“I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ.” Galatians 1:6-7
The question arises, “What defines a different gospel?” Or rather, “How far can we move away from the gospel before it is no longer the gospel?” The answer lies in the gospel itself. For to understand a perverted gospel we must understand the true gospel. Upon some meditation, I have compiled a list of five essential points. These are fundamental aspects of the gospel, with which if there any variance the gospel ceases to be the gospel.
- The condition of man-We begin here because without a proper diagnosis there can be no proper treatment. The remedy of the gospel directly correlates with the illness of man. A gospel that seeks to “better” man socially, mentally, or even spiritually is no gospel at all. Man is fully sinful headed for judgment, betterment will only temporarily ease his symptoms. Instead, what is needed is radical measures. The gospel speaks in terms of death, resurrection, and rebirth. Without a proper understanding of man’s condition the gospel has no purpose.
- The person of Jesus Christ-The effectiveness of the remedy rests fully on the One who brought it into being. The gospel is believing in His name. His name is His person. The person of Christ involves His humanity, divinity, and the union of these two natures. “For many deceivers have gone out into the world who do not confess Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh.” II John 7 Likewise we read, “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.” I John 5:13 The gospel is His gospel. A belief in another Jesus is no Jesus at all. Without the full person of Jesus Christ the gospel has no power.
- The nature of the atonement-If earlier we spoke of the nature of the sickness, then here we have the nature of the remedy. This deals with the very mechanics of the gospel. How is it, that sinful man can be made right before a holy God? This is an in-depth subject, Substitutionary Atonement, which sums up the essentials for belief in Christ’s penal sacrifice. Jesus took upon Himself our sins that He may in our place pay the penalty of sin. “Who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we having died to sins, might live for righteousness–by whose stripes you were healed.” I Peter 2:24 This also involves concepts of redemption, propitiation, & justification. The nature of the atonement gives the gospel reason and standing.
- The conditions of acceptance-Here we are concerned with the application of the gospel. As the jailer asked, “What must I do to be saved?” The answer is simple, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. and you will be saved, you and your household.” Acts 16:30-31 Faith in these fundamentals is the means of applying the gospel to our lives. “Even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference.” Romans 3:22 The passage that brought up this whole discussion is in the letter of Paul to the Galatians. The whole point of the book is that salvation is through faith and faith alone. Without this point, the gospel has no effect in the person.
- The uniqueness of the gospel– The claims of the gospel on exclusivity cause the most distress among those who have not believed the gospel. Some try to soften this point to placate others, but there can be no compromise. The gospel will not share its position with any other system of thought. It cannot. It is incompatible. The instant you try to synchronize the gospel with any other teaching, it ceases to be the gospel. “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:12 Without this point all the other points are denied.
Of course, this is just cursory, but then the gospel is rather simple and thus the fundamentals are rather concise as well. The difficulty for many is the step of faith, without which we cannot please God and we can have no salvation. I would be interested if anyone would have anything to add to this list. Keep in mind that they must be essentials and that many things will be subcategories to the above.
The gospel is more than just some kind of style of music. It is more than lofty sentiments. It is a clear message with concrete application. The fundamentals help us define the parameters of this message. The importance of understanding, holding to and preach can not be overstated. We further read,
“But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.” Galatians 1:8-9
May we not fall short or fall from the blessing of the gospel, to the curse of a different gospel.