What Gospel Do We Preach?

Many of you know that I have not had the best attitude recently regarding some modern day church practices. I’m not attractional. I love Jesus, I love people, but I am not sold on all of the methodologies the church to connect the two. Don’t get me wrong, I desire to see people come to faith in Jesus, people need Jesus. I believe people need to hear that there is a God who loves them, that He has a plan for them, etc. That should be the message that their Christian friends give them, people need hope.

During the last days on earth, a time that guys in my eschatological camp refer to as the tribulation, there will be a different gospel declared. In Revelation 14:6-7, John writes about an angel, flying in midheaven (the sky) proclaiming what is called the “eternal gospel” to all people on earth.

He will be saying, “Fear God, and give Him glory, because the hour of His judgment has come; worship Him who made the heaven and the earth and sea and springs of waters.”
Rev 14:7 (NASB)

As you read through the book of Acts, its interesting how the gospel sounds so much different when presented to the crowds, than it does today. In Acts 2:23, Peter delivers it with some of the strongest rebuke possible, even citing guilt for Jesus’ murder. In Acts 3, we see him call the crowd to repentance (Acts 3:19) with great clarity. We see Stephen’s defense in Acts 7 culminate in one of the most incredible rebukes recorded:

“You men who are  stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears are always resisting the Holy Spirit you are doing just as your fathers did. Which one of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? They killed those who had previously announced the coming of the Righteous One, whose betrayers and murderers you have now become you who received the law as ordained by angels, and yet did not keep it.”Acts 7:51-53 (NASB)

Stephen was martyred right after that one.

Of course, most of this fiery preaching was directed at the Jewish religious crowd, we something apparently softer in tone in Acts 8 with Phillip and the Ethiopian eunuch. This is on of those beautiful cases where someone is looking at the scriptures, and only needs gentle instruction,… he was half way there.

During Paul’s journeys we see him reasoning with the religious crowd as well as the non-religious, but one thing seems to follow him from town to town,… trouble. He didn’t get into trouble because he was preaching an attractional gospel to the crowds, he got in trouble because the gospel was presented with a call to repentance. This isn’t so popular. Many folks will cite his sermon on Mars Hill as the model for how the gospel needs to be presented today. Paul uses the Athenian “unknown god” as a springboard to “share.” When he gets to making a point about resurrection, he loses the crowd however, and only a few are saved.

The gospel in every case, seems to call men to “do” something,… to repent, believe, be baptized, etc., but it never leaves them feeling okay about not doing anything.

Which presentation is better suited for our society in America? Are we basically spiritual people, who like the Ethiopian or the Athenians just need some clarification? Or are we more like the murderous self righteous religious crowd, who need a rebuke?

I fear that the “good news of salvation in Jesus” is being watered down these days to the point of being impotent. Our “culturally relevant gospel” may leave more people hearing the “eternal gospel” from the angel that we realize.

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7 thoughts on “What Gospel Do We Preach?

  1. Yes Jim, I agree with your observations of some modern-day approaches to sharing the Gospel. One of the other issues I encounter out there is the subject of what genuine saving faith is. Also I wonder what Jesus people are receiving out there. In some cases it is a Jesus they have created in their own vain imagination and not Jesus the Messiah of the Bible.

  2. Jim: You are spot on. My heart also breaks at the programs and methods of men being used today. Instead of drawing men to Jesus, they are all too often seeking to fill the pew, raise money, and seek personal fame. A sad time we live in indeed.

    Grace and peace…

  3. 1 Cor 16:13-14

    13 Be on guard. Stand true to what you believe. Be courageous. Be strong. 14 And everything you do must be done with love.
    NLT

    God knows how to draw His people in. I use to think, “God, why are there so many different Christian churches? Even on the same block.” I’d become sad because I saw it as a lack of unity amongst believers and a movement of pride amongst the teachers. (And that may be, just as foretold in Phil 1:15. and yet we can rejoice as Paul did in Phil 1:18 because Phil 1:18
    “Christ is being preached”.)

    As I know Christ more & more and our relationship grows, and as I move from the narrow recesses of my limited self, I have come to realize how wonderfully complex He has made everyone. Only He knows the heart of each person.

    I believe that is why, there are 4 gospels and not only one. There could have only been two gospels as the required witness of Duet. 17:6 prescribed. Yet God worked through different believers with different temperaments and personalities to reach different types of believers.

    You may have a stiff necked congregation and God is calling you to preach the Word with firmness. Others may have a hurting congregation and God longs to reveal Himself with softness. As we abide in Him and let Him lead us, we will obediently be able to reach the lost with Christ.

    Now as for the watering down you mentioned… what I am noticing, is pastors being led away by other books and teachings about the Bible vs. teaching the Bible itself. We are called to share God’s Truth! Not somebody’s “version” of God’s truth. I have seen other methods and books be elevated above God’s holy Word and I can tell you He is angry about that! I feel ya Jim.

    God gave me a revelation a while back and told me, “I am doing away with man-made doctrine. All that will remain is My Word and the testimony of the saints.” I am seeing that happen in America. A separating of those who live by Truth and those who live by something else. Also women have been elevated to lead God’s people and that is not God’s plan. It is by God’s grace that God’s girls have been able to help but where are the men? We were created to help men, not be men. Yet I see God growing His boys up and I am soooooo excited. I am seeing more & more men step up to their calling and I am praising God!!! What a wonderful blessing to us!

  4. Jim — I once heard Ken Ham from “Answers in Genesis” talking about the difference between that Acts 2 presentation of the Gospel and the Acts 19 presentation. One to those with a religious background and a knowledge of the basics, and one to philosophers and “reasoners”. It does seem that America is at the shifting point. It used to be easy for a Billy Graham type of “crusade” to point thousands to Christ because they had a basic understanding of the gospel. Like the Jews of the Apostles’ time, the gospel is a stumbling block to those with religious knowledge but no relationship with Christ. For the Greeks, though — and I think this better describes most Americans 30 years old and younger — there’s no stumbling block. It’s just plain foolishness! The ground isn’t necessarily harder, but just hard in a different way. Instead of Christ being religiously offensive and the hurdle being to explain the true nature of God and his plan for redemption through Christ to a person who believes in a Creator and has some sort of basic knowledge about God and sin; now Christ is foolishness. God doesn’t exist. There’s no such thing as sin. Nothing is knowable and all is relative (even if you know that to be true and the fact that it’s relative is absolute).

    All that to say I agree with your point that even though there are different audiences and varying tacks to take to reach them, the end goal is the truth of the gospel of reconciliation being presented to those still separated from God in sin. (You’ve heard my sermon already so I’ll stop now).

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