“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: And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve” (1 Corinthians 15:1-5)
As I have already pointed out, the above verses are perhaps the most concise definition of the gospel found in the Bible. Christ dying for our sins; being buried; then rising again the third day. All of this is according to the scriptures. It is said that 333 Bible prophecies were fulfilled in that one day. These verses do not tell us everything about the gospel, but it gives us this central truth: Christ is the gospel. There is no real gospel without Him. He is the saviour; the redeemer; the Messiah. He is the King of Kings, and Lord of Lords. He is God manifested in human flesh. So, I think we at least partially answered the question; What is the Gospel? The next question is:
WHY IS THE GOSPEL (continued) I have already presented several points regarding this: 1. To call out God’s elect and save them. 2. To confirm sinners in their damnation. 3. To build Christ’s church. 4. Above all, to exalt Christ, and bring glory to the Father. (See Philippians 2:9-11). Actually, we shouldn’t ask why God does anything, because He is the supreme sovereign of the universe, who does as He pleases, always as He pleases, when He pleases, and doesn’t have to answer to anyone. But we mortals do ask, don’t we? I believe God gave us an inquisitive nature, but like everything else about us, it was affected by the fall. Besides those three reasons for the gospel, I have thought of one more important thing which we find in the book of Romans. So this is reason #5; To restore God’s creation, including man.This could not have been done without the saviour paying the price. Just imagine what this will be like; the creation restored to its glorious pre-fall state; i.e.., paradise. Romans 8:21 tells us “Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.” There are probably many more reasons we could find regarding why. There is so much more we could say about why but, I have another point to make.
WHERE IS THE GOSPEL? Some might say that with this question I am simply being arrogant, but I must say for the sake of truth, concerning this present day, likely you find the true gospel in a lot less places than at any time since the Protestant Reformation! I certainly believe this is true. The true gospel; the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ; that gospel that I have tried to define in part one of this article is NOT being preached in the majority of churches in this nation, and likely not in other nations. Most churches have a pseudo-gospel that is in the best cases a half gospel. If you have any discernment at all, check the majority of religious TV, and you see a glaring, and even disgusting, deficiency, which presents somewhat of a picture of where we are. Unfortunately, most professing Christians are playing church today. In order to compete with all the entertainment, and activities of the world, so many have compromised the gospel. It is a shame! I am not afraid to say so! If Charles Haddon Spurgeon could come back today, and he decided to attend the average evangelical, or fundamentalist church, I think he would be appalled. He would probably want to throw up! He is regarded by many as the greatest evangelical pastor ever. He is called the Prince of Preachers. He was a good one, because he preached the Bible clearly! Likely Mr. Spurgeon, George Whitefield, or Jonathan Edwards, and some other godly men of old, would recognize a false gospel taught today in the average church.
There are actually a number of false gospels. I am not talking about in the cults, which are totally alien from true Christianity, but even in the churches that claim to be orthodox; evangelical; fundamentalist; historic, Baptist, Presbyterian, Methodist or whatever other descriptive label you can think of. Please don’t get me wrong! There are still a number of good, sound churches, which have ministers that proclaim the true gospel, but I am afraid they are the minority. You see, most of today’s churches do not present mankind as totally depraved and helpless. To classify men and women as sinners is just not popular. But they are sinners in need of a saviour. One example of today’s false gospel is the “seeker sensitive” idea that says the gospel message must be adjusted to fit the situation. Their theory is that in order to compete with this mad, entertainment oriented, and sports oriented culture, that some of these elements must be worked into the message and worship. Some churches are more deeply involved in this attitude than others, but the point is that they have compromised the truth to gain a larger audience. This element of competition with the world was already there when I was first converted. It has always been here. It is just far more extreme now. Back in that day churches had to compete with the popular movies of the day which, of course, are shown on Sunday, as well as other days.
Then there was television. Leading the way on Sunday nights was the CBS program Toast of the Town led by popular, and very bland, emcee Ed Sullivan. His show was “a really big shew”, as he often said. It was a “show biz” variety show with circus acts, singers, skits, well known guests which ran on CBS for almost 24 years. Perhaps the biggest boost to Sullivan’s show was when he featured a very young Elvis Presley in his biggest TV appearance up to that time. He had already “broken loose” on the Dorsey Brothers Show, Milton Berle Show, and Steve Allen Show, and signed for three appearances on Sullivan’s show. The first show attracted a record 60 million viewers when it aired on Sunday night September 9, 1956. The Elvis appearance set the pattern for Sullivan to air the popular rock and roll artists of the day. Then in February 1964, The Beatles made their first of three consecutive weeks of appearance on the show. That show drew an audience of 73 million, setting another new record. Because the show was on Sunday nights at 8 P.M. (EST), it actually began to affect church attendances, and this was even lamented by many preachers of the day. Church attendance had already fallen off from the early 50’s, but now a very successful weapon against the churches had been launched. I am not saying that everything on Sullivan was evil. Actually by today’s standards, it was pretty mild. In the 50’s I used to watch it with my dad. Needless to say, he didn’t attend church in those days, nor did I. But now many former Sunday night church attenders quit going. It is not that television caused all of this, but it definitely was a factor. In our day, television, movie theatres, sports events, amusement parks, and many other things compete with the churches. Sadly, as I have already pointed out, wayward churches are competing with the true churches; hence false gospels are competing with the true gospel of Jesus Christ. As one good preacher of our age has said “The greatest crime of this generation of Christians is its neglect of the Gospel. From this neglect, all our other maladies spring forth.” (5)
Today there are many compromises of the gospel, such as the Emergent Church, Seeker Sensitive Churches; preachers trying change the gospel message, such as the pastor, Rob Bell of Mars Hill Bible Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan. His views expressed in his recent book indicate that everyone will eventually be saved. The book is titled Love Wins. Then there is Rick Warren and his efforts to organize and bring together all world religions, while becoming the world’s most famous preacher, called by some “The new Billy Graham”. I could say more about others such as Mark Driscoll of another Mars Hill church in Seattle. Mr. Driscoll claims to be reformed, yet received quite a rebuke from fellow reformed pastors for using graphic, vulgar, descriptive words in a teaching series he was conducting on marriage and sexual relations.
Rather than pour out more disgusting accounts of preacher’s failures, I want to get back to the main focus. All most people will say anyway is “Who is this guy Charles Woodruff to criticize me? He is just a little fish in a big pond.” I do want to point out that even many of the churches that claim to be doing so well are often “faking it”. It is nothing new in churches to jack up the numbers to appear more successful than they really are. In my early days among fundamentalists, it was said of a number of pastors when boasting about their attendance that they were “speaking evangelistically”. In other words some were lying! Listen to this report from a much bigger fish; a rather well known preacher among the Southern Baptists: “Out of the Southern Baptist's 16,287,494 members, only 6,024,289, or 37%, on average, show up for their church's primary worship meeting (usually Sunday morning). This is according to the Strategic Information and Planning department of the Sunday School Board (2004 statistics). If your church is anything like normal, and is not brand new, your statistics are probably similar. In other words, if you have 200 in attendance on Sunday morning, you likely have 500-600 or even more on your roll. Many churches have an even worse record.”(6) Mr. Elliff has advocated that these churches purge their rolls of non-attending members, as some are doing.
Let’s see if we can find an answer to my question; Where is the Gospel? It must be somewhere. It isn’t being preached in the average church. The average TV and radio preacher isn’t preaching it. It isn’t in the newspapers and magazines of our day. Pick up the average Christian book found in the stores. You will not find much gospel there. There are exceptions, but fewer stores; even expressly Christian stores are stocking good, sound, Bible exposition books. Do you know what their major sellers are? Novels! Trinkets! Jewelry! DVDs! CDs! I used to work in a Christian book store many years ago. I know what we sold. Then most of our stock was Bibles and gospel centered literature. Commentaries, Christian biographies, doctrinal books, books designed to help in the Christian walk; stuff with some meat in them. I asked a bookstore owner why you can’t get that in most walk in stores today. He told me simply “It just doesn’t sell.” So you have to order them online, or by catalog, for the most part, if you need good gospel books.
“It doesn’t sell!” That rings a bell with me. Some ministers no longer preach the true gospel because it is a poor item to market. It doesn’t sell! Of course the gospel is not to be bought and sold! Yet some churches and preachers treat it so. We have talked about TV and radio ministries. So many are using their programs largely to hawk merchandise. I am not talking about a minister announcing a book he has written that is now available, or some low key mention, calling attention to items that may actually help people. I am talking about elaborate marketing schemes all for the purpose of gaining filthy lucre! I am speaking of the shame of making the church primarily a business! The churches themselves have largely become market places. Such things ought not to be, brethren! Remember, Jesus Himself took up a whip and ran out the money changers from the temple! “And the Jews' passover was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem, And found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting: And when he had made a scourge of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers' money, and overthrew the tables; And said unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence; make not my Father's house an house of merchandise.” (John 2:13-16)
This is certainly one of the main reasons for the current famine for the bread of God today as Amos’ prophecy stated “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord GOD, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD: And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the LORD, and shall not find it” (Amos 8:11,12).
How do we get it back? Suppose you are a new Christian and need a place that preaches the pure word of God? How do you find it? Suppose you are lost and are sensing a desire to be saved? Could you walk into a Primitive Methodist chapel as Charles Spurgeon did on January 6, 1850? God spoke to him through an earnest, yet simple preacher who just desired to see folks saved. Is such a one around today? Has anyone ever told you that you are a sinner in need of Jesus Christ?
One of the greatest things about the glorious gospel is that it is from God, and it isn’t going away. His purpose will prevail! Thankfully there are still some “havens of rest”. They are not all gone. You must be willing to search for them. You must seek God earnestly about what port you should dock your ship in. Some places you go will make you worse off than you are. Just recommending a denomination is not good enough. I attend a good Baptist church, but I could not in good conscience recommend certain Baptist churches. Ours is an exceptional blessing where we have true Bible preaching. They are not all that way! The Baptists are today a “mixed bag”. The same goes for all other denominations or independent churches as well. Care must be taken. I am not saying you have to wait for a perfect church, just a scriptural one that is on the right track. There, you may be able to even help them as much as they help you.
If you need a good church to attend, I may be able to help you. I have a number of contacts in various places, and I may be able to steer you in a good direction. If you are in a church that is not wholly dedicated to preaching “Jesus Christ and Him crucified”, and there is no sign of change-get out! If they won’t get right, you need to get out. It is absolutely essential today to be in a Bible preaching assembly. The old slogan “go to the church of your choice” doesn’t apply today, if it ever did. If you are saved, you need to pray about it, and go to the church of His choice. A church doesn’t need a whole bunch of other stuff, but it needs Christ!
(5) From an internet sermon by Paul Washer, Heart Cry Missionary Society, Christiansburg, VA.
6) Read the entire article by Jim Elliff at Founders http://www.founders.org/library/elliff1.html
Published by Charles Woodruff- email: firstname.lastname@example.org