The Gospel: One Message Or Many?

It has been over a month since I’ve posted and I’ve found a bit of free time to be able to write something today.  I’ve been giving some thought to the gospels that are presented in scripture.  The gospels have different designations at times (i.e. the Gospel of the Kingdom; the Gospel of God; the Gospel of Christ; etc.)  And with those designations, there are some who have taken the position that every single designation is a different gospel in scripture, while others have maintained that there is only one gospel in scripture and these designations are just describing different aspects of the same message.  (kind of like how Matthew, Mark, and Luke describe Christ’s earthly ministry from different angles at times).

As we strive to understand scripture in the manner and with the intent of the Author, we should be very careful that we are not allowing a particular theological system to determine scripture’s meaning and/or use.  Rightly dividing the word of truth is just this – separating truth from fantasy.

This post is designed to reflect where I am in my understanding.  As I studied the more traditional “Mid-Acts Dispensationalism/Right Division”, I came to notice that there was significant importance being placed on separating the Gospel of the Kingdom from the Gospel of the Grace of God.  It was through these gospels, that we have a Kingdom Church, filled with Kingdom Saints; and these are distinct and separate from those under the Gospel of the Grace of God, which houses the Body of Christ Church, filled with Grace-Age Saints.

One thing I’ve noticed about Bible-defenders (myself included), is that we tend to defend (very staunchly at times) words and phrases that aren’t even in the Bible.  (i.e. “Kingdom Church”, “Kingdom Saint”, “Grace-Age Saints”)  We tell folks that they have to believe their Bibles by creating an extra-biblical vocabulary list.  Huh?!  Wouldn’t it be simpler to allow scripture to shed light on what it says rather than having to sift scripture through our theology?  Isn’t the Author capable of relaying His own thoughts?

Anyway, from that distinction in scripture, I came to find out that there were more gospels that were spoken of in scripture and that they must refer to different messages that required belief.

So, as I’ve been thinking and studying more on my own, I’m finding some interesting things.  First, (although can be difficult to overcome), I’ve determined that if context is king, then it needs to be king.  Second, scripture is not understood by understanding a theology.  There are many folks who can recite a theology backwards and forwards and have convinced themselves and others that they know the Bible.  They have made knowing their theology synonymous with knowing the Bible, which isn’t the case at all.

Third, I find that there are those who have a savage desire for God and His word and you can see that on display and these are the folks I enjoy being around.  There is a difference in those who are excited about what they perceive God is doing for them and those who are excited about God.  I know folks who always talk about what they believe God is doing for them, but the conversation isn’t really so much about God, but about the one who is telling it.  But, those who are excited about God have very little time to talk about themselves.

So, what of these different gospels?  Are there different gospels?  Well, as I’ve looked more at this, I do believe there are different gospels in scripture, but what I’m about to present may not be the typical way you’ve thought about them or have been taught about them.

I see three gospels in scripture – the Gospel of God, the Gospel of the Kingdom, and the Gospel of Christ.

The Gospel of God is the good news of God – what and who God is, His nature and character.  This gospel is the gospel that transcends scripture and transcends time – no matter when anyone lived, the Gospel of God was what needed accepting.  It is upon this gospel that the promise of a Savior is made throughout scripture.  Paul writes to the Romans and testifies of this truth:

Romans 1:1  Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God,
Romans 1:2  (Which he had promised afore by his prophets in the holy scriptures,)
Romans 1:3  Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh;
Romans 1:4  And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead:

In summary, the Gospel of God is the good news of the promised Christ, the Son of God, and notice what testifies of the Son-status of Christ – not His birth, but His resurrection.  The scriptures reveal God coming to man to redeem man from the ramifications of Adam’s choice.  This coming to man culminates in Christ Himself.  Again, this gospel is the common thread throughout scripture.

Now, the next two gospels are unique in that they do capitalize on very different sets of information.  I’ll briefly explain, but ultimately, you get into the Word and study for yourself.

The Gospel of God is foundational in that without it and what it concerns, the other two Gospels have no merit.

By God’s own design, He chose Israel to be the vehicle by which God would reach out to man (which He ultimately does through Christ, as Paul spells out in Galatians 3).  God would set up a Kingdom, on Earth, that is literal and physical, with the son of David ruling and reigning from David’s throne.  As we see from Paul’s opening remarks in Romans 1, it was indeed the son, the seed of David, that was declared to be the Son of God, by His resurrection.  This promise of a Kingdom is made throughout what we call the Old Testament, but is extensively spelled out/promised in 2Samuel 7 and in Daniel 2.

This Kingdom was to be a Kingdom like no other.  Daniel records that this Kingdom would stand in stark contrast to all other kingdoms that have ever existed because this Kingdom would have no end.  Isaiah records that the very nature of animals would be changed and that sickness and ailments would no longer have rule over its citizens.  The Son of God would rule His creation from this Kingdom.  However, there was one problem – Israel.  The timing of the establishment of this Kingdom was in their hands, but collectively (nationally), Israel seemed to always choose what they wanted, rather than what God wanted.  Israel was guilty of doing what was right in their own eyes.  When Israel was their promised land, they felt disadvantaged because they didn’t have a king in their midst like the Gentiles nations had, so instead of accepting God as their king, they demanded otherwise.  However, upon Israel’s repentance (change of thinking), and turning back to their God, THEN God would remember not only His promise with Abraham (Leviticus 26:40-42), but He would usher in that Kingdom that was promised aforetime.  Hence, when John the Baptist and Christ Himself preach, they preach “repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

The great news of this Kingdom is that it is finally at hand.  The Kingdom is no longer just some future promise, but is very much knocking at Israel’s door.  But, notice that this Kingdom involves the collective body of Israel – it is a national concept.  And, naturally, the good news message would also be in relation to their national implications where this Kingdom is concerned.  So, to that end, Christ sends His disciples to Israel alone to preach the Gospel of the Kingdom.  This gospel was not concerning a Jew’s justification before God, but rather it concerned Jews; (collective) salvation WITH God.

Matthew 10:5  These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not:
Matthew 10:6  But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
Matthew 10:7  And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand.
Matthew 10:8  Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give.

Notice this commission to Christ’s disciples is to a specific audience, but don’t miss that it is to the audience as a whole because the kingdom of heaven concerns them all.  Also note that the validation of this message is the changing of the nature of sickness, etc.  Notice Matthew’s words just a chapter prior,

Matthew 9:35  And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people.

Why would this validate the message of the Kingdom?  Because as Isaiah prophesied, this is exactly what they would expect in the Kingdom.

Isaiah 35:4  Say to them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not: behold, your God will come with vengeance, even God with a recompence; he will come and save you.
Isaiah 35:5  Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped.
Isaiah 35:6  Then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing: for in the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in the desert.

This promise of salvation is exactly what the Kingdom would be – a place of blessing, wholeness, healing, and safety.  The Gospel of the Kingdom is the call to national Israel to repent (change their thinking), and turn to God by accepting their Messiah – forsaking their desire to have a king like the Gentiles, and fully embrace God as their King.  Recall that many in Christ’s day took refuge in their Roman rulers.  Many rejected Christ because they saw a false sense of safety in Rome (very much a type of those who accept the anti-Christ’s name on the basis of a false reality).

The important thing to remember about the Gospel of the Kingdom is that it is not a message of how an individual Jew became justified.  As Habakkuk wrote, the just shall live by His faith.  The Gospel of the Kingdom is a national message concerning the citizenry as a whole and their salvation.

The Gospel of Christ is the good news to INDIVIDUALS who have accepted the Gospel of God.  Recall in Romans 1, that Paul defines the Gospel of God as the good news of God as expressed by the coming of the promised Christ and His resurrection from the dead.  The Romans were already believers, but note this statement from Paul in Romans 1,

Romans 1:15  So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also.
Romans 1:16  For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.

Paul is ready to preach the gospel to them at Rome?  I thought they already believed the gospel?

Romans 1:6  Among whom are ye also the called of Jesus Christ:
Romans 1:7  To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Paul has some information to impart to these saints based on the fact they have already trusted the gospel of God.  Paul is not about to tell them that there is now extra information they must believe in order to really secure their faith in the gospel of God.  But, Paul is about to reveal the good news of salvation.  Paul says that he is not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it (the Gospel of Christ) is the power of God unto SALVATION to everyone that (is already) believeth.

We’ve said before that there is a distinction that should be drawn between the terms, Justification, and Salvation.  Sometimes ‘salvation’ is used when ‘justification’ is actually the meaning in mind.  For example, how many folks talk about “getting saved.”  What do they mean by this?  Well, usually they are using this phrase with the understanding of “delivered from sin and made righteous in Christ.”  However, the transaction that makes you right with God is not salvation, but justification.  In short, Justification brings us into union with God, while Salvation bestows the benefits of that union.

So, as Paul opens the letter to the believers at Rome, he isn’t attempting to add new information they must believe to be right with God, but is about to share the wonderful news of the benefits of being Justified.  He lays the foundation in the first 5 or so chapters of Justification, but from there, Paul goes on a tear about Life in Christ.  Paul is preaching Jesus Christ according to the revelation of the mystery.  In Israel’s day, they were justified by faith just as we are today.  No flesh would ever measure up in God’s eyes and it would take faith to overcome that shortcoming.  However, for a Jew to have blessings, etc., they had a responsibility to live as a good citizen under the law, as a member of their nation.  Their salvation (blessing) was determined to the degree that they were good citizens under the law.

However, Paul reveals something according to a mystery.  Paul is preaching the Gospel of Christ showing that NOW even salvation is by grace through faith and is not tied to me and you being good citizens under some national contract, but by Christ being the good citizen on our behalf.  The Gospel of Christ is the good news of that reality – the salvation that is bestowed upon those in union with Him (those who are Justified).

To summarize:

The Gospel of God – the foundation to any redemption hope of man – the promised Christ resurrecting from the dead

The Gospel of the Kingdom – the national call to Israel concerning the physical kingdom that was promised to them based on their national repentance

The Gospel of Christ – the revelation of the great realities of salvation as made possible by our Justification

If there are “different gospels”, these are the three main ones that I see.  There are other gospels mentioned in scriptures, but from what I can tell, they are aspects of these three gospels.  For example, when Paul speaks of the Gospel of the Grace of God, it would be in light of the Gospel of God and the Gospel of Christ.  When Paul writes in Galatians 2 concerning the Gospel of the Circumcision and the Gospel of the Uncircumcision, it would also be in light of these gospels.  (Don’t look past Paul’s point in Galatians 2, and that is UNITY IN THE FAITH between he and Peter, hence the right hand of fellowship (‘union’ being a synonym of ‘fellowship’).  The distinction is not in the message, but in the audience and spokesmen.  If there is distinction in the message, then we have a problem because just a chapter earlier in Galatians, Paul says that if anyone preaches another gospel than the one he preaches, let that one be accursed.  So, either Peter and Paul had unity of message, just commissioned to different audiences, or, Peter had a different message and was accursed.)

You may see other gospels as equally important, but when we boil it down and vent out all of the second-hand smoke, as it were, it seems that there are only three gospels, two of which concern all mankind, while the other concerns a specific nation for the nation’s specific purpose in God’s eternal purpose.

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