Saturday, July 9, 2011

In Defense of the Gospel, Part 3

Continued from "In Defense of the Gospel, Part 2".


Question: "What if a preacher says that the gospel has only 3 points instead of 4 points? Is that wrong?

Answer: I would say that it's perfectly acceptable to outline the gospel in 3 points as long as the preacher doesn't remove any of the content from the gospel (leaving some of the content to be implied is okay as I will go on to explain - as long as no part of the good news is denied from being included in the gospel). The simplest way I've found to explain this is to say that the content of the gospel can be rearranged but not redefined.1 In other words, the various points of the gospel can be outlined and arranged in one way or another but the gospel itself cannot be changed (see 1 Peter 1:23-25, NKJV).2 Quoting 1 Corinthians 15:3-5, Michael Ramsey affirms: "The Gospel was one. The same framework of events underlies the primitive preaching in Jerusalem, the preaching of Paul, the final presentation of the Gospel in the four written Gospels. There were of course differences of emphasis....But there was one Gospel. In it, amid whatever varieties, the Passion and the Resurrection had the pre-eminent place."3

Notice the following biblical examples showing how the gospel can be variously outlined and arranged using 1, 2, 3, or 4 points:

The Gospel in 1 Particular

Christ's substitutionary death:

"Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures" 4


The Gospel in 2 Pillars

Christ's substitutionary death and resurrection:

"Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures" and 
"He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures" 5


The Gospel in 3 Points

Christ's substitutionary death, burial, and resurrection:

"Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, 
and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures" 6


The Gospel in 4 Parts

Christ's substitutionary death, burial, resurrection, and appearances:

"Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, 
and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 
and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve." 7

The problem comes in when people start contradicting the Word of God for the sake of their tradition by saying that Christ's burial and resurrection appearances are not part of the gospel.8 Beware of this new gospel that is not like the others!

The Gospel in 1/2 Portions

Christ's substitutionary death, burial, resurrection, and appearances:

"Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried
and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures
and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve." 9


Let me summarize by giving three axioms that I have found helpful in regards to the question at hand:

1) The truths of the gospel can be rearranged but not redefined
2) The truths of the gospel can be emphasized but not excluded 10
3) The truths of the gospel can be implied but not denied 11

These three statements highlight the difference between affirming the Word of God and contradicting it. There are grave dangers in contradicting Biblical truth (Deut. 4:2; Prov. 30:5-6; Jer. 26:2; Matt. 5:17, 15:9; Lk. 11:52, NIV; Rev. 22:18-19). "So dangerous a thing it is to meddle ever so slightly with the words of - GOD."12 Christians must always be careful to "hold fast" to the Word of God and to the truth of the gospel (1 Cor. 15:1-2; cf. Col. 1:22-23; 2 Thess. 2:14-15).

Continue on to "In Defense of the Gospel, Part 4".


ENDNOTES:

1 Sadly, some in the Free Grace movement have taken it upon themselves to redefine the gospel. For more information see  the articles "Getting the Gospel Right" and "The Strange Beliefs of Stegall's System".

2 In other words, the biblical gospel of 1 Corinthians 15:3b-5 can't be tampered with or done away with - as the Word of God it will remain forever (1 Pet. 1:23-25, NKJV; cf. Gal. 1:11-12). For more information on the exegesis of the gospel in 1 Corinthians 15, see the article "Getting the Gospel Right".

3 A. Michael Ramsey, The Resurrection of Christ [Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1947], p. 13, ellipsis and italics added; cf. Ibid., pp. 21, 44, 73-74. NOTE: Ramsey says that in the Gospel "the Passion and the Resurrection had the pre-eminent place" (Ibid., 13). Another way to say this would be: The Gospel emphasizes Christ's death and resurrection without excluding His burial and appearances.

4 1 Cor. 15:3; also see, for example: 1 Cor. 1:17, 18, 23; 2:2. NOTE: Christ's burial, resurrection, and appearances are implied in the gospel, not denied in the gospel.

5 1 Cor. 15:3, 4; also see, for example: 1 Thess. 4:14; 2 Cor. 5:15. NOTE: Christ's burial and appearances are implied in the gospel, not denied in the gospel. ALSO NOTE: The Gospel in 2 Pillars is sometimes outlined and explained like this: 1.) Christ's substitutionary death + burial, 2.) Christ's resurrection + appearances.

6 1 Cor. 15:3-4; also see, for example: Matt. 12:38-41; Col. 2:12. NOTE: Christ's appearances are implied in the gospel, not denied in the gospel. ALSO NOTE: The Gospel in 3 Points is sometimes outlined and explained like this: 1.) Christ's substitutionary death, 2.) Christ's burial, 3.) Christ's resurrection + appearances.

7 1 Cor. 15:3-5; also see, for example: Psa. 22:1-22; Isa. 53:1-12; Acts 2:22-36, 10:38-43, 13:29-31.

8 For more information see the article "Beware of the Wolves Within Free Grace".

9 No Bible verse teaches this subtle perversion of the true gospel! However, several Bible passages tell believers to watch out for those who would pervert the gospel message (see 2 Cor. 11:3-4; Gal. 1:6-10). NOTE: Christ's burial, resurrection on the third day, appearances to Cephas and the twelve, and the twice repeated phrase "according to the Scriptures" (see 1 Cor. 15:3-5) are all denied as not really being part of the saving gospel according to the new groundless gospel position.

10 That is, excluded from being part of the content of the gospel of salvation. For example, the burial of Christ cannot be excluded or banned from being part of the content of the gospel of salvation (see 1 Corinthians 15:4).

11 That is, denied as being part of the content of the gospel of salvation. For example, the burial of Christ cannot be denied as being part of the content of the gospel of salvation (see 1 Corinthians 15:4).

12 Ivan Panin, Editor, The New Testament From The Greek Text (Toronto: The Book Society of Canada, 1979), p. xiii, italics and caps his.

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