Everyone in Christianity has a sense that the church is in apostasy. Many even say that it is because the Gospel has been lost. However, there is a strong disagreement about the nature of the apostasy, and more importantly, what is the Gospel? The definition of the Gospel is where the “rubber meets the road.” The Gospel is the message referred to in 1 Corinthians 15:1-5 that tells you that Jesus died for your sins and rose from the dead for your justification. When you believe this message, you are begotten of God. You become a child of God and an heir together with Christ.
A Positive Message
The scripture tells us that the Gospel was presented to Abraham. Galatians 3:8 says that the scripture presented the Gospel to Abraham saying that “in you all the nations shall be blessed.” Ultimately this referred to his seed, which is Christ. Romans 4 tells us that the Gospel that Abraham believed was that he would be heir to the world to come.
Do you hear anything about sin or repenting there? The scripture tells us that this was the Gospel. The message Abraham believed was entirely positive and was entirely related to inheritance.. The Gospel tells us that we are heirs together with Christ and there is an inheritance laid up for us. The death of the testator has already occurred, and Christ here to announce this inheritance to us – that the world to come is to be subject to men.(Heb 9:16-17; Heb 2:5) We don’t yet see it subject, but we see Jesus who was made a little lower than angels for the suffering of death but crowned with glory and honor. (Heb 2:9) Now He is seated at the right hand of God waiting for His enemies to be made a footstool. When His enemies are made a footstool, that will be the Kingdom that was promised and prepared (Mt 25:34) for those who God chose to be heirs together with Christ, (Rom 8:17) which we are if we believe the Gospel.
All of the above is without reference to sin. You may find it hard to believe, but there is an aspect of the Gospel that is without reference to sin! Look at Adam, who Romans 5 tells us is a type of Christ. (Rom 5:14) God put Him to sleep to take a rib out from his side and prepare a companion for him. She was “builded.” (Hebrew word, banah – to build in gen 2:22) She was taken out of his side and “built”. When he woke up, Adam said “this is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh.”(Gen 2;23) God presented her to Adam and said, “This is your helpmeet, she came out of you.” That is a picture of Christ who entered into death. Out of his side the blood and the water flowed out (John 19:34) which produced the Church, who is “builded” to be His counterpart and will be presented to Him as His Eternal Companion.(Eph 2:22; Eph 5:27)
God’s Salvation for the Fulfilling of His Purpose
We are so sin conscious that we tend only to think of the Gospel in terms of the forgiveness of sins. However, Ephesians, Colossians and Hebrews and the Old Testament (before the law) show us the Gospel in the light of an announcement of an Inheritance to those that God has predestined to be heirs. Some people don’t like the word predestination, but that’s really what predestination is all about. It’s about this inheritance God has prepared. God is a Father who wants many children. That is His heart. His heart is not first sin and first the law.
God’s salvation is a matter of His purpose being fulfilled to produce many sons in glory who are conformed to the image of His firstborn Son, (Rom 8:27-29) and who together form the Bride as His companion and together form the Body as His Fulness (Eph 1:23). These are people that He knew from Eternity past in Christ and created the whole universe so that they could be manifested. He has an Eternal view of them and an everlasting love for them (Eph 1:4-5). Because of the universe that fell, because of Satan, because of God’s enemies and because of the way everything worked out, sin came into the picture. God couldn’t just go get the heirs and give them their inheritance because righteously there is now an accusation against them that cries out for judgement.
Satan says, “see, You created these clay creatures to be your heirs but they are disqualified because I was able to bring them into sin.” So death came, and then the law came to show us that we are ruined, that we are not living according to God’s purpose, and to show us the absolutely essential and urgent need of a savior Who would on the one hand secure the inheritance and on the other hand deal with sin.
That’s what the Pharisees had a problem with. They wanted their inheritance but they thought they could deal with their sins by themselves through their repentance, through their religious life. Religious people think they can deal with their own sin so that part has to be exposed – the self righteousness of man. That’s what the law was added for. (Gal 3:19)
God looks at sin as a tragedy. Sin and death are his enemy. (1 Cor 15:26) He didn’t intend for that to be our state nor does He want that to be our continual point of reference. That’s why Hebrews talks about the perfecting of the conscience and being purged from an evil conscience by the blood of Christ and being purged from dead works to serve the living God. (Heb 10:22; 9:14) Serving the living God means enjoying your inheritance which is Christ, and partaking of Christ. If you have a heart full of faith and thanksgiving because of what Christ has done, you satisfy God to the uttermost, even though you still have sin in your flesh. The blood of Jesus Christ has made provision for your sins. The blood answers all the accusations. (Rom 8:33; Heb 12:24)
The Gospel is a Matter of Inheritance
Many are saying that the Gospel was lost. What they mean is that people aren’t being told to Repent. They’re not getting “grieved enough about their sins”, and therefore they’re not having a dramatic paradigm turn of their life where they turn their sins over to the Lord and repudiate their sins and walk away from their sins. This is supposedly evidenced because they’re not living the life we see in the Gospels of the disciples who were so radical. They aren’t “sold out” the way these disciples were. What they believe is that the Gospel is really about “making disciples” and disciples have this kind of “Rdaically transformed living” where they’re so holy you can’t even take it. They think where that’s not being preached the Gospel is lost. Actually they’re talking about law preaching. They’re calling it the Gsopel but they are really preaching law.
The Gospel announces an inheritance. The Gospel is Good News that God has made peace with man. “Peace on Earth and good will toward man.” (Lk 2:14) Can you believe that, that God has good-will toward man? A religious person can’t. He focuses so much on God’s wrath toward sin. It is true. E are heirs of wrath by nature. God’s wrath is provoked by the fallen nature, and His wrath is coming on the sons of disobedience (Col 3:6). But when we believe the Gospel we’re transferred out of that situation.(Col 1:13) We still have the flesh but we’ve been crucified with Christ (Romans 6:4) and its no longer reckoned to our account. The blood speaks instead of our flesh. Our flesh doesn’t speak before God. The blood does. Christ does. Christ is our representative before the Father. He is our righteousness. (1 John 2:1; 1 Cor 1:30)
This is the Gospel. The Gospel says “yes you’re a sinner, but God has taken away everything that stood against you, was contrary, accused you, and kept you from this inheritance. “ (Isa 44:22; Col 2:14). If you believe the Gospel, if you believe He is the Son of God, that shows that the spirit has born witness in your spirit that God’s record is true.(1 John 5:10) God has chosen you for an inheritance. Colossians says: “We thank God for you because we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and the love which you have toward all the satins because of the hope laid up for you in the heavens of which you heard before in the word of the truth of the Gospel which has come to you even as in all the world, bearing fruit and growing.” (Col 1:3-5)
The Gospel is an announcement of an inheritance. It tells a believer in Jesus that there is a a hope for you laid up in the heavens. When you believe in Jesus you find yourself in a situation where you are sealed with the Spirit and now you are a beneficiary of the work of Christ (Eph 1:13-14). On the one hand He deals with your sins, but on the other hand as the Captain of your Salvation He is bringing you into glory, and He is the Surety to bring you into your inheritance.(Heb 2:10; Heb 7:22)
The Gospel, the good news, is about the inheritance, the eternal life that we are to inherit as heirs together with Christ. We have not received a Spirit of bondage bringing us into fear but a spirit of Sonship in which we cry “abba Father” the spirit Himself witnesses with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children of God, then heirs, heirs of God and heirs together with Christ (Romans 8:14-17). We have been made partakers of the inheritance with Christ that He wants to share with the sons of God who are His counterpart bride and His body, the Church. That is what God is after; many sons in glory.
This “Gospel of repentance” doesn’t preach that. It doesn’t preach that you have a secure inheritance, but that you’re on probation, and that you’re not an heir unless you show certain things. But Galatians tells us clearly that the inheritance is not by law but by faith,(Gal 3:18) and that we are by faith the children of promise,(Gal 4:28) and we have been baptized into Christ who is the seed of Abraham, and we have put on Christ and clothed ourselves with Christ, we are heirs together with Him, and we are the seed of Abraham. (Gal 3:27-29) This is so that we may receive the blessing of the Gospel which is the promise of the Spirit.(Gal 3:14) The blessing has come upon us. Jesus became a curse, and we are blessed. (Gal 3:13)
The Gospel Before and After the Law
The reason the prosperity Gospel is such a problem is because its almost like the real Gospel. The real Gospel is that because I’m in Christ I’m an heir, I am Abraham’s seed and heir according to the promise. Paul says in Galatians that the covenant of Moses, the law, which was 400 years after the Everlasting Covenant that God made with Abraham. That law could not disannul God made with Abraham or render it of no effect. It didn’t add conditions to it to disqualify us from our inheritance if we believe in Christ. We are heirs with Christ of Abraham. We are the seed of Abraham and we are Blessed.(Gal 3:17)
When God took Abraham out and said “look at the stars, so shall your seed be. In you all the nations shall be blessed” (Gal 15:5) and Abraham believed God and it was reckoned to him for righteousness (Gal 15:6), there was no law and there was no mention of sin. We see this in Romans 4 as a perfectly legitimate type of justification that just says “you’re going to be an heir of the world.” (Romans 4:13) It’s totally positive.
Romans 4 also does talk about David. David’s version of justification is “blessed is he that’s sins are covered, to whom God will not reckon iniquity. Blessed is he that works not but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly. His faith is counted to him as righteousness.” (Rom 4:5-8)
What the difference between Abraham and David? Abraham had only the inheritance in view and the law had not yet been given. David was under law. So his conscisusness of sin was that much greater, and his sins were that much more great because Romans 5 tells us that the law entered that the offence might abound. (Rom 5:20) God wanted man to see his depravity and his need to be re-created to inherit the kingdom. David loved the kingdom and longed for the inheritance just as Abraham did, but because he was under the law, he was in the time when God was teaching the absolute need for re-creation. (John 3:5) Flesh and blood cannot receive the kingdom. (1 Cor 15:50).
Yes, a kingdom was promised to Abraham, but mortal men cannot in their fallen flesh be qualified to receive it. God says He will qualify you from all the accusation of the law through the blood of Christ who is the seed of Abraham and the seed of David. That blood answers all accusation.
David understood this. He knew that God had blessed him because his iniquities were forgiven and God did not hold them to his account. His sins were covered because he believed in the atoning work of the lamb of God. He put His trust in the son of God. Did you know that? David placed his trust in the seed that God said would be His son and would establish on the throne forever. (2 Sam 7:12-14) David believed that covenant and that was also part of his justification. David believed in the kingdom and the forgiveness of sins. Abraham did too, its just that sin is not so much in focus with Abraham because the law had not been given. Abraham is not under the “microscope.”
David lived under the microscope of the law. Abraham had sins, but David had the sins under the “microscope” and they are that much more magnified. The point is that the law magnifies it so when we read about David we go “oh my gosh” but he was justified because he believed on Him who justifies the ungodly apart from works. That’s the justification we see under David. Even though its under law, it still solves the problem of sins and should bring you into a place where you are not so conscious of living under the “microscope”.
An Offence to the Legalist
This is an offense to those who preach that the Gospel is really the preaching of repentance. They say we’re the ones who caused all the problems in Christianity. The reason Christianity has no power in their mind is because we don’t demand that people walk away from their sins and cower under the wrath of God. That’s not our Gospel. That’s not “Good news”.
Our Gospel is the Gospel of Christ the Son of God who is the heir (Rom 1:1-5). He desires that we would be coheirs with Him and has an inheritance for us. When we believe we receive the promise of eternal life which is our inheritance. (1 John 2;25) We believe we are heirs together with Him. So again in Colossians Paul says “I thank God for the faith you have and the love you have toward the saints because of the hope you have which you heard ,which was announced, and which is the word that is growing in you and bearing fruit.” (Col 1:5-7) He then goes on to tell them that they’ve been transferred out of the darkness and into the kingdom of the son of His love, and you’ve been qualified for a share of the “allotted portion” of the saints in the light.(Col 1:12) What is that? That’s the inheritance, the hope laid up in the heavens.
Peter says the same thing. He says we were “regenerated unto a living hope unto an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled reserved for us in heaven,” and that we are “guarded by the power of God through faith unto the salvation that is ready to be revealed”.(1 Peter 1:4-5). Salvation and the inheritance go together in Peter’s mind. We are kept unto an inheritance and the announcement of that inheritance is the Gospel.
What does it promise you? Eternal life with Christ, to be an heir together with Christ. It makes you a child of God and it answers all the accusation of the law and the devil and sin and deals with all of that through the blood of Jesus. We’re not minimizing these negative thigns. But what saves you is believing that all of this is true.
If you only believe that God’s wrath is against sinners, and therefore you need to stop sinning, then you don’t believe the Gospel. That’s not the Gospel. The Gospel is the Gospel of His Son, the heir. The seed of Abraham. The one to whom all promises were made. He is the seed of the Woman, the seed of Abraham, the seed of David and the last Adam. As the representative of the Human race and the heir to all the promises, He has been exalted and glorified after He purged our sins and sat down at the right hand of God (Heb 1:1-3). All the work is finished and now we believe in Him. This is our obedience. (John 6:29; Rom 1:5). That faith seals us with the Holy Spirit. He is the pledge guaranteeing the redemption of the purchased possession. (Eph 1:13-14) The transformation of our body and the enjoyment of the “good land” which is our inheritance, which is Christ Himself, is guaranteed (Rom 4:16).
The seal of the Spirit guarantees our inheritance, and we received this after we heard the word of the truth of the Gospel and believed it. When we believed it we were joined to Christ and that transferred us out of the kingdom of darkness, that brought us the forgiveness of sin, and that qualified us for a share in the inheritance(Col 1:11-14). It guaranteed our future as heirs together with Christ. Not only that but we were regenerated and seated with Christ in the heavenlies and in the ages to come God is going to show forth the exceeding riches of His grace and kindness toward us in Christ. (Eph 2:8-10)
This is the Gospel. Yes its totally loaded on the Good News side and that’s what sets people free to live a life full of thanksgiving. Having a heart full of thanksgiving is the source of our strength. As he says in colossians that you may be “filled with the full knowledge of His will in all wisdom and understanding..increasing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with might according to His glorious power unto all endurance and longsuffering with Joy, giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us for a share of the allotted portion of the saints in the light.”
See how it goes together? To know God’s will is to know the Gospel. To know your inheritance strengthens you and fills you with joy as you are giving thanks to the Father who has done all these things for you in Christ. T hat is the Gospel. The Gospel produces a heart full of thanksgiving based on an acknowledgement of what the Father has done for you while you weren’t even around. He did it 2000 years ago and then the Gospel came to you in your life which announced that God had done everything. God had done everything for you and you believed it. You didn’t know what all he had done for you, you just believed that Jesus was raised from the dead and is alive.
Then as you explore the truths of the Gospel you start to realize that He did so much more than you thought. It wasn’t just the forgiveness of sins, you’re in the kingdom now. You’re not waiting to be qualified you’re already qualified. You’re not wondering if you’re going to have an inheritance, you’re enjoying and partaking of a forestaste of it now. The spirit is the seal and the pledge. He seals you and pledges you giving you a taste of that which is to come – a forestatse. You can taste the sweetness of God today. That is the Christian life. It is that taste – that satisfaction you have in Christ.
When you have that the works people come along they say “see, the Gospel has been lost.” However they don’t have a Gospel. They just have “God is so angry and you need to repent.” Believing the Gospel is a footnote to them. They’ll mention that you should believe the Gospel but in most cases can’t even articulate what the Gospel is. This is because they don’t have a Gospel. T
hey only have fear and condemnation and that is not our portion as heirs of God!