False Gospels: Part 1

What is the Gospel?

There are in the world many false gospels. This is not new. Since the beginning of mankind, false gospels have been around. The word “gospel” simply means “good news.” It may help to clarify this discussion if we just use that term rather the word “gospel.” As Paul points out in Galatians 1:6-7 there is not another good news. Since any other plan than God’s plan will never work, those plans are not truly good news. They are just twisted, broken versions of the true good news.

We see the first false good news in Genesis 3, where the serpent tells Eve the “good news” that if she eats from the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil she will become wise like God. Of course she found out that this was not really good news once she had eaten from the fruit and her eyes were opened.

There is a particular good news that we refer to as the gospel and is talked about in the New Testament. In this series of articles, we want to look at what this particular good news is and at some twisted versions of this that are misleading many today just as they have since the beginning of the church. As 2 Corinthians 11:4 says,

For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough. (ESV)

But teaching or believing a different, false “good news” is a terrible thing that will take us to Hell. Galatians 1:8-9 says,

But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. (ESV)

We need to know the original, true good news. The good news was preached in part in the Old Testament. Galatians 3:8 says that God preached this good news to Abraham when He said, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” Hebrews 4:2 says about the Israelites who left Egypt:

For good news came to us just as to them, but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened. (ESV)

The good news about their relationship with God as His special people and how He would be with them would only do them good if they believed and we see over and over that they did not believe. Therefore, they could not enter the promised land and ultimately into the rest of God in Heaven. What they went through in leaving Egypt and going to the promised land is a picture of what we have in the good news about Jesus in how we leave sin and journey under the leadership of Christ to finally enter into Heaven. We will try to look at some of these ways the good news was preached in the Old Testament as we go along.

But what is the good news that the apostles and other disciples were preaching in the New Testament? It is mentioned many times and we can take a look at those passages that explain something about it and try to get a full picture of what it is in general. Here is what I believe we find when we take all of these passages listed below:

  • The good news is about Christ
  • The good news is about the grace of God
  • The good news is about the kingdom of Heaven
  • The good news is about judgment
  • The good news is about changed lives

I’m not sure if I missed anything or not. If you think I did, please let me know. Now let us go into detail on each of these points and the scriptures in which I found them.


The good news is about Christ

In Mark 1:1, Mark tells us that he is beginning to write about the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. There is a reason we commonly refer the books that tell about the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus as the “gospels.”

The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. (ESV)

In Romans 15:20-21, Paul says that preaching the good news is preaching about Jesus:

and thus I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else’s foundation, but as it is written, “Those who have never been told of him will see, and those who have never heard will understand.” (ESV)

Specifically, 1 Corinthians 1:17 tells us that the good news includes the cross of Christ:

For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. (ESV)

However, the whole story of Jesus and what He has done for us is part of the good news. In Mark 14:8-9, Jesus says that wherever the good news is preached, it will include the story of the woman who anointed Him with expensive ointment in what Jesus said was preparation for His burial.

She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial. And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her. (ESV)

This shows us that the whole story of Jesus and what He did for us is part of the good news.

Even Jesus’ genealogy is part of the good news because of the promises made in the Old Testament about Him. 2 Timothy 2:8 says,

Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel (ESV)

So when we talk about the good news (gospel), we are talking about Christ. There is no true good news that distorts who Christ is or what He has done and is continuing to do.

The good news is about the grace of God

Acts 20:24 tells us

But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. (ESV)

Paul was testifying to the good news of the grace of God. When we understand how the news about Jesus is good news, we can understand why this is good news about the grace of God. Romans 3:23-24 gives a good summary of this.

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus (ESV)

Romans 1:16 tells us that God gives salvation through belief in the good news. Salvation comes only through the grace of God. We got ourselves into a mess and God owes us nothing, but offers us salvation anyway.

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. (ESV)

See also Colossians 1:5-6 and 2 Timothy 1:10.

The good news is about the kingdom of Heaven

Matthew 4:23

And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people. (ESV)

This passage along with Matthew 9:35 and Matthew 24:14 refer to it as the “gospel of the kingdom.” Matthew 24:14 tells us

And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. (ESV)

The good news of the kingdom Jesus was preaching would be the same good news that the apostles and other disciples would be preaching after the kingdom was established.

Mark 1:14-15

Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” (ESV)

Although the message Jesus and his disciples were preaching at this time was that the kingdom of God was almost here, they were telling people the good news about how things would be in the kingdom and what changes they needed to make so that they can be part of it (repent). This is true after the kingdom begins as well. They are still telling people that they can be part of this wonderful kingdom where Christ rules. Good news indeed!

The good news is about judgment

Romans 2:15-16 tells us that the good news includes Christ being the judge.

They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus. (ESV)

Standing before a judge is not generally considered to be good news, but if we are in the Judge’s kingdom in which He is giving grace to all who submit to Him, then Him being our judge is great news.

The good news is something that must be obeyed

Romans 10:15-16 says that not all have obeyed the good news:

And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” (ESV)

2 Thessalonians 1:8 says that those who do not obey the good news will be punished.

in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. (ESV)

1 Peter 4:17 warns about the outcome for those who do not obey the good news of God.

For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? (ESV)

In another article, we will look at what the gospel says that must be obeyed. But what we must understand is that the gospel is not only about believing facts and that is it. There is something to be obeyed, only those who have obeyed are in the household of God, and we will be punished if we do not obey.

Connected to this idea that the gospel must be obeyed is following observation:

The good news is about changed lives

Mark 8:34-35

For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? (ESV)

Losing your life in this context is about you dying to yourself so that you no longer live for yourself, but now you live for Christ. Jesus says that is what we must do for the sake of the good news. So this good news is not about us being to live like we please, but that we can live to please Christ. We see Paul affirming that is what he had done in Galatians 2:20:

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (ESV)

Preaching the good news of Jesus is meant to bring about the obedience of faith. This is a changed life based on our faith in Christ. Romans 16:25-26 tells us:

Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith— (ESV)

2 Corinthians 9:13 talks about the gift that the Corinthians were sending to the poor saints in Jerusalem and connects their generosity with their confession of the good news.

By their approval of this service, they will glorify God because of your submission that comes from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity of your contribution for them and for all others (ESV)

This generosity was their belief in the good news being put into action. Just as through Christ all nations of the earth are blessed, we must also be blessings to others as Christ lives in us.

Our actions must display the truth of the good news. Peter committed sin in not having his actions match this good news and Paul had to correct him. He talks about this in Galatians 2:14:

But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?” (ESV)

Peter’s actions in this case were showing that he expected Gentiles to keep the Law of Moses and become like Jews even though he had preached against this idea in the past and clearly knew that it was not true. The good news was for all nations, not only for the Jews, and therefore people from other nations did not have to become Jews to take part in it. Knowing and preaching the truth of the good news is one thing, but we must also live the truth so that it is evident to others in our actions.

Philippians 1:27 tells us that our manner of life should be “worthy of the gospel.”

Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel (ESV)

1 Timothy 1:11 tells us that all “sound teaching” is in accordance with this good news. This means that the way we live must be directly connected with the good news.

Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully, understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine, in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted. (ESV)

So the good news must directly affect our lives. We must change to be people in whom this good news can be seen. All these sins mentioned are contrary to the good news and all sound teaching that goes along with it.


Summary

Probably the best-known summary of the facts of the good news is found in 1 Corinthians 15:1-8.

Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you— unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. (ESV)

We summarize this as:

  • Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures.
  • He was buried.
  • He was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures
  • He was seen by many witnesses so we can be sure of His resurrection.

Another good summary of the good news which includes the impact of these facts is found in Romans 1:1-5

Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations (ESV)

  • The good news was “promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures.”
  • The good news is about God’s Son
  • The good news is about the kingdom - “Jesus Christ our Lord” (King)
  • The good news is about the grace of God - “through whom we have received grace”
  • The good news must be obeyed and is about changed lives - “to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of His name”

Any “good news” that does not fit what was promised through the prophets in the scriptures is a false good news. Any “good news” that misrepresents who Christ is is a false good news. Any “good news” that does not represent the kingdom properly is a false good news. Any “good news” that does not properly demonstrate God’s grace is a false good news. Any “good news” that leaves out the obedience of faith is a false good news.

Next time we will begin looking more in depth at these different aspects of the good news.