The preaching of the gospel today is very different from that of the apostle Paul nearly two thousand years ago. The Lord revealed the gospel to him more clearly than to anyone else. However, the message and the method commonly used today contrast starkly with those of Paul. Today we hear that “God has a wonderful plan for your life. He wants to bless you, to heal you, to deliver you from your difficult trial or circumstance. He might even make you rich. You can have these things if you believe on His Son Jesus Christ.” The message of the gospel as heard today usually contains at least some of these elements. It certainly sounds very appealing.
What was the message of the apostle Paul?
1 Corinthians 2:1 And I, brothers, when I came to you, did not come with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring to you the testimony of God. 2 For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. 4 And my speech and my preaching were not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power. (MKJV)
Although God used Paul to perform many miraculous healings, Paul did not use promises of health and wealth and earthly blessings to draw the lost when he proclaimed the gospel. Paul’s preaching, unlike much of the preaching of the gospel we hear today, was not with enticing words. Rather, he preached Jesus Christ and Him crucified for our sins and repentance from sin. More from Paul:
1 Corinthians 15:3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,
Acts 26:19 “So then, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the vision from heaven. 20 First to those in Damascus, then to those in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and to the Gentiles also, I preached that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds.
Paul preached repentance from sin, faith in Jesus Christ who was crucified for the forgiveness of sins, and a life of righteous deeds which was the outward evidence of true repentance. Such repentance resulted in a person’s name being written in the book life and subsequent deliverance from condemnation in the lake of fire (Revelation 20:15) and the gift of eternal life (John 3:16).
How did Jesus Himself preach the gospel?
Mark 1:14 And after John was delivered up, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom of God, 15 and saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God draws near. Repent, and believe the gospel. (MKJV)
How did Jesus teach His disciples to preach the gospel?
Mark 6:12 They went out and preached that people should repent. 13 They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them.
The disciples proclaimed the gospel by preaching repentance from sin and by healing the sick and casting out demons. How the apostle Peter preach the gospel?
Acts 2:38 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Peter preached the same repentance to be followed immediately by baptism in water for the forgiveness of sins.
The preaching of the gospel, then, was centered on sinners repenting from sin and then believing on the crucified Jesus Christ as Savior. This would include obedience to the commands of Christ as Lord leading to a life of holiness and fruitfulness. Unfortunately this original gospel is not commonly heard today, but rather the gospel of what God can give you here on earth. (It was not that believing in Jesus never resulted in any earthly blessings, but that any such blessings were simply a side benefit of a far greater spiritual and eternal blessing.) The gospel often heard today caters to the culture of materialism, selfishness and rebellion which captivates much of the world today. Perhaps it is no wonder that there are so many megachurches today.
Not only does today’s gospel message differ, the method also differs from that of Paul. His preaching of the gospel was accompanied and confirmed by demonstrations of the Spirit and power—manifestations of the miraculous. Since today such demonstrations are rare, the Church has turned to gimmicks and other methods not found in the New Testament to draw souls to Jesus Christ. There is a well-known pastor of a megachurch in Singapore who goes from city to city in Asia using a magic show extravaganza to draw the lost to Jesus Christ. There is another method often used today but not found in the New Testament which if mentioned in this context would offend many. Some would defend such methods on the grounds of contextualizing the gospel to fit the culture, or even “becoming all things to all men so that by all possible means we might save some.” (1 Corinthians 9:22)
However, when people’s faith rests on men’s wisdom instead of on God’s power, their faith may eventually prove to be weak as Paul contends above. Since the understanding of manifesting God’s miraculous power in the context of proclaiming the gospel is now being restored to the Church, we no longer need to use gimmicks or methods not found in the New Testament. Moreover, with that power and authority restored there is even less reason to preach the message of health, wealth, and God’s earthly blessings to draw people to Jesus. We can now preach just Jesus Christ and Him crucified. It is the original message of the gospel that the Lord promises and delights to confirm with accompanying signs and wonders.
Mark 16:15 He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. 16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. 17 And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; 18 …they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.” …20 Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it.
Matthew 6:33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
Important: Instructing those who decide to follow Jesus Christ
It should be made clear to those who believe on Jesus as Lord and Savior that it is just the beginning for them. They will need to be discipled and to grow up in their salvation.
2 Peter 1:3 His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4 Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.
The Lord has already given them everything they need to become like Him. But they must do their part. It is not an automatic process. They must make every effort to grow in the following qualities to become like Him:
5 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7 and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. 8 For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Without developing these qualities, the believer can be ineffective and unproductive for the Lord.
9 But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.
Without those qualities, he is blind and has essentially forgotten about his salvation. There is obviously a serious consequence for failing to grow in those qualities to become like the Lord, and for forgetting one’s salvation.
10 Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, 11 and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
The apostle Peter is urging to his readers to make their calling and election sure. Therefore it is possible that their calling and election can be not sure if they fail to grow and to become mature. If they do grow to become like the Lord, they will never fall. The inverse is also true: if they do not grow, there is a definite possibility that they could fall. Therefore holiness is not optional for a disciple of Jesus Christ who is given opportunity to grow.
Hebrews 12:14 Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.
Let us therefore instruct the new believers in this way. Let us not lull them into a false sense of security. Teach them that after they receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, it is but the beginning for them. They have a very definite part to play. If they do their part, the Lord will indeed be faithful to sanctify them and welcome them into His glorious kingdom.