June 17, 2008

Essential Elements of the Gospel

Recently in our home church one of our fellow members, Bruce brought up a great discussion regarding how does one identify the "Essential Elements of the Gospel" and how does one know when not to join efforts with others as their doctrine is determined to be false.

Here is what was discussed:

In an age with so many doctrines and so many denominations it has become harder and harder to decipher what are the essential elements of the gospel?

Somethings to consider: The purpose of knowing the barest essentials of the gospel is so that we can:

1. Understand how to witness to the lost
2. Identify who are God's fellow laborers in the Truth
3. Which doctrines are mandatory for salvation and fellowship and which are not
4. Who has false hope

There are only four concepts that must be understood for salvation:

1. One must understand what sin is and why it alienates us from God
2. Who is Jesus Christ, and what did He do so that we can be reconciled to God
3. That we live by faith which means daily choosing universal benevolence
4. That only those who persevere to the end shall truly be saved

Any "Gospel" that alters or denies the above mentioned points is a false Gospel. Anyone who teaches a false Gospel is a False Teacher or Prophet.

Colossians 1:19-23 19For it was the Father's good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, 20and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven. 21And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, 22yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach-- 23if indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel that you have heard, which was proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, was made a minister.

How much latitude is there in the Gospel Message??

Galatians 1:6-9 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! 9As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!

What is the purpose of the Gospel?

Romans 1:16-17 16I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. 17For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: "The righteous will live by faith."

Romans 16:25-27 25 Now to him who is able to establish you by my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, 26but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all nations might believe and obey him— 27to the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen.

Ephesians 1:13 13And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit.


What happens if the Gospel is altered in the least degree?

1 Cor 1:17 17 For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.

Is the contingency of salvation a key element in the Gospel?

2 Timothy 2:8-13 8Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel, 9for which I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But God's word is not chained. 10Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory. 11Here is a trustworthy saying: If we died with him, we will also live with him; 12if we endure, we will also reign with him. If we disown him, he will also disown us. 13if we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself.

1 Cor 15:1-2 1 Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. 2By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.

2 Thess 2 :13-15 13But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth. 14It was for this He called you through our gospel, that you may gain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. 15So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter from us.

If the contingent nature of salvation is a key element of the Gospel, what about those who's gospel does not contain this element?

Hebrews 4:6 6It still remains that some will enter that rest, and those who formerly had the gospel preached to them did not go in, because of their disobedience.

2 Thess 1:6-9 6 God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you 7and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. 8He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power

2 Tim 2:19 19 Nevertheless, God's solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: "The Lord knows those who are his," and, "Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness."

1 John 2:3-6 3 We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. 4The man who says, "I know him," but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. 5But if anyone obeys his word, God's love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: 6Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.

1 John 3:7-10 7 Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. He who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. 8He who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil's work. 9No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God's seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God. 10This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother.

If continued obedience to Christ is a key element of the Gospel, what about those who's Gospel does not demand this?

How do we identify false witnesses, and should we partner with those who do not preach the Gospel?

Jude 4 For certain men whose condemnation was written about[a] long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.

Matthew 7:15-20 15"Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.

1 Timothy 6:3-5 If anyone teaches false doctrines and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, 4he is conceited and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions 5and constant friction between men of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain.

Matthew 24:10-13 At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, 11and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. 12Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, 13but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.

2 Peter 2:1-3 But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves. 2Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. 3In their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping.

2 John 4-11 4It has given me great joy to find some of your children walking in the truth, just as the Father commanded us. 5And now, dear lady, I am not writing you a new command but one we have had from the beginning. I ask that we love one another. 6And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love. 7Many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world. Any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist. 8Watch out that you do not lose what you have worked for, but that you may be rewarded fully. 9Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God; whoever continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. 10If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take him into your house or welcome him. 11Anyone who welcomes him shares in his wicked work.


1. Once Saved Always Saved - Denies the Contingency of Obedience and Faith!

2. Everyone Sins in Word, Thought and Deed! - Turning Grace into Licentiousness

3. Total Depravity - Turns sin into something physical and not the moral and denies the redemptive power of the cross over sin (See 1 & 2)


Dean Lusk said...

Well-made points!

While "Salvation Concept" (I had to call it something) number three is worded a little oddly because of the term "universal benevolence," it's valid based upon the Word of God. However, I disagree that point number four must be an essential concept:

"4. That only those who persevere to the end shall truly be saved"

It is entirely possible -- even likely -- that many who do not espouse or understand this belief will, indeed, persevere to the end and be saved. I mean, good grief, if I've given my life and my entire being to be used by God Amighty, then I'll definitely fight with my dying breath to persevere to the end, regardless of whether or not I thought I had to persevere! "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength."

However, I certainly agree that it looks like an easy road for those who don't believe this -- for people who prefer a "quick fix" (which is not supported by Scripture). If there's no possibility that I would lose perpetual/eternal life ("losing eternal life" is an oxymoron, by the way), then there's really no reason that I need to follow the commands of God, right? And that is what the Scriptures you reference point out.

To recap, I'm not disagreeing with your supporting points -- those are the Word of God. I am disagreeing with the fourth premise.

Preston N said...

I totally got your point! I will say this is an interesting perspective on the matter of OSAS. It's sad that we even need to clarify this concept to begin with.

I sort of think of this whole concept in the terms of being married - "Once married, always married". Clearly the couple who are totally in love with one another know from within their hearts they do not need to be told the obvious and that is if they stop loving one another their marriage will be over. But what if the husband came home one day and told his wife he was now married to another woman and still declares himself" - "Once married always married" to the 1st wife, I think she would have some real issues with this!

Betsy said...

Thanks for the comment and the support.

I agree with many of your points except for losing your salvation (imagine that). The Bible says we are sealed with the Holy Spirit and that He is our guarantee and deposit until Heaven. I believe if a person is truly saved and born again, then the Holy Spirit lives within them and they will live rightly and persevere until the "end". I do believe people have ups and downs in their Christian walk, but looking at their life, those are just small instances. You will see change and growth in a born again believer. I believe that those who are "backslidden" never "slide up" in the first place. It wasn't a true conversion.

We will probably have to agree to disagree, but we can still have fellowship in the Lord!

Anonymous said...


2. Everyone Sins in Word, Thought and Deed! - Turning Grace into Licentiousness

on point #2, are you saying that you've never sined in thought, word, and deed ever? Or are you saying that you have overcome sin and have reached a state of perfection? Please claify. Maybe this has to do with your definition of sin. what is your definition?

Preston N said...


Your kidding right?? Of course I have sinned. Where in the world did you ever get from my post that I was stating I had never sinned?? My post was to show that a majority of the churches today promote Carnal Christianity - that is where one can be "Saved" and yet continue to live a life of sin.

I would define sin as a moral choice. As stated in 1 John sin is lawlessness. Sin is the willful disobedience to God's known laws. Now when I say "Law" I am not just speaking only of the ten commandments, but also the "law" of the conscience. I believe mankind has been endowed by God with a conscience and operates according to natural law (see Romans 2:14). Therefore, sin is knowing what is good or right and not doing it.

As to you mentioning "perfection", most Christians have a poor or bad definition of what holiness or Christian perfection really is. God simply requires men to live to their current moral capability - "To much is given much is expected". When Jesus said be "Holy as I am Holy", Jesus was simply stating that we live according to the same "manner" as He does. God chooses to be holy and therefore we too must choose to live according to the Truth. God only requires that we live according to that which we are capable of. Holiness is defined as living to the present level of moral knowledge (knowing what is right or wrong) that one presently has. A life post salvation then can be defined as simply living in adherence to God's moral law that one presently has knowledge of. The key here is that as we grow in moral Truth so does our level or degree of holiness.

This was God's intent through bringing about the atonement of the messiah was to have men obey God's moral law NOT externally bu internally - Jeremiah (31:33 NKJV), "'But this [is] the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people."

So if you ask if I have overcome sin then Yes! I have repented from my sins and choose to live righteously from my heart out of my devotion and love for Jesus Christ. I am simply living to the present amount of moral knowledge or Truth I presently have. Jesus says those who love me will OBEY my commandments. My question to you then is how much do you love Jesus??? Enough to want to stop sinning???

Anonymous said...

I got the impression that you don't sin from your post which stated that "everyone sins in thought, word, and deed" is a false doctine the church teaches. That makes in sound like not everyone sins in thought, word, and deed. That is impressive that you have overcome sin! I still mess up, not with the bigs things, stealing, lieing, cheating, those are no problem. example, getting angry with people close to me because they have hurt me, things of that nature. Still when my husband hurts me, I get angry and resentful at him. I understand there is a righteous anger, this is not a righteous anger. If I am angry with him in my heart, that is still sin. And then I am angry at him becuase he is the he is causing me to sin. Christ explained that when he said, the law says do not murder, but he says, if you say to your brother "RACA", whatever that means, you are guilty because you are angry with him in your heart. But, that is a really hard one to get past. My anger though as I grow, doesn't last as long and I am able to find forgiveness faster now than before. Finding forgiveness has in the past been very difficult especially when there was no apology or remorse. I learned I had to forgive, even if he wasn't sorry, other wise my anger would turn to bitterness. Which I have dealt with that, too. And, only because I love Jesus, when I feel so hurt, will I forgive because I don't want it to ruin my relationship with Him (God). He forgave me, I have to forgive others. But, I still mess up. I still consider myself that poor man in the bible who beats his chest and cries out to God because he is a sinner rather than the guy looking at him being thankful that he is not like him. I am unworthy of his love and attention and yet I have both. Amazing! And when I mess up and receives me like the father of the prodigle son who never said he was sorry, I love him more.

Preston N said...

Anonymous - First let me ask you this. Does God ever get angry?? Did Jesus get angry? Of Course! Please show me in scripture where it says that it is sinful to show emotions that God has given us. Anger in of itself is not sinful. God has given us a wonderful array of emotions and we are to use them appropriately. Anger becomes a sin when we allow it to turn to bitterness. Getting angry or upset is not a sin. When the bible speaks of anger and sin it is speaking of not allowing anger to consume you and turn to bitterness of preventing you to forgive someone. Indeed we can be angry with someone who hurts us or has done us wrong, but never allow anger to prevent you from forgiving that individual.

Look at it this way. God is angry with sinners. So does this mean God is sinning because he is angry? Indeed, God's anger is justified and so is ours when someone sins against us. Most Christians have this concept that we can not be angry with someone at all. But the truth is God in his wisdom and love controls his anger in a way that never prevents him from forgiving. But note that God does not just freely forgive someone. God will ONLY set aside his wrath when someone comes to him in genuine repentance. So I would say if and when you get angry it is not a sin, but only when your unwilling to forgive someone or you become bitter.

Anonymous said...

Preston, you say you have overcome sin, are you trusting in that as your access to heaven? When you stand before God for the judgement, by your righteousness, will you stand before Him as a sinner or as innocent?

Preston N said...

All throughout scripture the Bible clearly says all men will be judge according to thy works (See Rev 2 & 9). However, the bible also says that all works (whether good works or bad) are a direct result of ones heart or will. God will judge the righteousness of everyones HEART - and not necessarily their outward works. Most (but not all) human actions are generated or motivated by a person's heart. So it can be said that a person acts or commits works from the will of the heart.

As I have stated on my blog many times, God judges according to the motives of ones heart and not necessarily our outward actions. The fallacy of the Pharisees were they were putting their salvation strictly on the "works of the Law". In otherwords it didn't matter what your heart was like as long as you gave an appearance of keeping or abiding the Law - more so the Mosiac (Ritual) Law than the Moral Law.

Therefore, it is by the motives of the heart or a person's will that should naturally put forth good works or fruits. This is what James meant in James 2:14 whereby he said:

"What doth it profit, my brethren, if a man say he hath faith, but have not works? can that faith save him?"

Therefore, we are saved through our Faith in Christ. Evangelical Faith is the changing of a persons heart from selfishness to benevolence (love of God and our fellow man). This change (repentance) comes from having a realization through the Gospel and through the Holy Spirit of who Christ is and what he has done through the cross for us. This realization of our sinfulness should bring us to a point of brokeness, as a result of realizing the lovingkindness that Christ display through his public atonement, that will led us to repentance (See 2 Cor 7:10-12).

Therefore, God on Judgement Day will judge all men according to the motives of their heart. There are only two motives a person can truly then have - either selfishness or the love of God.

Side note: Most Calvinist have a concpet that God will not judge a person's heart, but that God will somehow impute the "Righteousness of Christ" onto the "elect" and not truly see a person's sinfulness, but rather see Christ righteousness instead. This is mainly from a beleif in the Retributive Substitution Atonement theory, whereby once a person is saved God no longer see's that person's sins, but rather God see Christ in their place. First, where is this ever mentioned in the bible? It's not. Its nonsense for one, as it insults God's intelligence. God is an all knowing God and to think that he really can no longer see a person's sin is absurd. Trust me when you sin, God will see it! The problem is with this atonement model is that Christ was only able to be righteous for himself and not for millions of other people (ie. "elect"). Remember, Jesus was fully human and received his strength from the Holy Spirit (just as we can once we are saved). Therefore, Jesus could only be righteous for one person and that was himself.

Anonymous said...

Please bare with me, I am trying to understand this. Am I correct in saying, we will be judged based on the fact that through the death of Christ our heart has been changed from selfishness to that of love for God and others. So basically, salvation comes through a changed heart?

Preston N said...

Indeed salvation is coming to such a state of humility that it breaks down our will for self (selfishness) and now the Holy Spirit can begin to “create in us a new Spirit”. When we are “saved” from sin, we are making a decision to no longer live according to the desires of the flesh but to live according to the will of God. God must first bring us to such a state of humility that we see and understand just how prideful we have sadly become from our years of sinfulness. God cannot endow His Spirit into someone who is still prideful in their heart, as God is a jealous God and God would be empowering them to be even more prideful.

This transformation of course happens through conviction, repentance and regeneration. Salvation is essentially the regenerating of ones moral character (heart). This change cannot be accomplished by sheer Divine force, but man must play an active part in this process through repentance. God will not manipulate someone’s will, as this would essentially be God being a tyrant - (besides this brings up a bigger theological discussion of why doesn't God just manipulate everyone so that they could become "saved"??). Granted, man would never repent under his own devices, therefore God has presented himself through his Son Jesus as a means of brining people to a realization (and humiliation) of just how great the love of God truly is and that love is to bring us to such humility that we can begin to see how great our sins really are. This realization can either bring one to repentance or to sadly many reject God and continue to pursue their own selfish desires and wants. This rejection is through a suppressing of ones conscience and ultimately God will hand them over to their own devices. This is when God will turn someone over to a reprobate mind or as the bible call it – that person becomes “darkened”.

Repentance is the process of changing ones heart or will. Jesus preached “Repent! For the Kingdom of God is near!” crying out to all of mankind to turn from selfishness to love God supremely. Repentance is to completely turn from self (sin) to consciously love God on a minute by minute, day by day basis. Repentance is NOT saying you’re sorry. Repentance is to turn away from sin.

Deut 6:4-6 God commands Israel:

4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5 Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts.

By the way – this IS the Gospel! Jesus goes on to say that it is THIS that is greatest of all the commandments. But how?? Through repentance and Faith in Christ! The New Testament is full of references whereby telling us that if we crucify ourselves daily and to “take up our cross and follow Christ” we will be saved. These are all metaphors or analogies of a changed heart. The very expression “Born Again’ is an analogy of being changed from sin (guilt) to innocence. This “birthing process” is a result of coming to a realization of our sins and becoming broken over those sins and repenting from them.

Here are several verses that support this:

John 3:3
1 Jn 1:9
Acts 15:8-9
Tit 3:5
Eph 2:5
Rom 5:5
Ps 138:6
Isa 66:2
Jas 4:6
1 Pet 5:5
1 Pet 1:13-16
2 Cor 7:10-12

I hope this helps in the short space I have written. If you would like to discuss this more please feel free to email me and I would be more than happier to talk with you further about this. If not continue to post and I will do my best to answer your questions.