What Does the Gospel Include?
by Bob Waldron
Introduction: As I read the history of religion, it is interesting to me to see how many modern ideas have their origin in the past. There is an expression that one reads often in literature in and around the time of the Protestant Reformation. It is Sola Scriptura, Latin for "only Scripture," and it meant that Scripture is the only standard of right and wrong, not the Papacy, not any man, or any council of men. Nevertheless, in reading the literature of that period, the fact that Scripture says nothing about infants' being baptized made no difference among most of the churches. The necessity of baptism itself was not clearly recognized. Many other things were believed and done even though it either ignored what plain scripture said or was completely without Scriptural basis.
In view of these things I come to the present day when I see a continuing degradation in respect for the Scripture as the basis for authority. There continues to be a peeling away of things that are scripturally important or necessary, like the layers of an onion. What will be left when all the layers are peeled away?
Therefore, I want to study with you what the gospel includes, and see that it was not merely the idea that Jesus died and rose again. It was also given to be a standard and guide for us to follow today.
First I want to note several of the epistles, beginning with the letter to the Colossians.
I. The letter to the Colossians.
A. Colossae was in the little province of Asia.
B. The Colossians had learned the gospel through Epaphras (Col. 1:7).
1. The word "learned" is from the word Manthano, a word related to the term for disciple and for "make disciples," or "teach" in Matthew 28:19-20 where Jesus said "Teach all nations." Literally "make disciples" of all the nations.
2. The Colossians had been made disciples by the teaching of Epaphras.
C. The Colossians had heard of the hope of the Christian "in the word of the truth of the gospel" (1:5).
D. The gospel had come to them bearing fruit and increasing as it was doing in the whole world (1:6).
E. Paul besought them to walk worthily of the Lord . . . bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God (1:10).
F. Paul was made a minister to fulfill the word of God, even the mystery, and the riches of the glory of this mystery is Christ in you the hope of glory (1:25-27).
G. Objective of this teaching to present every man perfect in Christ (1:28).
1. This teaching of the gospel, of the mystery, was designed to perfect us.
2. Let us add here the statement of Paul in 2 Tim. 3:16-17 that the word of God is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness that the man of God may be complete, furnished completely unto every good work.
H. In Christ are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge hidden (Col. 2:3).
I. Distinction between the rules of men and the rules of God (2:16-23).
J. The information concerning life, and character, and attitudes is part of the gospel, part of the scripture. We are encouraged to let the word of Christ dwell in us richly (Col. 3:16).
K. Instructions concerning human relationships in 3:18-4:1 are a part of the gospel that the Colossians were taught.
L. From the study of Colossians the gospel is not to be regarded as merely the idea that Christ died for us so that we can be saved. It includes everything we need for life as well.
M. This truth is also confirmed by 1 Timothy 1:8-11: "And if there be any other thing contrary to the sound doctrine; according to the gospel of the glory of the blessed God, which was committed to my trust."
II. The first letter to the Thessalonians.
A. Converted on the second missionary journey (Acts 17).
B. "Our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit, and in much assurance" (1 Thess. 1:5).
C. What did Paul teach when he taught the gospel? (2:2).
1. Exhortation (2:3).
2. Speaking as those intrusted with the gospel (2:4).
3. Imparted, not only the gospel of God, but their hearts also (2:8).
4. Preached the gospel (2:9).
D. The Thessalonians:
1. Received the word of the message, not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God (2:13).
2. The gospel that transforms includes the teaching that helps one to know how to live a transformed life (4:1-8).
a. "As ye received of us how ye ought to walk" (4:1).
b. "Ye know what charge we gave you through the Lord Jesus" (4:2).
III. The letter to the Galatians.
A. Among the earlier converts of Paul (Acts 13-14).
B. "I marvel that ye are quickly removing from him that called you in the grace of Christ unto a different gospel" (1:6).
C. "There are some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ" (1:7).
D. To preach any other gospel than that which was preached to the Galatians is to be accursed (1:8).
E. To preach any other gospel than that which was received by the Galatians is to be accursed (1:9).
F. When Paul went to the Jerusalem conference he said that he and others did not give way to the Judaizing teachers "that the truth of the gospel might continue with you" (2:5).
G. Paul rebuked Peter, Barnabas, and others for their inconsistent behavior in their treatment of Gentile converts saying, "When I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel" (2:14).
IV. The gospel includes not only the message of salvation but the guide to discipleship in all areas.
A. "Make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you, and, lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the world" (Matt. 28:19-20).
1. Clearly Jesus wanted the salvation of the gospel preached.
2. But He also wanted the corresponding way of life taught
B. "They continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine, in fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers" (Acts 2:42).
C. This accords with what Jesus taught His disciples before His death.
1. In the parable of the sower:
a. Jesus taught that the word of the kingdom would produce fruit in the good and honest heart (Matt. 13:19-23).
b. He said the seed is the word of God (Luke 8:11). Then He spoke of those receiving the word holding it fast and bringing forth fruit. These thoughts go beyond merely being converted.
2. Statements in John.
a. "The Comforter . . . will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said unto you" (John 14:26).
b. Keeping the commandments of Jesus is the way of abiding in His love (15:10).
c. "The Comforter . . . shall bear witness of me" (15:26).
d. "Howbeit, when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he shall guide you into all the truth" (John 16:13).
V. We cannot diminish any of the gospel without giving it all up.
A. We cannot diminish the teaching of the gospel with regard to the ungodliness of the homosexual lifestyle.
B. We cannot diminish the teaching of the gospel with regard to marriage and divorce.
C. We cannot diminish the teaching of the gospel with regard to worship.
1. Transforming the worship to a performance, to entertainment.
2. Adding things and doing things that are not seeking God "according to the ordinance."
D. We cannot diminish the teaching of the gospel with regard to the organization of the church.
1. It is not that men do not know what that organization was in the first century.
2. Their idea is that the organization of the first century was fine then, but the church outgrew it and had to make up their own.
3. Why can this idea not be applied to every single facet of gospel teaching? By many it has been applied and is being applied.
4. Every time this is done, the inevitable result is a church that has almost no resemblance to the church of the first century, the church that resulted from the preaching and application of the gospel.
E. We cannot diminish the teaching of the gospel with regard to the role of baptism.
F. Once men begin to discard what does not matter, the list of what does matter tends to get shorter and shorter until finally nothing matters.
Conclusion: I know of only two consistent alternatives in dealing with the gospel. One is to believe it, teach it, and follow it just as the New Testament church did. The other is to reject it completely in unbelief. Anything else is just compromise.
Return to the Home Page of the New Georgia Church of Christ