You may be wondering why we’ve written an article like this as we would attest that the gospel is a very straightforward message. There is a problem though – the gospel message is being distorted by many church leaders and this can jeopardise the salvation of those who follow these teachings. We are living in days where deception has crept in the church and this trend continues in many mainstream denominations, as described in our Are we in the last days? article, but the point is that we desperately need to be on guard! What is the true gospel? Unfortunately, this is a question that needs to be addressed!
We are warned that the same thing happened during the ministry of the apostle Paul and we can be certain that deception will continue to escalate in the church, climaxing with the return of Christ:
And that because of false brethren unawares brought in, who came in privily to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage: To whom we gave place by subjection, no, not for an hour; that the truth of the gospel might continue with you. (Galatians 2:4-5)
Here, Paul states that he did not compromise in any way with false teaching in order that the “truth of the gospel” might be preserved. The church needs to be on guard against similar attacks today and we fear that the church is half asleep and not grounded sufficiently in the truth of Christ to withstand these subtle (and not so subtle!) deceptions.
The Bible teaches that the gospel message will save a person from an eternity in hell if it is accepted on an individual basis. If the gospel message delivered is a different gospel – it cannot save. It is shocking and tragic to find much of the church redefining the gospel message, very often in the form of a “social” gospel or a gospel based on man’s works. We are in the bizarre position of having people going to the church to find salvation and rather than receiving the gospel that Jesus Christ taught that leads to an eternity in heaven, are given a different gospel that will lead to hell.
I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. 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. As we said before, so say I now again, if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed. (Galatians 1:6-9)
You would hope that an individual could go to any mainstream church for the Sunday service and come away knowing how to find salvation in Christ through repentance, or at the very least know that Jesus Christ is pivotal to everything Christian. Unfortunately people can go to church for the first time and not hear Jesus’ gospel presented, but get a confusing variation of it. Church leaders need to present their congregations with Jesus’ uncompromising message and lovingly prompted to respond to Him. Instead, people can be left with a bad impression of church – either their experience is of a cold and boring place or they have been hurt in some way by those in church. In more recent times, church has often become a place where entertainment is top of the agenda and the “offensive” or “unpopular” parts of the gospel message are diluted or removed altogether – again, this can only lead many on a road away from salvation through Jesus.
It is quite astounding that it is now difficult to find a faithful church i.e. one that preaches an accurate gospel message and holds to the Biblical theology without diluting or distorting any of basic doctrines in scripture.
On the other hand, Scripture clearly warns that this will be the situation in the last days:
But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not. (2 Peter 2:1-3, emphasis added)
Here, Peter is talking about the situation in the last days and warning that the “way of truth” shall be corrupted using “feigned words” and that this will happen INSIDE the church! The motivation by the teachers doing this will be covetousness and greed. We believe there are obvious signs of this across the spectrum of Christendom.
Concept of God
The Biblical concept of God must be understood to ensure we are directing our worship towards the true God. God is our Sovereign Ruler but His authority can be diminished with false teachings that imply He needs man’s help to accomplish His purposes with mankind and that He has somehow lost control of the world! This often comes in the form of “Kingdom Now” theology and gives the impression that the church has a hand in ushering in world peace and setting the stage for Christ’s return. With this view, the church sees it’s objective as “christianising” the world and winning it back for God through politics, government institutions, environmental issues, etc. Jesus Christ warned that the opposite would be the case before His return and implored believers to be on guard against deception within the church, particularly in the last days. Jesus warned in the Olivet discourse, Revelation and many other passages that the world would get worse and worse and that Jesus Christ Himself would return to put things right, not the church.
God can be described as having many attributes including the following:
- Omnipresent – God is present everywhere at all times (Isaiah 57:15; Psalm 33:13-14) (What does it mean that God is omnipresent?)
- Omnipotent – God is all powerful, over all things, in all ways (Job 42:2; Psalm 33:6) (What does it mean that God is omnipotent?)
- Omniscient – God is all-knowing, He knows everything (1 John 3:20) (What does it mean that God is omniscient?)
From these brief descriptions it can be seen that God does not need our action to accomplish His purposes:
Neither is worshipped with men’s hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things; (Acts 17:25, emphasis added)
God delights in our worship and obedience. In addition to this, as God is omnipresent, omnipotent and omniscient, He can do whatever He likes whenever He likes – human beings are in no position to question God’s motives or morality:
But our God is in the heavens: he hath done whatsoever he hath pleased. (Psalm 115:3)
Any church/ministry that promotes the idea that God “needs” man are in danger of elevating man’s status and reducing God’s! God does have a purpose for mankind that is revealed throughout Scripture – however, He does not “need” mankind to fulfill this. In other words, God has not lost control:
Who hath measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, and meted out heaven with the span, and comprehended the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance? Who hath directed the Spirit of the Lord, or being his counsellor hath taught him? With whom took he counsel, and who instructed him, and taught him in the path of judgment, and taught him knowledge, and shewed to him the way of understanding? Behold, the nations are as a drop of a bucket, and are counted as the small dust of the balance: behold, he taketh up the isles as a very little thing. And Lebanon is not sufficient to burn, nor the beasts thereof sufficient for a burnt offering. All nations before him are as nothing; and they are counted to him less than nothing, and vanity. To whom then will ye liken God? or what likeness will ye compare unto him? (Isaiah 40:12-18)
It is very dangerous to understate God’s sovereignty. Any belief or teaching that He is in any way weak or limited can only be distancing themselves from the true Creator! God is not waiting for man to act in the sense that He is needy and we certainly do not determine God’s path! This man-centred approach is extremely troubling. We need to return to the Godly reverence and fear that is found within the pages of the Bible. One day, every human being will appear before God – we will not be able to bargain or “sweet-talk” our way around Him. This judgment will be carried out on HIS terms – not ours. It is therefore vital we understand the gospel message as delivered from God through Jesus Christ and not reinvent a gospel that may be more appealing to us, but that cannot save us.
A different Jesus
Christianity is a religion but with a crucial difference – it is centred on a relationship with one living person – the Lord Jesus Christ. Unlike other religious systems that can still work without their founders, taking Jesus Christ out will cause Christianity and therefore salvation to become impossible. This is why it is essential to know and understand the deity of Jesus correctly. Christianity is the ONLY religious system where God comes to us – every other system requires us to earn our way to God.
Looking at a phone directory we would see many people with the same name but we obviously know that these are different people. This works the same way for Jesus Christ – many religions, cults, churches use His name but if His character and identity is wrong then they are following a different Jesus!
The Lord Jesus Christ is the Son of God, part of a “tri-unity” in the Godhead consisting of Father, Son and Holy Spirit – if anyone tells you any different then be very careful! Unfortunately this even extends to many churches and it appears the false church is growing rapidly – in the one place many people think they are safe are actually being taught to follow a different Jesus! Tragically, it appears that many on the last day will expect to be saved because they believe they know Jesus – the only way to be saved is for Jesus to know you! This is a critical distinction – it is bewildering to see many church leaders only focusing on “knowing Jesus” and removing the need for holiness, etc. that displays a living relationship with the living Jesus Christ. To be sure of your salvation, do you know the true and living Jesus Christ as revealed in the Scriptures? Never trust someone else’s interpretation of the Scriptures (that includes ours!) – read them for yourself and be sure you trust Jesus Christ alone for your salvation and that your understanding of the gospel has not been distorted by church history, tradition or ritual. We are not called to be followers of the church – we are called to be followers of a person!
The Gospel is hostile!
The gospel message is certainly good news but the true gospel is also a hostile and offensive message to many people. The gospel message tells us to repent and change our lives to live for Christ. It says that if we are not born again through faith in Jesus Christ then we will be going to hell:
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. (John 3:16, emphasis added)
Jesus was very clear in His message during His ministry, He did not compromise for anyone! Nowadays it is rare to find the true gospel message preached. Hell is often no longer mentioned, even though Jesus often warned of it as a destination for the unsaved. Repentance no longer seems necessary, even though Jesus was at pains to stress that repentance underpins salvation. Churches even teach that salvation is not based solely on God’s grace, but that it can be earned or that we are somehow doing God a favour by professing faith in Him! We discuss this deception in our Are we in the last days? article.
Those who dilute the gospel message are often desperate not to offend anyone – they want to keep their church growing even if it means pleasing man instead of God! Jesus Christ repeatedly stressed that His message would be difficult to accept for mankind and that those who choose to follow Him will suffer persecution. A failure to trust in the Jesus Christ of the Scriptures can only have catastrophic consequences, as many will falsely believe they are saved when they are not. What makes this even more dangerous is that they are then “inoculated” against the true gospel if they do hear it as they think they are already saved anyway! It appears that on the last day, there will be those who believed they knew Jesus Christ and will be knocking on the doors of heaven expecting to be allowed in, but will be refused entry:
Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us. But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not. (Matthew 25:11-12)
Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. (Matthew 7:21-23)
These two passages (and many others) should provide a very serious warning to check our understanding of the gospel against the gospel message taught by Jesus Christ. It is NOT us knowing Jesus that saves us – it is Jesus knowing US that saves us! This is a vital distinction and one that often gets blurred in gospel delivery.
Saved through grace!
We are saved solely by faith, salvation is not something we need to keep working for:
For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. (Ephesians 2:8, emphasis added)
Christ’s work on the cross was once and for all – we can add nothing to this. Our sins, past, present, and future are forgiven, all we need to do is confess and believe in Jesus Christ:
That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. (Romans 10:9-10)
It would not be a gift from God if we need to keep working for it. Be warned of anyone who tells you otherwise. Our salvation will lead to good works – however, it is not the good works that save us – they are just a result of our salvation!
The decision you make about the person of Jesus Christ will be the most important in your lifetime. We have all the evidence we need in the Bible given to us by eye-witnesses of the risen Christ. Jesus Christ lived a unique life where he performed an array of miracles, was sinless and rose from the dead. No other person in history can come close to these claims. Jesus Christ could not have done any more to display His message was authentic – will you take Him at His Word or will you choose a different path and risk a terrible mistake? See the How To Be Saved for a clear salvation message.