Not long after the Day of Pentecost the Gospel began to be perverted: by Judaists and Gnostics wanting to add things, and by other heresies wanting to delete some teachings.
When Peter preached on that day his message was “Repent and be baptised, every one of you, in the Name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.” [Acts 2:38].
Has that message changed? Of course not.
But as I look at today’s Church I find it hard to detect that message.
Today we have a variety of gospels to choose from: “Word-Faith” which emphasises material blessings, Dominionism which stresses that we must bring about God’s Kingdom ourselves before Jesus can return, or “Seeker-Sensitivism” where the real Gospel is muted so as not to offend anyone’s sensibilities.
There is also much confusion between understandings of “Once Saved Always Saved” and “Eternal Security”.
Basically the devil is having a field day – why? I think it is because we Christians don’t know the Scriptures as we should, and have lost the ability to DISCERN the teachings we are being fed.
A young friend recently told my wife: “If you want a new car, ask God for a Mercedes because He will provide the best for His children”.
What a lame and sorry understanding of God’s care for His children is that!
Where did she get that idea of God’s provision? Probably from a book or televangelist, or she may even have picked it up from some sermon in her own Church.
It’s a sad indictment on not just herself, but on the one who gave it to her.
If she had only read of the trials of Jesus and His apostles on earth, or knew the first thing about Church history, she would not have fallen for this tripe.
Jesus was “acquainted with sorrows and grief” and had “nowhere to lay his head”.
Paul was afflicted with a condition which God had allowed to keep him humble.
All the Apostles were persecuted, and most of them died a violent death.
How can “Word-Faith” be swallowed by Christians today? I believe it’s because they don’t know the Scriptures.
It has arisen in part, because we like having our ears “tickled”, and in part because unreliable Bible teachers are teaching that the promises God has made to His children apply in this sinful world, rather than in His glorious Kingdom of the future.
Dominionism and the Social Gospel
Dominionism or “Kingdom Now” theology teaches that the mission of the Church is to take dominion over the world’s political and business structures now, before Christ is able to return.
This means believers can be called “post-millennial” since they don’t believe Jesus will return until AFTER the millennium.
From about the 4th century dominionist thinking gained a foothold in the Church.
The early Church was most definitely non-dominionist and pre-millennial, and they got that teaching from Paul in the Book of Romans as well as in the plain understanding of the Book of Revelation, where Christ defeats all His enemies and sets up a Kingdom afterwards.
The “Kingdom Now” theology has spread quickly through many denominations of all colours.
It is a big problem in today’s Church because it re-interprets the Great Commission, it devalues the importance of being ready for Christ’s return and it undermines the preaching of Bible prophecy.
I don’t want Christians to be “asleep” when He returns. [1 Thess 3:13]
No-one in so-called evangelical Christianity today would think of giving credence to a belief in salvation by works.
But some have been confused by teachings of “Once Saved Always Saved” and others have been led astray by “Eternal Security.”
Much of the trouble lies in the definitions of each and by trying to explain God’s wisdom in a single motto.
Jesus taught that if a person is truly saved they will continue to the end. But if one is not truly saved according to God’s conditions he/she will fall away. [Matt 13].
Paul tells us to “examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith.” [2 Cor 13:5]
This does notmean we can never be certain of our salvation but that a continued reliance on
the mercy and grace of God is necessary at all times along our Christian walk. Our faith is in Him, not in our own ability to be good enough.
There is so much more to this question, but beware of anyone who teaches we must be holy in our own strength; also avoid those who teach it doesn’t matter how we live because we are still saved. Both of these extremes are not Biblical.
What is the True Gospel?
A good summary is found in 1 Cor 15:4. Paul writes: “Christ died for our sins … that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.”
There are 4 essential things here.
1. Christ died for our sins. We must admit our guilt since “the wages of sin is death”. [Rom 6:23]
2. As both God and man, Christ’s work is indispensable. Only an infinite substitute who did not sin as a man was good enough to die on our behalf.
3. The resurrection is proof of God’s power. Our salvation is not dependent on empty promises, but an empty grave.
4. Salvation is a free gift, only obtainable through faith as taught to us by the Holy Spirit through the Scriptures.