (Mark 16:16). Notice! Jesus said, "He that BELIEVETH." Believeth what? Why, BELIEVETH that which they PREACHED, of course - THE GOSPEL! Not A gospel. Not any gospel. THE Gospel! On the authority of Jesus Christ, it is necessary to believe THAT PRECISE IDENTICAL GOSPEL in order to be saved! And to BELIEVE the true Gospel, we must first come to KNOW what it is!
Now with whom, and from where, and to whom, did the true Gospel originate?
With Christ? No, not with Christ!
The Message Sent from Heaven
God the Father had promised to send a Messenger into this world from heaven, bearing a Message from HIM - God the FATHER! God had promised that in Malachi 3:1: "Behold I will send my Messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me;" - and that messenger, as explained in Mark 1:2, was John the baptist, preparing the way before Jesus Christ; "and the LORD, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, EVEN THE MESSENGER OF THE COVENANT, whom ye delight in."
The very first sermon by which God had the Gospel preached to Gentiles, when Peter was sent to the house of the Gentile Cornelius, recorded in the 10th chapter of the Book of Acts, gives us very explicit directions for locating the one and only TRUE GOSPEL. Open your own Bible! I want you to read this with your own eyes! This is what the inspired Peter said, as recorded in Acts 10:36-37:
"The Word which GOD sent unto the children of Israel, preaching peace
by Jesus Christ: ( he is Lord of all) : That Word, I say, ye know, which
was published throughout all Judea, and began from Galilee, after the baptism
which John preached."
Which Gospel Did Jesus Preach?
Notice carefully these points: 1)With whom did this Message - this Gospel - originate? Peter said: "The word which GOD sent." 2) TO WHOM did God send it? Peter said "unto the children of Israel." Although now, ten years later, this same Gospel is being opened up to Gentiles of ALL nations, originally it was sent to the CHILDREN OF ISRAEL, and it was sent by GOD THE FATHER. It did not originate with Jesus Christ, nor with Peter, nor with the Apostle Paul. It was sent by GOD the Father of Jesus Christ! 3) BY WHOM was it sent? Who was the divine Messenger who brought and preached the Message? Peter said "by Jesus Christ." Jesus Christ was the divine MESSENGER. Malachi called Him the Messenger of the COVENANT. That Message, then, is the NEW Covenant Message, for Moses was the mediator of the Old Covenant, and Jesus Christ of the NEW, as affirmed by many Scriptures. This Message, then, is the NEW TESTAMENT GOSPEL. Now, 4) WHERE was it first preached? To what geographical location shall we look for its beginning? Peter said. "began from Galilee." Yes, GALILEE, then is the place where it was first preached.
When did Jesus begin to preach this particular Gospel in Galilee? Peter said "after the baptism which John preached." The true GOSPEL of the NEW Covenant, then, did not begin with John the baptist. It was after John had completed his baptismal ministry.
Now these very definite directions lead us directly to the first chapter of Mark. The first verse tells us this is the record of the BEGINNING of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Then it relates the baptizing ministry of John, preaching, NOT the Gospel, but "the baptism of repentance," which prepares the way for salvation through Jesus Christ. And then we come to verses 14 and 15: "Now after that John was put in prison"- there is the exact TIME for the beginning of the preaching of the TRUE GOSPEL . . . "JESUS"- there is the divine Messenger BY whom God sent it ..."came into GALILEE" - the precise geographical location. So we now have the TIME, the Israelites residing there TO WHOM God sent the Message, the PLACE, and the MESSENGER - so whatever we find Jesus preaching here IS THE ONE AND ONLY TRUE GOSPEL.
And what do we read? "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 YE, and BELIEVE THE GOSPEL."
What About the Gospel of Jesus Christ?
But if the one and only TRUE Gospel is the Gospel of the Kingdom of God, what about the Gospel of Jesus Christ? Is that a false gospel? Not at all. The Gospel of Jesus Christ IS the Gospel of the Kingdom of God. The Gospel of Jesus Christ IS NOT man's gospel ABOUT the PERSON of Christ. It is CHRIST'S Gospel - the Gospel Jesus PREACHED - the Gospel GOD SENT by Him, and therefore it is also called, in Scripture, the Gospel of God. We hear a great deal, today, of the gospel of MEN about the PERSON of Jesus Christ - confining the message solely to the things ABOUT Jesus - what he DID. As a result, millions believe on Christ, who do not BELIEVE CHRIST! But Jesus' Gospel IS HIS Message!
And yet it was not His, but His FATHER'S who sent Him, as He
Himself said. In John 12:49-50, Jesus said: "I have not spoken of myself;
but the Father which sent me, HE gave me a commandment, what I should
say, and what I should speak. And I know that HIS commandment is life everlasting;
whatsoever I speak therefore, even as the Father said unto me, so
I speak." Yes, the Father SENT Jesus bearing a Message, which is the Good
News of THE KINGDOM OF GOD. Jesus is God's spokesman - the WORD that was
made flesh and lived, and taught, on this earth! In John 14: 24 Jesus said,
"The word which ye hear is NOT MINE, but the Father's which sent me."
And descriptive of the religion of the Old Testament, and the GOSPEL of
the NEW, it is written in Luke 16:16: "The law and the prophets were UNTIL
JOHN: since that time the KINGDOM OF GOD is preached."
What Is the Kingdom of God?
And yet there are some in this modern day of religious confusion who believe the Gospel of the KINGDOM OF GOD is not for this age - this New Testament time of grace. They reject and therefore do not BELIEVE the true Gospel as Jesus commanded and thereby reject the very conditions to SALVATION, saying the Gospel of the KINGDOM is a gospel for some future age yet to come. But as the apostle Paul said to the Thessalonians, I would not have you to be IGNORANT of the very Gospel which alone can bring us eternal life! There was a definite TIME for the beginning of the Gospel - since John. The law and the prophets were UNTIL John. Since John's special preparatory ministry, THE KINGDOM OF GOD is preached. There was a definite TIME for this true New Testament Gospel to begin. And after John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, saying, "The TIME is fulfilled," and preaching the Gospel.
And so now, WHAT IS that Gospel?
The English word Gospel comes from the word Godspell, and means GOOD NEWS. Daily, we read the NEWS of world happenings - mostly BAD news! We live in a troubled, chaotic world. And the very BEST news you can hear in this day, or any other, is the GOOD NEWS of the KINGDOM OF GOD.
But what is a KINGDOM. Primarily, it is a GOVERNMENT - a NATION and the GOVERNMENT which rules it. And especially in this biblical sense, there is the DUAL sense of the NATION, including all its subjects or citizens, and the GOVERNMENT by which it is ruled. Again - in BIBLE usage, a Kingdom is often a family from a single parent grown into a NATION.
Four things are necessary to constitute a KINGDOM. 1) The TERRITORY, with its specific location and definite boundary lines, of 2) a KING or Supreme Ruler or governing agent, ruling over 3) SUBJECTS or citizens within that territorial jurisdiction, with 4) LAWS and a form of GOVERNMENT. If we leave out any one of these vital requisites, we do not have, and cannot BELIEVE, the true GOSPEL for this time.
We must know whether the Kingdom of God is here NOW, or coming later;
whether its territory is THE EARTH, or up in heaven; whether it is a literal
kingdom of human mortals, or a kingdom of immortals; whether it is literal
or figurative, real or unreal. And on many of these things, a great many
people are ALL MIXED up! But now what about the Gospel of GRACE - the Gospel
Born Into the Kingdom
Notice, when Nicodemus came to Jesus secretly, as recorded in John the 3rd chapter, Jesus said to him: "Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be BORN AGAIN, he cannot see the KINGDOM OF GOD." Jesus was proclaiming the KINGDOM OF GOD - explaining a most important phase of it. As Paul wrote to the Church at Corinth, I Corinthians 15, flesh and blood - that is, a mortal human - cannot enter IN to the Kingdom of God. It is NOT, then, a kingdom whose citizens are mortal flesh-and-blood humans. Jesus went on to show Nicodemus that we who are born of the flesh ARE flesh - just mortal flesh and blood. We were BORN that way - HUMAN - MORTAL. But it is possible for us to be BORN, AGAIN - this time, not as a mortal flesh-and-blood baby, but born of the SPIRIT. Now in the 4th chapter of John we read that GOD is a SPIRIT. The Kingdom of God is composed of those BORN of GOD. And as I have explained previously, GOD is not a single person, but the Hebrew word for God -"ELOHIM" portrays God as a FAMILY of persons - a single family, or kingdom, but composed of MORE than one person. We have the mineral kingdom - the plant kingdom - the animal kingdom.
The Bible reveals an angel kingdom, created by God and composed
of spirit, not matter. And then, high above all is the very CREATING Kingdom
- the GOD kingdom, or, in other words, THE KINGDOM OF GOD! God is REPRODUCING
HIMSELF! God created man in GOD'S IMAGE, so that man may become impregnated,
BEGOTTEN, by the very Spirit of GOD, and then, by a resurrection, be BORN
as an immortal SPIRIT-COMPOSED person in the KINGDOM OF GOD. The Apostle
Paul made very plain to the Corinthians that while mortal flesh and blood
cannot inherit, or enter into, the Kingdom of God, that thru the resurrection
of those BEGOTTEN BY THE HOLY SPIRIT OF GOD during this mortal life, this
MORTAL then puts on IMMORTALITY, and we, like the very God Himself,
become IMMORTAL, INCORRUPTIBLE, actually, literally, BORN of God's Spirit
INTO the very GOD FAMILY.
Conditions of Entering
Now, HOW may we enter into that glorious KINGDOM? Jesus came preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom of God, and saying, "REPENT," and "BELIEVE THE GOSPEL." Just TWO things we do - REPENT, and BELIEVE. To BELIEVE means to believe the Gospel, and that means also believing on JESUS CHRIST, the KING of the Kingdom of God, and coming KING of kings over all the families of the earth. It means believing in Him as personal SAVIOUR, as High Priest now, and as coming KING.
But to repent is to completely CHANGE THE MIND in respect to SIN, and
sin is the transgression of the LAW - the law of GOD by which God RULES
the Kingdom (I John 3:4). It means a total, complete CHANGE OF MIND AND
OF LIFE. It means we REPENT of transgressing the rule, the will, the laws,
of GOD. What did Jesus say to the young man who asked Him HOW to inherit
eternal life? He said, "IF thou wilt enter into life, KEEP THE COMMANDMENTS"
(Mat. 19:17) and went on to show that He referred to the TEN COMMANDMENTS,
God's great SPIRITUAL LAW, summing up, in principle, the WHOLE duty of
righteous living. It is a WAY OF LIFE, and a way contrary to human
nature, and to the ways and customs of this world! - it is the basic spiritual
law, and way of life, of the KINGDOM OF GOD - the WAY to peace of mind,
to world peace, to happiness, prosperity and JOY - the WAY to eternal life.
Kingdom of God To Be Preached TODAY
Yes, JESUS proclaimed and taught the GOSPEL OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD.
But did He command His ministers, in BUILDING HIS CHURCH, to preach this same Gospel?. Quickly let us notice the Scriptures. Luke 9:1-2: "Then called He His twelve disciples together . . . and He sent them TO PREACH THE KINGDOM OF GOD."
Luke 10:1-9: "After these things, the Lord appointed other seventy also, and sent them two and two before his face into every city and place whither He Himself should come, Therefore He said unto them . . . heal the sick that are therein, and say unto them, The KINGDOM OF GOD is come nigh unto you." In Jesus' prayer, so commonly called "The Lord's Prayer," He said, "THY KINGDOM COME" - then it wasn't here yet, and it isn't here yet, today - but He taught us to pray for it to COME - for His KINGDOM and that ALONE, shall bring PEACE, and HAPPINESS, to this sin-sick war-weary earth! "Thy Kingdom COME - THY WILL BE DONE on earth, as it is in heaven." The FATHER'S WILL.
What Gospel did the early evangelists preach, in first sending out the FAITH ONCE DELIVERED? How did the early Church carry out the commission?
Notice PHILIP preaching at Samaria! Acts 8:12. "But when they BELIEVED Philip, preaching the things concerning THE KINGDOM OF GOD, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women." Philip preached the things concerning THE KINGDOM OF GOD.
PAUL! Acts 20:25, 21: "I have gone preaching THE KINGDOM OF GOD testifying both to the Jews and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and FAITH toward our Lord Jesus Christ." And notice the Gospel Paul preached to GENTILES, after he had turned completely away from the Jews. Acts 28:30-31: "And Paul dwelt two whole years in his own hired house, and received all that came in unto him preaching THE KINGDOM OF GOD, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ.'' And, lastly, WHAT GOSPEL did Jesus say should be preached TODAY?"
Matthew 24:14, speaking of the PRESENT: "And this GOSPEL OF THE KINGDOM
shall be preached in ALL THE WORLD for a witness" - for a WITNESS
- "unto ALL NATIONS, and then shall the END come! ''- the
end of this AGE.