The idea that the Gospel (The death, burial and resurrection of the Lord) is enough to save you and I, as New Testament believers, is something of a foreign concept – to me.
Looking at the Gospel, how it was defined in Scripture, by the Apostles, most notably Paul, shows that it is not some mystery, hidden in Scripture or shrouded behind magical wards that requires certain steps to reveal – anymore. It was plainly revealed in Christ, made known to all men both by the miracles of Christ’s resurrection and the spreading of the Gospel among all nations.
So What Is the Gospel?
The Wycliffe Bible Encyclopedia summarizes the gospel message this way:
The central truth of the gospel is that God has provided a way of salvation for men through the gift of His son to the world. He suffered as a sacrifice for sin, overcame death, and now offers a share in His triumph to all who will accept it. The gospel is good news because it is a gift of God, not something that must be earned by penance or by self-improvement.
Paul gave us his definition in I Corinthians 15:1-8, summarized;
“Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:” – I Corinthians 15:1-4, KJV
Prior, during Paul’s imprisonment with Silas, he answered the jailer about how to be saved;
“And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.” – Acts 16:30,31, KJV
Ok – so a minor confession. I’m a software engineer by hobby, I love writing code, it really makes me geek out. So when I thought of this article, and the Gospel, I started putting the two together. Many programming languages have iterations, or enhancement/upgrades which add functionality over time. For instance, one of the most popular and still widely used languages is known as C. The C computer programming language was created back in the 1970’s and was latter adapted to C++ (c plus plus) . C++ added object orientation to the language and low-level memory management. It is now known as C# (C sharp)
Another language I love to dabble in is called PHP which made its debut in 1994 and truly hit the main stream in 2000 with version 3 and 4. Currently it is on version 7, each time adding features and routines that make the language more powerful. 95% of all websites use PHP to process the instructions and present on your screen what you see. WordPress itself is built on PHP.
So I’m going to talk about the Gospel++. The updated version I’m familiar with. You see, all throughout Scripture, even from the words of Jesus, the idea that believing is the bedrock of salvation is plain. Jesus said if you believe on Him, you’ll have power to cast out devils, to heal the sick, or to raise the dead. (Mark 16:17) He said if you offend those little ones (child like) who believe on Him, you’d be better to be drowned in the sea than face judgement. (Mark 9:42) He said that you would be made whole by believing on Him. (Luke 8:50)
Jesus said if you believe in Him and are baptized (with the Spirit) you’ll be saved. (Mark 16:16) In the Jerusalem council battling legalism, Paul declared to the elders that they believed that through the Grace of the Lord Jesus Christ they would be saved. Romans 10:11 declares that if we believe on Him, we will not be ashamed, and in verse 13 Paul continues to say whoever calls upon His name shall be saved. Commentaries define ‘calling up His name’ as believing the Gospel message and praying to God in faith.
Even in the Acts 2 creation of the Church, in v41 the Scripture says, “Then they that gladly received the word were baptized: and the same day there were added to the unto them about three thousand souls.” It is easy to make that connection that gladly receiving is equal to believing, taking faith in, trusting the message you heard.
Yet, the Gospel++ I know sounds a little bit like this;
How do you get saved? I’m so glad you asked. By obeying Acts 2:38. You repent of your sins, you are water baptized in the Name of Jesus (only by an approved minister and only in the name of Jesus as NT examples show, the titles do not work and you just get wet) and by receiving the promised Gift of the Holy Ghost, evidenced by speaking in tongues (you don’t receive the Holy Ghost until you speak in tongues) and then through the conviction of the Holy Ghost (the local pastor) you live a Holy (dress code, standards of conduct, etc) and separated (don’t mingle with non believers or other Christians that don’t follow this process) life.
The Gospel++ includes the following *good* principles that were made into doctrines (dogma) required to get and keep salvation;
- Don’t wear short sleeve T-shirts or shorts
- Don’t wear makeup or jewelry, don’t dye your hair or tan your skin
- Don’t drink any form of alcohol
- Don’t have any form of facial hair (men)
- Don’t watch any form of Television or Movies (Disney or otherwise)
- Don’t miss a night of Church, even when its 4+ services a week
- Don’t miss any outreach or extra prayer services
- Don’t listen to worldly music (like contemporary modern Christian music)
- Don’t read books written by those outside of this denomination for doctrine
Someone said to me recently, who knows where I’ve been, where I am today in my journey of faith and where I am going, “All these rules and regulations are just out of hand”. We were talking about a different networking organization. I replied with, “Yea, I really get it. That’s what my struggle with the Church is…” And this person replied, “That’s different, those rules or for salvation”.
To that I said, that’s a Gospel++ right there! Where in the Word did all these rules become required to ‘get saved’? Or even stay saved? Most certainly God expects us to live holy, to honor Him in our words and deeds, to live clean Christian lives. But do we truly believe wearing a long sleeve shirt makes you more holy than a short sleeve shirt?
The Gospel++ is this; taking the Gospel and iterating it and adding constructs to it until you’ve reached the version you want to use. The Gospel++ is saying “The Bible says Believe yes, but believing means you DO X, you DO Y and DO Z and you continue doing Z over and over and over again, and if you ever miss doing Z, you might have just lost your salvation until you pick up Z again.”
“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: – Ephesians 2:8, KJV
The Gospel++ says that Grace isn’t believing, that believing is step #1 which causes you do do all these other things, and then you’ll be saved.
“In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise,” – Ephesians 1:13, KJV
The Gospel++ says that when you believe, you don’t receive God’s Spirit in you until you experience Speaking in Tongues for the first time and that you must continue speaking in tongues regularly in order to keep salvation.
The Gospel++ is taking the clear and simple Scripture and making an iteration of it. Some make extra books that supplement the Bible, most I know simply add definitions on top of words, such as Believing. They say, “If you believed your house was on fire, you would do something right?” or “If you believed you were about to be hit by a truck you wouldn’t just stand there, you would act on your belief!” Thus, when the Bible says ‘Just Believe”, it doesn’t actually mean “just believe”, it means “If you believe the Gospel, you’ll understand that you need to perform, and do precise and particular things in order to warrant salvation and that those things must continue in order to keep salvation in the bank”.
I have to admit, having bought that perspective (The Gospel++) for 15 years, I’m struggling to understand and find my way between the Gospel, and The Gospel++.