Any Other Gospel is Not the Gospel at All
- Monday, November 10, 2008
Where the Kingdom of God takes root in a person's heart, transforming grace begins to exert real spiritual power to make all things new, and to turn a person's world upright before the Lord.
It is altogether understandable, therefore, why the sum of Jesus' preaching and teaching is often reported as consisting in the words, "The Kingdom of God is at hand; repent, therefore, and believe the Good News."
Jesus announced that a new era had begun in human affairs, in which a new King was on the throne of heaven and earth, unfolding a new economy, according to a new agenda, demanding that all who would follow Him embrace a new priority, and offering a new hope to men—the hope of the glory of God.
The Good News in this astonishing announcement is that, by entering into the Kingdom of God, men can know liberation from sin—its power, effects, and condemnation. Thus free from the shackles of sin they experience the grace and truth of God with transforming effects in every area of life. They begin to bear new kinds of fruit through the work of the Spirit of God within them, fruit consistent with righteousness, peace, and joy. They experience power that makes all things new, enabling them to reconcile every area of their lives back to God for His pleasure and glory. And, by virtue of the ongoing, increasing realization of this Kingdom reality, they know assurance of everlasting life with God in a new heavens and a new earth.
Truly, the announcement concerning the Kingdom of God is Good News—Gospel! The Gospel of the Kingdom is the true Gospel. Anything other or less than this is another gospel, which, as Paul makes plain, is no gospel at all.
Liberal Christianity, most readers will agree, is not Christianity at all, or, at best, a corrupt version. As J. Gresham Machen argued so eloquently in the last century, liberal Christianity has many appealing features, and much to commend it. In many ways it is a quite fascinating and alluring religion. It even uses all the language of Christianity and holds Jesus in high esteem. But for all that, liberal Christianity just isn't Christianity. Indeed, Machen argued, it's not even close.
What about the gospel that is heard in so many churches today? The gospel that says, "Jesus died to forgive your sins and to bring you to heaven when you die"? Is that the Gospel? Rather, is that the whole Gospel? The Gospel of the Kingdom? While that statement is certainly true, it doesn't sound as rich, full, comprehensive, and all-engaging as what we outlined earlier as the Gospel of the Kingdom. And it is not widely apparent that those who have embraced this message are evidencing the kind of whole-life transformation Jesus demonstrated and promised, or that those first turn-the-world-upside-down Christians experienced.
But is it not true that the Gospel says that Jesus died for our sins so that we could go to heaven? Yes it does. But that is not the same as saying that Jesus' death to grant forgiveness and eternal life to all who believe is the whole Gospel. And if that's not the whole Gospel, then can we say that it's the Gospel at all? The proclamation that Jesus died for our sins so that we could be forgiven and have eternal life is not, in fact, what C. S. Lewis referred to as mere Christianity—Christianity at its most basic. Rather, I would say that this message that promises forgiveness and eternal life to all who merely profess belief in Jesus—this gospel which is roundly proclaimed in the vast majority of churches throughout the land—should be referred to as near Christianity.
It's rather like saying that the Good News is that Jesus provided an example for us to follow. Is that true? Of course. But is it the Gospel? Hardly. Or it's like saying the Good News means you have a reason to do good works on behalf of others. Is that true? Certainly. But is it the Gospel? Not at all.
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