A STUDY OF THE VARIOUS GOSPELS MENTIONED IN THE NEW TESTAMENT
There are many gospels mentioned in the New Testament. For example, there is the “gospel of God”, the “gospel of Christ” and “the gospel of Jesus Christ”. Are they all exactly the same? If they are why did the Holy Spirit name them differently? Is there anything we can learn by determining what, if any difference there is in these gospels? I believe that every word in the Bible is exactly the word that the Holy Spirit chose to express a particular thought. I believe that as we study these various terms we will see the nuances in these various gospels from which we may be greatly blessed.
The following gospels are named in the New Testament:
The gospel of the kingdom
The gospel of the kingdom of God
The gospel of the grace of God
The gospel of God
The gospel of Christ
The gospel of Jesus Christ
The gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ
The gospel of His Son
The gospel of your salvation
The gospel of the blessed God
The gospel of peace
The gospel of the circumcision and the gospel of the uncircumcision
The everlasting gospel
THE GOSPEL OF THE KINGDOM
There are three occurrences of the phrase “gospel of the kingdom”.
Matt. 4:23, “And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom and healing all manner of disease among the people”.
9:35, “And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the People”.
24:14, “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come”.
What can we learn about the gospel of the kingdom? Let us begin with the word “of”. The note in the Companion Bible suggests that it is the Genitive of Relation. The definition of the Genitive of Relation is given in the Ap. 17.5 and reads, “…..frequently the ‘of’ is equivalent to ‘pertaining to‘”. In other words, the gospel of the kingdom is the good news “pertaining to” the kingdom.
I believe that the context of Matt. 24:14 gives us our best clue as to what the good news pertaining to the kingdom is. The previous verses speak of the tribulation and in verse 13 we read, “But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved”. The kingdom is, of course, the millennial reign of Christ. Given that it will be preached during the tribulation we may, in my opinion, conclude that the gospel pertaining to the kingdom is that the kingdom is near at hand. The context of the first occurrence of the term supports that suggestion in that we read in Matt. 4:17, “From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, ‘Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand‘”.
PASSAGES WHERE THE TERM “THE GOSPEL” REFERS TO THE GOSPEL OF THE KINGDOM
Matt. 11:5, “The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them”. Note all the illnesses that were healed. We read in Matt. 9:35 quoted above, “And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the People”. Because the gospel of the kingdom was associated with healing, I believe that “the gospel” in the Matt. 11:5 is the gospel of the kingdom, i.e. that the kingdom is at hand.
Mark 13:10, “And the gospel must first be published among all nations”. This verse comes in the context of Christ’s warning to His disciples about their persecution during the tribulation. Matt. 24:14 also speaks of the gospel of the kingdom being preached to all nations. And that passage also speaks of the gospel of the kingdom being preached until the end shall come. Therefore, I believe that “the gospel” of Mark 13:10 is the gospel of the kingdom.
Luke 4:18, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He hath anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He hath sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight of the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised”. The gospel of the kingdom is so closely connected to healing that the fact that this verse speaks of healing leads me to believe that it is the gospel of the kingdom that is referred to here as “the gospel”, i.e the good news that the kingdom is at hand.
Luke 7:22, “Then Jesus answering said unto them ‘Go your way, and tell John what things ye have seen and heard; how that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, to the poor the gospel is preached”. Again, because the gospel of the kingdom (the kingdom is at hand) is so often connected to healing, I believe that “the gospel” of this verse is the gospel of the kingdom.
Luke 9:6, “And they departed, and went through the towns, preaching the gospel, and healing everywhere”. The gospel they preached was the gospel of the kingdom. How do we know that? We read in verse, “And He sent them to preach the kingdom of God, and to heal the sick”.
Luke 20:1, “And it came to pass, that on one of those days, as He taught the people in the temple, and preached the gospel, the chief priests and the scribes came upon Him with the elders”. The immediate context does not answer the question as to which gospel is referred to here. While it is true that Christ preached many truths, we are not told that Christ preached any gospel but the gospel of the kingdom. I believe therefore, that is the gospel He preached here, i.e. the gospel of the kingdom.
THE GOSPEL OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD
The only occurrence of the term “gospel of the kingdom of God” is found in Mark 1:14 where we read, “Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came unto Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God“. The next verse, i.e. verse 15 connects the gospel of the kingdom of God with Matthew’s term “the gospel of the kingdom”. That verse reads, ‘…..The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel”.
As we compare this passage in Mark (“the kingdom of God is at hand”) with the verse quoted above from Matt. 4:17 (“the kingdom of heaven is at hand”) we see that the message is the same except that Matthew uses the term “kingdom of Heaven” and Mark uses the term “kingdom of God”. (For an explanation of the different terms and why they are used please see the paper on this web-site A Study Of The Kingdoms Of The New Testament.)
As the above mentioned paper will prove, the term “kingdom of God” is used sometimes synonymously for the kingdom of Heaven (Christ’s millennial reign of Israel) and sometimes for God’s reign over believers as human beings apart from their being Jew or Gentile. Now the question is: to what does the gospel of the kingdom of God refer? The passage in Mark tells of the same event as does the passage in Matthew which speaks of the “the gospel of the kingdom” and refers to the kingdom of Heaven. We must conclude that the good news of the gospel of the kingdom of God is the same good news as the gospel of the kingdom, i.e. it is at hand.
But one might ask, if they are the exact same thing, why did the Holy Spirit use different terms? Matthew’s Gospel presented Christ as the King of Israel, so Matthew’s Gospel had to do more with Israel and Her place in the millennial reign than with individual believers apart from their dispensational standing as Jew or Gentile. Mark, on the other hand presented Christ as the Servant. Christ was the Servant sent by God to all men, not just to Israel. The term “kingdom of God” is sometimes used of God’s reign over individual believers., while the term “kingdom of Heaven” is never so used. I believe then that Mark refers to the same good news concerning the same kingdom as “the gospel of the kingdom of God” to definitively define it as pertaining to all men, not just to Israel.
THE GOSPEL OF THE GRACE OF GOD
Many in the mid-Acts community believe that the present dispensation began when Paul began to preach salvation by grace. One of the reasons for this belief is the similarity in the phrases “gospel of the grace of God” and “the dispensation of the grace of God”. But when the immediate context defines a gospel, it is, in my opinion, the context, not the fact that it is similar wording, that should define it.
The term is found only once, i.e. in Acts 20:24. I will quote verses 24-25, “But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus to testify the gospel of the grace of God. And now, behold, I know that ye all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, shall see my face no more”.
What is the point of this passage? For the answer to that question let us consider the context. We read in Acts 20:17 that Paul, when arriving in Ephesus, called the elders of the church to himself. In verse 18 Paul recounts for them the difficulties of his ministry. He then goes on to tell them that he knows he will be in chains when he gets to Jerusalem. And the point of this discourse is given in verse 28 (note the “therefore”), “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God….”.
The first thing that we must note is the fact that there is nothing in the context about salvation or the gospel of salvation. Even the phrase “feed the church of God” tells us that Paul’s concern is for those who are already saved, i.e. already in the church of God. But let us continue.
Let us for the sake of clarity concentrate on a few key phrases. ” I might finish my course …….. to testify the gospel of the grace of God. ……And I have gone preaching the kingdom of God……”.
Paul speaks of what he will preach as he finishes his course, i.e. the gospel of the grace of God. Then he goes on to say what he had been preaching, i.e. the kingdom of God. Will Paul finish his course by preaching something different than he had been preaching? Of course not. The whole point of this passage is that he has been faithful in preaching that which God had given him and that they should continue to do the same. In other words, Paul will finish his course preaching the same message he had been preaching. He had been preaching the kingdom of God and will finish his course by preaching the gospel of the grace of God. In other words, the gospel of the grace of God is the good news concerning the kingdom of God.
Let us consider a few verses that tell of how God’s grace is exhibited in the kingdom of God.
Romans 14:17, “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit”.
I Cor. 6:9-10, “….the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God….nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God”.
I Cor. 15:50, “…..flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God”.
THE GOSPEL OF GOD
We read of the “gospel of God” in the following verses: Rom. 1:1, 15:16, II Cor.11:7, I Thess. 2:2, 8, 9 and I Peter 4:17.
The first occurrence plus the immediate context tells us what the gospel of God is. Rom. 1:1-4, “Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God, (which He had promised afore by His prophets in the holy scriptures,) concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, Which was made of the seed of David, according to the flesh, and declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead”.
The gospel of God then is the good news that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, from the seed of David, Whose power was shown by His resurrection.
Let us continue in our study of the phrase “gospel of God” by looking at the other occurrences of the term.
Rom. 15:16, “That I should be the minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering the gospel of God, that the offering up of the Gentiles might be acceptable being sanctified by the Holy Ghost”.
II Cor. 11:7, “Have I committed an offence in abasing myself that ye might be exalted, because I have preached to you the gospel of God freely?”
I Thess. 2:2, “But even after that we had suffered before, and were shamefully entreated, as ye know, at Philippi, we were bold in our God to speak unto you the gospel of God with much contention”.
I Thess. 2:8-9, “So being affectionately desirous of you, we were willing to have imparted unto you, not the gospel of God only but also our own souls, because ye were dear unto us. For ye remember, brethren, our labour and travail: for labouring night and day, because we would not be chargeable unto any of you, we preached unto you the gospel of God“.
I Peter 4:17, “For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?”
PASSAGE IN WHICH THE TERM “THE GOSPEL” IS USED FOR THE GOSPEL OF GOD
I Thess. 2:4, “But as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God, Which trieth our hearts”. Here Paul writes of being allowed by God to preach the gospel. And in verse 2 we had read, “……we were bold in our God to speak unto you the gospel of God.…”. If we determine from the context which gospel Paul meant by “the gospel” in verse 4, I believe we may conclude that it was the “gospel of God” to which it refers.
THE GOSPEL OF CHRIST
We read in Rom. 1:16, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek”. We learn from this verse that it is the gospel of Christ, and only the gospel of Christ, that is the gospel of salvation. That is to say, every one who believes the gospel of Christ will be saved unto resurrection life. This makes the gospel of Christ then, a very important gospel, so we will take some time to ascertain from Scripture what it is exactly that must be believed in order for one to be saved. Once we have determined that, we will know what the gospel of Christ is.
To begin, it is interesting to note that only Paul used the term “the gospel of Christ”. That is not to say that Paul was the only apostle to preach the message of salvation because he was not. But it is to say that Paul was the only one to use the phrase “the gospel of Christ”. That being the case, I believe that it might be helpful to consider Paul’s conversion experience. We read of Paul’s own account of his salvation in Acts 26:13-15. “At midday, O king, I saw in the way a light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun, shining round about me and them which journeyed with me. And when we were all fallen to the earth, I heard a voice speaking unto me, and saying in the Hebrew tongue, ‘Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me; it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks’. And I said, ‘Who art Thou, Lord;’ And He said I am Jesus Whom thou persecutest”. The remainder of this passage records Christ’s instructions to Paul and is not really part of the salvation message.
What exactly was the message Paul heard from our Lord that turned him from a persecutor of believers to a believer himself? It was “I am Jesus Whom thou persecutest”. That was the message in its entirety that led Saul to salvation. And that is exactly what the gospel of John 3:16 is, “whosoever believeth on Him (Who He is) shall …..have everlasting life”.
I believe that it would also be very helpful in determining what exactly one must believe in order to be saved if we consider Paul’s first message after his conversion. The very first time Paul preached after his conversion he preached that Christ is the Son of God. Acts 9:20 reads, “And straightway he preached Christ in the Synagogues, that He is the Son of God”.
And bearing in mind that the gospel of Christ is the “power of God unto salvation”, let us consider Acts 16:30-31. We read in that passage that when the jailer asked what he must do to be saved Paul’s response was “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved…”. What was it about Christ that the jailer needed to believe? Given that Paul’s first message after his conversion was that Christ is the Son of God, I believe we may conclude that the jailer too needed to believe that Christ is the Son of God.
Why is the truth that Christ is the Son of God the good news that believing it is “the power of God unto salvation”? I believe the answer to that question lies in the fact that if Christ were a man only, and not God, He would not be perfect and therefore would have needed to die for His own sins, which of course were nonexistent. But as the Son of God, i.e. God manifest in the flesh, He was sinless and could, and did, die for the sins of man.
As mentioned above, Paul was the only one to use the term “gospel of Christ”, but John also records the message that must be believed in order to be saved. Let us continue in this this study with the following verses:
Jn. 1:12, “But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name”. What does it mean to “believe on His name“? “Name” is used as the figure of speech Metonymy of the Adjunct. That figure of speech is defined in the Companion Bible as, “When something pertaining to the subject is put for the subject itself”. In this case then, “name” is put for the Person, Jesus Christ.
3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life”.
3:18, “He that believeth on Him is not condemned; but he that believeth not is condemned already”.
6:40, “And this is the will of Him That sent Me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on Him, may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day”.
6:47, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on Me hath everlasting life”.
11:25, “Jesus said unto her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life; he that believeth in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live”.
20:30-31, “And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing ye might have life through His name“.
I John 4:15, “Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God”.
Let us continue in our study of the gospel of Christ by a consideration of all the occurrences of the term “gospel of Christ”.
We considered Rom. 15:16 in the section above having to do with the gospel of God, “That I should be the minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering the gospel of God“. We read in Rom. 15:19, “So that from Jerusalem, and round about unto Illyricum, I have fully preached the gospel of Christ“. The terms “gospel of God” and “gospel of Christ” seem to be used interchangeably in this context. But the gospel of God includes the fact that Christ was of the seed of David and that Christ’s power was shown in His resurrection. It is crucial to note that even though the gospel of God includes Christ’s resurrection from the dead, the gospel of God is never said to be the gospel “unto salvation”. We must not add to the Word of God something that is not substantiated. That is to say, because the gospel of God is not the gospel “unto salvation”, and yet it does include the resurrection of Christ, there is no Scriptural evidence to conclude that Christ’s resurrection is something, as true as it is, must be believed in order to be saved. (Please see the paper on this web-site Is There More Than One Gospel Of Salvation? for the Scriptural proof that the only thing that must be believed in order to be saved is that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.)
Let us continue in our study of “the gospel of Christ”.
Rom. 15:29, “And I am sure that, when I come unto you, I shall come in the fulness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ”.
I Cor. 9:11-12, “If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things? If others be partakers of this power over you, are not we rather? Nevertheless we have not used this power; but suffer all things, lest we should hinder the gospel of Christ“.
I Cor. 9:17-18, “For if I do this thing (preach the gospel, vs. 16) willingly, I have a reward: but if against my will, a dispensation of the gospel is committed unto me. what is my reward then? Verily that when I preach the gospel I may make the gospel of Christ without charge, that I abuse not my power in the gospel”.
II Cor. 4:4-5, “In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, Who is the image of God, should shine unto them. For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord……”. Note the phrase, “Who is the image of God”. Only the Son of God is the “image of God”. This phrase is perfectly consistent with the explanation of what the gospel of Christ is as given above.
II Cor. 9:11-13, “Being enriched in every thing to all bountifulness, which causeth through us thanksgiving to God. For the administration of this service not only supplieth the want of the saints, but is abundant also by many thanksgivings unto God; whiles by the experiment of this ministration they glorify God for your professed subjection unto the gospel of Christ, and for your liberal distribution unto them, and unto all men”.
II Cor. 10:14, “…..for we are come as far as to you also in preaching the gospel of Christ”.
Gal. 1:7, “….there be some that trouble you and pervert the gospel of Christ“.
Phil. 1:27, “Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ……”.
I Thess. 3:2-3, “And sent Timotheus, our brother, and minister of God, and our fellowlabourer in the gospel of Christ, to establish you, and to comfort you concerning your faith: that no man should be moved by these afflictions…..”.
We read in Rom. 1:16 that the gospel of Christ is what one must believe in order to be saved. We have considered ten passages that tell us that in order to be saved one must believe in Christ, i.e. that He is the Son of God. Logic demands then, that the gospel of Christ, i.e. the gospel that must be believed in order to be saved, is that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. And just as the gospel of God was the good news of the universal truths that concerned Christ, so too is the gospel of Christ universal truth.
PASSAGES WHERE THE TERM “THE GOSPEL” IS USED FOR THE GOSPEL OF CHRIST
Acts 14:7, “And there they preached the gospel”. As we consider the context we see that in Acts 13:46 Paul had said “lo we turn to the Gentiles”. And in verse 48 of that chapter we read, “and when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life, believed”. Obviously, Paul had been preaching the message of salvation, i.e. the gospel of Christ. I believe that is what he preached in Acts 14:7.
Acts 14:21, “And when they had preached the gospel to that city, and had taught many, they returned again to Lystra, and to Iconium, and Antioch”. See note on Acts 14:7 above.
Acts 16:9-10, “And a vision appeared to Paul in the night; There stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed him saying, ‘Come over into Madeconia, and help us’. And after he had seen the vision, immediately we endeavoured to go into Macedonia, assuredly gathering that the Lord had called us to preach the gospel unto them”. I believe we must conclude that Paul preached in Macedonia the message he preached in Acts 14, i.e. the gospel of Christ.
Rom. 1:15-16, “So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also. For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek”. Paul wrote in verse 15 that he was ready to preach “the gospel”, and in verse 16 wrote “for” he was not ashamed of the gospel of Christ. In this context the word “for” connects the term “the gospel” to the term “the gospel of Christ”.
Romans 11:28, “As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the Father’s sake“. Who are “they” which are enemies? I believe that the enemies are unbelievers of Israel. Why are they enemies? Because the millennial reign of Christ would not be established until Israel accepted their risen Messiah (see Acts 3:19-21). As long as Israel was blind in part, the millennial reign would be delayed. But why does Paul say that they were enemies “for your sakes“, i.e. for the sake of the Gentiles? I believe the answer lies in the fact that the Gentile “branches” were grafted into the good olive tree to, in a sense, replace those branches that had been cut off because of unbelief.
What then is the gospel which was believed that made the elect “beloved for the Father’s sake”? Given that those who accepted the gospel were “beloved for the Father’s sake”, I believe that it was the gospel unto salvation, i.e. the gospel of Christ, as it was the acceptance of that gospel that makes believers children of the Father.
Romans 15:20, “Yea, so have I strived to preach the gospel, not where Christ was named, lest I should build upon another man’s foundation”. The preceding verse tells us that the gospel Paul preached was the gospel of Christ. Verse 19 reads, “……so that from Jerusalem, and round about unto Lllyricum, I have fully preached the gospel of Christ”. Again, we must take the meaning of “the gospel” from the context, and the context tells us that it is the gospel of Christ that is referred to in verse 20.
I Cor. 1:17, “For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect”. What was the message that Paul was sent to preach? We read in Acts 9:20 of Paul’s message when he first began to preach after his conversion. “And straightaway he (Paul) preached Christ in the synagogues, that He is the Son of God”. That is the gospel of Christ. We must conclude that Christ sent Paul to preach the gospel of Christ, i.e. that Christ is the Son of God, God manifest.
I Cor. 4:15, “for as though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel“. Paul is saying here that because he had brought them to Christ he is their “father”. The gospel that had brought them to Christ is the gospel of Christ, i.e. Christ is the Son of God.
I Cor. 9:14, “Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel”. We read in the near context, i.e. verse 12, “…..Nevertheless we have not used this power; but suffer all things lest we should hinder the gospel of Christ“. The gospel that Paul preached and that is mentioned in the context is the gospel of Christ.
I Cor. 9:16, “for though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me, yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel”. Please see note above on I Cor. 9:14.
I Cor. 9:17-18, “For if I do this thing willingly, I have a reward: but if against my will, a dispensation of the gospel is committed unto me. what is my reward then? Verily that, when I preach the gospel, I may make the gospel of Christ without charge, that I abuse not my power in the gospel“. Given that Paul uses the terms “the gospel” and “the gospel of Christ” in the same thought, we must conclude that in this context “the gospel” is the gospel of Christ, i.e.Christ is the Son of God, God manifest.
I Cor. 15:1-2, “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”. What was the gospel Paul had preached unto them? He wrote of the gospel “by which also ye are saved”. As we learned in the section on the gospel of Christ, it is that gospel that must be believed in order to be saved. We must conclude therefore, that the gospel Paul preached to the Corinthians was the gospel of Christ, i.e. that Christ is the Son of God, God manifest.
II Cor. 10:16, “To preach the gospel in the regions beyond you, and not to boast in another man’s line of things made ready to our hand”. We read in the immediate context, vs. 14, “For we stretch not ourselves beyond our measure, as though we reached not unto you: for we are come as far as to you also in preaching the gospel of Christ”. Logic therefore would demand that it is once again the gospel of Christ that Paul had in mind in verse 16.
Gal. 1:11, “But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man”. Paul goes on to say in the next verse, “For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ”. Given that the gospel that Paul received “by revelation” from Jesus Christ was “I am Jesus…..”, I believe that it is the gospel of Christ to which he is referring here.
Gal. 2:5, “To whom we gave place by subjection, no, not for an hour: that the truth of the gospel might continue with you”. Galatians is an epistle that was written to explain that circumcision was not required of Gentile believers in order to be saved. Paul’s message was that in order to be saved one must believe that Christ is the Son of God. His message certainly did not include the requirement of circumcision. I believe therefore, that here too, the gospel of Christ is intended.
Phil. 1:4-7, “….making request with joy, for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now; being confident of this very thing; that He Which hath began a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ: even as it is meet for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart, inasmuch as both in my bonds, and in the defence and confirmation of the gospel, ye all are partakers of my grace”. Paul speaks of the good work “from the first day”. “The first day” in my opinion, refers to the time they were saved. I believe, therefore, that the gospel referred to in this passage is the gospel of Christ, i.e. the gospel of salvation.
Phil. 1:12 and 17, “But I would ye should understand brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel“. I believe the context will tell us that the gospel of verses 12 and 17 is the gospel of Christ. We read in verses 15-17, “Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife; and some also of good will: The one preach Christ of contention, ….but the other of love knowing that I am set for the defence of the gospel. What then? not withstanding, every way, whether in pretense, or in truth,Christ is preached“. In other words, some had their own reasons for preaching, but Paul was not overly critical because either way, “Christ is preached”. In my opinion, the phrase “Christ is preached” refers to Who Christ is, i.e. the gospel of Christ “unto salvation”.
Phil. 2:22, “But ye know the proof of him (Timotheus). that, as a son with the father, he hath served with me in the gospel”. Given that Paul speaks of “the gospel” seven times in this epistle, I believe that we may conclude that all seven refer to the same gospel. The reference to “the gospel” is best understood from the occurrence in Phil. 1:12 and 17. Please see the remarks on that passage above.
Phil. 4:3, “And I entreat thee also, true yokefellow, help those women which laboured with me in the gospel, …..and with other of my fellowlabourers, whose names are in the book of life”. Please see the remarks above Phil. 2:22.
Phil 4:15, “Now ye Philippians know also, that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church communicated with me concerning giving and receiving, but ye only”. Please see the remarks above on Phil. 2:22.
Col. 1:5, “For the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, whereof ye heard before in the word of truth of the gospel”. We learn in the next verse that this gospel brought forth fruit. Given that “fruit” is sometimes used of believers in Christ, I believe we may conclude that the gospel of this verse is the gospel of Christ, the gospel unto salvation.
Col. 1:22-23, “……to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in His sight, if ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel which ye have heard….”. The only way one may be presented ” unblameable and unreproveable in His sight” is if he were saved. Given that the gospel of Christ is unto salvation, I believe we may conclude that this passage speaks of the gospel of Christ.
I Tim. 1:8, “Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God; Who hath saved us….”. Given that Paul speaks of “the gospel” and then goes on to write of God “Who hath saved us” I believe we might conclude that in this verse “the gospel” refers to the gospel of Christ “which is unto salvation”.
I Tim. 1:10, “But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, Who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel“. The gospel that brought immortality is the gospel unto salvation, i.e. the gospel of Christ.
THE GOSPEL OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST
II Thess. 1:8. “In the flaming fire, taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ”. The context has to do with the second coming of Christ in “flaming fire” and the vengeance upon those who “know not God”. Therefore, I believe that the “gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ” is that Christ is God. The difference between “the gospel of Christ” and “the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ” is that unlike the gospel of Christ which is “unto salvation”, this context has to do with vengeance that will come upon those that do not know Him. It could be that the additional words,”our Lord Jesus” is a reminder of Christ’s authority to judge and to take vengeance.
THE GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRIST
There is only one occurrence of the term “the gospel of Jesus Christ”, and it is found in Mark 1:1, “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God”.
In my opinion, the reason Mark wrote “the gospel of Jesus Christ”, rather than “the gospel of Christ” is because “Jesus” is used mostly of Christ in His earthly ministry (i.e. His humiliation) and Mark wrote of Christ’s ministry, not as Son of God, i.e. God manifest in the flesh, but as Servant. So in keeping with the fact that Mark presented Christ as the Servant, he used the name “Jesus” But at the same time, he makes it quite clear in this verse that even though Christ was the Servant, He was also the Son of God.
THE GOSPEL OF HIS SON
There is only one mention of “the gospel of His Son” and it is found in Rom. 1:9 which reads, “For God is my witness, Whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of His Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers”. I believe the NASB is a bit more clear as to the meaning of this verse. “For God, Whom I serve in my spirit in the preaching of the gospel of his Son, is my witness as to how unceasingly I make mention of you always in my prayers…..’.
The subject is Paul’s prayer to God Whom he serves. Paul serves God by preaching the gospel of His Son. His Son is, of course, Christ. We might conclude therefore that the “gospel of His Son” is the gospel of Christ. In my opinion, the reason a different term is used is because this context has to do with Paul’s prayer to God Whom he serves by preaching the gospel of Christ, His Son. We are reminded by this term once again, that Christ is the Son of God.
THE GOSPEL OF YOUR SALVATION
Eph. 1:13, “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”. What is the “word of truth” that is the gospel of our salvation? As we have seen in the section on “the gospel of Christ” it is that gospel, i.e. the gospel of Christ, that is the “word of truth” that is the gospel “unto salvation” (Rom. 1:16).
Why did Paul use a different term? I believe he used a different term to remind the Ephesians that it was indeed believing that “word” that led to their salvation.
This term is also used just one time. We read in II Cor. 2:12, “Furthermore, when I came to Troas to preach Christ’s gospel, and a door was opened unto me of the Lord…..”. In the terms “gospel of God”, “gospel of Christ”, “gospel of the kingdom”, etc. the “of” is the Genitive of Relation which is defined in the Companion Bible in Appendix 17 as “pertaining to”. In other words, the gospel of God pertains to God, the gospel of the kingdom pertains to the kingdom, etc. But in this term (Christ’s gospel) we have the Genitive of Possession which answers the question of whose gospel. So unlike any other term, Christ’s gospel is not that which pertains to Christ, but is the gospel that is owned and sent by Christ.
What is this gospel? Given the fact that Paul’s first message after his conversion was to preach that Christ is the Son of God (see Acts 9:20), I believe that was the gospel that Christ sent Paul to preach. So Christ’s gospel is the gospel of salvation. The term is used to emphasize the fact that the gospel of salvation was Christ’s own gospel and therefore sent by Christ.
THE GOSPEL OF THE BLESSED GOD
I Tim.1:11 is the only mention of this term and reads, “According to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which was committed to my trust”. This comes in the context of Paul’s advice to Timothy that he “neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies which minister questions, rather than godly edifying which is in faith….”(I Tim. 1:4). Note that genealogies are no longer important in the dispensation of the mystery. They certainly were important in the previous dispensation because according to the Mosaic Law, only the tribe of Levi were to minister in the temple. But since the law was put aside with the setting aside of Israel, the genealogies were no longer important.
Note also verse 8, “But we know that the law is good, if a man use it lawfully”. What did Paul mean by this statement? I believe that the Mosaic Law was, in a very general sense, to let man know what was pleasing or unpleasing in God’s sight. For example, we read in Eph. 6:2, “Honor thy father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise).” Paul was certainly not telling the Ephesians that they must observe the Mosaic Law. He was telling them that to honor their parents was pleasing to, and so important to God, that it came with a promise that “thou mayest live long on the earth” (Eph. 6:3)”. But it was not lawful in the dispensation of the mystery to observe the Mosaic Law because it had been set aside with Israel’s setting aside.
Another fact we must consider is that this gospel was committed to Paul. We read in Eph. 3:7 of another reference to that which was committed to Paul. “Whereof I was made a minister“. Verse 9 describes that to which Paul was made a minister, “to make all men see what is the dispensation of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God……” . And that mystery was revealed in Eph. 3:6, “That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ by the gospel”.
The gospel of Eph. 3:6 could not have been revealed until Israel had been set aside, and it was because of the setting aside of Israel that it was unlawful to observe the Mosaic Law. The “gospel of the blessed God” then is “the gospel” of Eph. 3:6. (That gospel is discussed in the section of this study “The Gospel”.) I believe that it is so named to emphasize God’s blessedness in enacting the gospel of Eph. 3:6.
Romans 2:16, “This will take place on the day when God will judge men’s secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares.”
To which judgment does Paul refer in this verse? I believe I Cor. 4:5 will answer that question. That verse reads, “Therefore, judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, Who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts”. The Greek word translated “hidden” in the phrase, “Who both will bring to light the hidden things” is the same Greek word used in Rom. 2:16 translated “secrets”.
We learn from I Cor. 4:5 that the judgment of I Cor. 4:5 will be a judgment at the second coming of Christ. We also learn from the fact that God will judge “hidden things” that this judgment will be of individuals, as opposed to nations. That is to say, the only other judgment of the end times will be in the day of the Lord which will be a judgment of nations, not one of individuals. And we learn that the judgments will be of “hidden things”.
I believe that Rom. 2:16 refers to the same judgment as does I Cor. 4:5. That is to say, both speak of the judgment at the end times, both speak of the judgment of individuals and both speak of the judgments of secrets/hidden things.. The only judgment that fits these criteria is the judgment of Israel in order to determine who is worthy to enter the millennial kingdom (see Ezek. 20:38).
Rom. 16:25, “Now to Him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel….”.
II Tim. 2:8 where we read, “Remember that Jesus Christ of the seed of David, was raised from the dead according to my gospel”.
We are not left with any doubt as to what Paul meant by the term “my gospel”. It referred to judgment and the resurrection of Christ, the seed of David.
The reader may recall that this is very much like the gospel of God which was discussed above. Rom. 1:1-4, “Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God, (which He had promised afore by His prophets in the holy scriptures,) concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, Which was made of the seed of David, according to the flesh, and declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead”.
It is clear that there is very little difference between the two gospels. The only difference is that “my gospel” does not include Christ being declared “the Son of God”. In my opinion, this only points to the perfection of the Word of God in that even though there is very little difference between the two gospels, there is some difference and each are called by the name which God intended.
PASSAGES WHERE THE TERM “THE GOSPEL” IS USED FOR “MY GOSPEL”
Eph. 6:19-20, “And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in bonds….” By determining for which gospel Paul was in bonds, we will know to which gospel he referred in Eph. 6:19.
The Word of God tells us of two messages for which Paul was in bonds. We read in Col. 4:3, “Withal praying also for us, that God would open unto us a door of utterance to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in bonds“. The NASB reads “that I may speak forth the mystery of Christ for which I have also been imprisoned”. But only the only “gospel” for which Paul was in bonds was what he called “my gospel”.
We read in II Tim. 2:8-9, “Remember that Jesus Christ of the seed of David, was raised from the dead according to my gospel, wherein I suffer trouble, as an evil doer, even unto bonds.…”. The term “my gospel” is discussed above.
Philemon 13, “Whom I would have retained with me, that in thy stead he might have ministered unto me in the bonds of the gospel”.
Paul was in bonds for what he termed “my gospel” and also for the mystery of Christ.
This term is used three times, II Cor. 4:3, I Thess. 1:5 and II Thess. 2:14
II Cor. 4:3-4, “But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: in whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, Who is the image of God, should shine unto them”. This passage connects “our gospel” to the “gospel of Christ”. Paul is saying that the “god of this world” has hid “our gospel” from those who are lost lest they see the “gospel of Christ”.
Why did Paul use the term “our gospel” instead of the term “gospel of Christ”? Note in the first occurrence there is a contrast between those to whom it had been hid and those to whom it had not been hid. I believe, therefore, the term was used to make the contrast between those who believed it (“our”) and those who did not.
I Thess. 1:5, “For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance…..”.
II Thess. 2:13-14, “But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth; whereunto He called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ”. In this passage Paul speaks of salvation whereunto they were called by “our gospel”. And in the first occurrence of the term “our gospel” it was used in connection with “the gospel of Christ”. As stated in the section above on “the gospel of Christ”, I believe that the gospel of Christ is that gospel which must be believed if one is to be saved. (Please see the section above on the mystery of Christ for a more complete explanation.) “Our gospel” then is the gospel of Christ. But again, it is used to emphasize the contrast between those who believe and those who do not.
THE GOSPEL OF PEACE
Rom. 10:14-15, “How then shall they call on Him in Whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in Him Whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach except they be sent? as it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things?'”
The term “the gospel of peace” is quoted from a passage in Isaiah. We read in Is. 52:7 the message that is quoted in Rom. 10 plus the following, “that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, ‘Thy God reigneth‘”. The phrase “thy God reigneth” tells us that this is a millennial prophecy. What is the gospel of peace that will be published during the millennium? This gospel will not be preached to Israel because Israel will have already “heard” and “believed” by the time of the millennium. That means therefore that this gospel will be preached to the nations, that they might “call on Him in Whom they have not heard”. It is fitting that Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles quoted this passage concerning the gospel of peace being preached to the Gentile nations. But what exactly is this gospel of peace?
Is. 2:4 will give us the answer to the question of what exactly is the gospel of peace. “He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore“. The gospel of peace then is that when Christ reigns there will be peace among the nations.
PASSAGES WHERE THE TERM “THE GOSPEL” IS USED FOR THE GOSPEL OF PEACE
Rom. 10:16, “But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, ‘Lord, who hath believed our report?‘” The last phrase is a quote from Is. 53:1. Is. 53 goes on to prophecy of the Lord’s crucifixion and Israel’s denial of Him. The possible clue in determining what gospel is meant in this verse lies in the fact that although all of the gospels we have studied are to be believed, there is nothing in any of them that are to be obeyed in the sense that we understand the word “obey”. I suggest therefore, that we need to consider how the word translated “obeyed” is used by the Holy Spirit.
Most of the time the Greek word “hupakouo” is used, it is translated “obey”, or a related form. But in Acts 12:13 it is translated “hearken”. That verse reads, “And as Peter knocked at the door of the gate a damsel came to hearken, named Rhoda”. Most words, while they have a basic meaning, also have shades of meanings, and this word is no different. I believe that “hearken” is a different shade or nuance of “to obey”.
I believe that there is evidence within Rom. 10:16 that may lead to the conclusion that here too, “obeyed” means “to hearken”. In the first phrase we read that “they have not all obeyed” and in the second phrase which is connected by the word “for”, we read, ” For Esaias saith, ‘Lord, who hath believed…..“. We might think of this verse as saying, “they (Israel) did not obey” for they did not hearken to the gospel, i.e. they did not believe it.
In point of fact there are other verses which use the Greek word “hupakouo” that, in my opinion, should also be understood as “hearken”. Let us consider for example Acts 6:7, “And the word of God increased: and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith”. What does it mean to be “obedient to the faith”? It means to believe it, to, in a sense “hearken unto it”.
II Thess. 1:8 is another verse which is better understood if we understand “hupakouo” to mean “obey” in the sense of “believe” or “hearken”. That verse reads, “In the flaming fire, taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ”. They that knew not God did not hearken to, i.e. did not believe the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Coming back then to Rom. 10:16 we are now ready to determine to what gospel Paul was alluding. Given that the preceding two verses have to do with the gospel of peace, I believe that verse 16 also has to do with the gospel of peace, i.e. peace among the nations during the millennium.
THE GOSPEL OF THE CIRCUMCISION AND THE GOSPEL OF THE UNCIRCUMCISION
“…. they saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me, and the gospel of the circumcision unto Peter” (Gal. 2:7). As we examine the messages of Peter and compare them to the messages of Paul we will discover the difference between the gospel of the circumcision and the gospel of the uncircumcision.
There are some elements to be found in both gospels. Peter preached the death and resurrection of Christ (Acts 2:22-37) And Paul preached the death and resurrection of Christ (Acts 13:16-43). Peter preached to the end that men would believe and be saved (Acts 5:14). Paul preached to the end that men would believe and be saved (Acts 16:31).
And there are some elements that are different, but certainly not contradictory. Peter preached “repent and be baptized” (Acts 2:38). Paul wrote to the Corinthians “Christ sent me not to baptize (I Cor. 1:7). In Acts 3:19 Peter preached, “Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord, and He shall send Jesus Christ Which before was preached unto you”. Paul never mentions the “times of refreshing”. Peter says in Acts 5:31, “God exalted Him to His own right hand as Prince and Savior……”. Paul never refers to Christ as “Prince”.
What is the significance of the differences? Peter preached, “Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord…….” Paul never mentions the “times of refreshing”. This difference, in my opinion goes to the very heart of the difference between Peter’s gospel of the circumcision and Paul’s gospel of the uncircumcision.
Peter’s message certainly did have salvation in mind, but his primary emphasis was on the return of Christ for the “times of refreshing”. The apostles were so anxious for that time that they asked the Lord just before His ascension, “Lord, wilt Thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?” This shows that the restoration of all things, the millennial reign, was uppermost on their minds, and that it was on Peter’s mind is evidenced by his remarks in Acts 3:19-20.
As mentioned above, Paul never mentions the “times of refreshing”. And whereas Peter does refer to Christ as “Prince”, Paul never does. In my opinion, these two differences points to Peter’s message going primarily to Israel so that they will accept their risen King so that He might set up the millennial reign. Paul’s message, on the other hand was primarily for salvation.
While it is true that Peter preached to individuals, it was Israel as a nation that was required to accept Christ in order for the times of refreshing to be issued in. Paul also preached to individuals but his primary purpose was not the “restoration of all things”. This is not to suggest, however, that Paul was not interested in the millennial reign. His ministry was to the Gentiles so that Israel would be jealous and accept Christ. Paul hoped that would have lead to Israel’s acceptance of Christ, which would in turn lead to His return and the millennial reign. But the difference in the two messages (gospels) was one of emphasis. Peter emphasized national repentance and Paul the individual acceptance of Christ. Both would lead to the same event, i.e. the times of refreshing, but each had a different track, so to speak, of getting to the same thing.
Let us look now at the other difference between Peter’s message and Paul’s. It was that Peter preached “repent and be baptized“, but Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “Christ sent me not to baptize”. Paul at times did call for repentance, but he never called them to “be baptized” as Peter did. Why was Peter called to baptize Jews and Gentiles alike (see Acts 10:48) and Paul was not sent to baptize? Why is that significant?
In the Gospels we read, “Repent for the kingdom of Heaven is at hand”. The kingdom of Heaven is the millennial reign of Christ over the nation of Israel. In the Gospel period believers were baptized and in doing so showed their faith in the message that “the kingdom of Heaven was at hand”. And by that act of faith they also showed their faith in Christ as that kingdom’s King. That acceptance of Christ as their King allowed them entrance into the kingdom of Heaven where all the millennial blessings were to be enjoyed.
Peter continued the same message. When asked by those who had believed his message of Acts 2, what they should do, Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins….” (Acts 2:38). So Peter’s preaching was a continuation of the Gospel period (as emphasized by Matthew, Mark and Luke,) in which Israel was called upon to accept Christ as King. If they had done that, Christ would have set up His reign.
That Israel was looking primarily for their King and the blessings promised their nation is evident as we consider Matthew 21:9, “And the multitudes that went before, and that followed, cried, saying, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David.…”. The title “Son of David” points to Christ as King. When Peter began his preaching at Acts 2 and 3, that was his emphasis as well. That is to say, Peter’s emphasis was the preaching of Christ as King of Israel so that Israel would accept Him and He would return to bring in the “times of refreshing”, i.e. the time of Israel’s national blessings.
Some might object that surely Israelites, like all men, would be looking primarily for their Savior. That may or may not be true. But what is evident from Scripture is that in terms of the Scriptural account of Who Israel was looking for, they were looking for the King of Israel to issue in national blessings.
THE PASSAGE IN WHICH THE TERM “THE GOSPEL” IS USED OF THE GOSPEL OF THE UNCIRCUMCISION
Gal. 2:2, “And I went up by revelation, and communicated unto them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but privately to them which were of reputation, lest by any means I should run, or had run, in vain”. Note Paul speaks here of that gospel that he preached to the Gentiles. I believe the most natural conclusion is that in this verse “that gospel” refers to the gospel of the uncircumcision.
THE EVERLASTING GOSPEL
Rev. 14:6, “And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people”. In point of fact, the very next verse tells us exactly what this angel that will preach the everlasting gospel will say, and therefore we know precisely what the everlasting gospel is. We read in Rev. 14:7, “Saying with a loud voice, ‘Fear God, and give glory to Him; for the hour of His judgment is come: and worship Him That made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters”.
We read of “this gospel” only one time, i..e. in Mark 14:9, “Verily, I say unto you, wherever this gospel shall be preached throughout the whole world, this also that she hath done shall be spoken of for a memorial of her”. I believe that “this gospel” refers to the gospel of the life, death and resurrection of Christ as described in the four Gospels.
The term “the gospel” is used eleven times. Each time the term is used we must determine which gospel is meant by the context. As the reader will see as we continue, the term is used of different gospels.
1) Mark 16:15, “And He said unto them (the eleven, vs. 14), ‘Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature”. Most assume that it is the gospel of salvation that Christ told the eleven to preach. But we must allow the context to tell us which gospel the disciples were told to preach. But before we examine the context, I believe we must digress a bit.
We read in Heb. 11 of many of the Old Testament faithful saints. It is clear that Abraham, for example believed God’s message to him that Abraham would be the father of a great nation, and that belief was counted to him as righteousness. But Noah believed God’s message to him about the rains, and that belief was counted to him as righteousness. My point is that when one believes the message that God has for him, he is counted as righteous, i.e. he is saved. In other words, whether it was the gospel of the kingdom or the gospel of Christ, etc. if one believed the message that God has for him, his belief of that message, like Abraham’s or Noah’s etc., causes him to be seen as righteous.
We are now ready to address the question, what does the context tell us about which gospel the disciples were sent to preach. We read in verses 10-11 of the women who told those who had been with Christ that they had seen Him. But the disciples did not believe the women. Then in verse 12 we read that Christ appeared to two more of His disciples and they told the others, who did not believe them either. Then in verse 14 we read, “Afterward He appeared unto the eleven as they sat at meat, and upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen Him after He was risen“.
If we think of the word “gospel” as “good news”, which is an accurate translation, then we have Christ “upbraiding” His disciples for not believing that He had risen from the dead, and then saying immediately after, “Go ye unto all the world and preach the good news….”. What good news? I believe that if we answer that from the context we must conclude that it is the good news that “He has risen”. So if those to whom the disciples preached the good news that Christ had risen, believed it, they would be counted by God as righteous.
2) Acts 8:25, “And they, when they had testified and preached the word of the Lord, returned to Jerusalem, and preached the gospel in many villages of the Samaritans”. The “they” in this verse includes Peter and Philip. What had they been preaching? We read in verse 12, “But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women”. They preached both the dispensational message of the kingdom of God and they preached the message of salvation. How do we know that they preached salvation? They preached “the name of Jesus Christ” and we read in Jn. 20:31 that whoever believed that Christ is the Son of God, he “shall have life through His name”.
3) Acts 15:7, “And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up and said unto them, ‘Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe'”. The message to which Peter referred is recorded in Acts 10:34-43. “Then Peter opened his mouth and said, ‘Of a truth, I see that God is no respecter of persons. But in every nation he that feareth Him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with Him” (vs. 34-35). We read in verse 38, “How God anointed Jesus of Nazereth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with Him. And in verse 43, “To Him give all the prophets witness, that through His name whosoever believeth in Him shall receive remission of sins”.
Note Peter mentions Christ’s ministry in preaching the gospel of the kingdom with many miracles of healing etc. And he also speaks of the remission of sins to those who “believeth in Him”. And Peter also told the Gentiles that “God is no respecter of persons” so the Gentiles would hear the gospel. Peter’s message has to do both with the kingdom and with salvation. And it is, in my opinion, that good news preached to the Gentiles that is meant by “the gospel” in this passage.
4) II Cor. 8:18, “and we have sent with him the brother, whose praise is in the gospel throughout all the churches”. Again, we must determine what gospel Paul refers to by the context. This entire chapter concerns Paul’s desire to have the Corinthians contribute what they can to those in need. In verses 1-6 Paul explains how the churches of Macedonia had contributed what they could to the saints who had less. Then in verse 7 Paul asks them to do the same, “see that ye abound in this grace also”. And the remainder of the chapter continues this same topic. But in my opinion, the centerpiece of Paul’s argument is found in verse 9 where we read, “for ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that ye through His poverty might be rich”. That, in my view is the “the gospel” of verse 18.
5) Gal. 2:14, “But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter before them all, ‘If you being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews?'”. We learn in verses 11-13 that Peter had been eating with the Gentiles until some sent by James told him him not to. So Paul is saying that if Peter himself was not living as a Jew, how could the Jewish “pillars” expect the Gentiles to live as Jews, i.e. under the law.
Paul wrote that Peter and those that followed him were not walking according to the truth of the gospel. What they had been doing was not eating with the Gentiles for fear of what certain of the other disciples thought was the right thing to do. Evidently then, the gospel to which Paul refers here is that “God is no respecter of persons”.
6) Gal. 3:8, “And the Scripture foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, ‘In thee shall all nations be blessed'”. “The gospel” referred to in this verse is explained, i.e. “In thee shall all nations be blessed”.
7) Gal. 4:13, “Ye know how through infirmity of the flesh I preached the gospel unto you at the first”. The point of Paul’s epistle to the Galatians is to answer those who were saying that the Gentiles had to be circumcised and obey the law of Moses in order to be saved. Paul’s argument is that they are saved by faith, not by observing the law. We read, for example in verses 9b-10, “how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, wherunto ye desire again to be in bondage? Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years”. I believe that “the gospel” of verse 13 is the good news that salvation is by faith apart from the works of the law.
8) Eph. 3:6-19, “That the ethnos (nations and/or people of the nations) should be together heirs, and together bodies, and together partakers of His promise in Christ by the gospel: whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of His power, unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unserachable riches of Christ; and to make all men see what is the fellowship (texts read “dispensation”) of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, Who created all things by Jesus Christ”. (It would take us too far off our topic to give the Scriptural reasons for this translation, but this translation is discussed in the paper on this web-site What Exactly Is The Mystery That Had Been Hid In God?.)
Because too many assume that “the gospel” in Eph. 3:6 refers to the gospel of salvation, we will examine the context more carefully in our search for the answer to the question, to which gospel is Paul referring in Eph. 3:6? If, for the sake of clarity, we omit the phrases about Paul’s unworthiness to preach this gospel, it will become more clear what the gospel of verse 6 is. Verses 6c to 9 would read, “together partakers of the promise in Christ by the gospel whereof I was made a minister….. that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; even (Gr. “kai”) to make all men see what is the dispensation of the mystery”. The gospel to which Paul is referring is not the gospel of salvation, it is the gospel, i.e. the good news, concerning the fact that all nations are together. In other words, the fact that all nations and all believers in the nations are together is the subject of this passage. Salvation has nothing to do with all nations being together, therefore, the gospel of Eph. 3:6 has nothing to do with salvation.
But if the gospel of Eph. 3:6 is not the gospel of salvation what are these “unsearchable riches” to which Paul refers? The answer to that question is found in the parallel passage, i.e. Col. 1:26-27. Col. 1:27 reads, “To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory“. To whom does the “you” refer that Christ is in or, according to the Companion Bible Ap. on prepositions, among? The epistle to the Colossians, like all Paul’s epistles, are written to believers (see Col. 1:2). That means that Christ is among believers. What does that mean? The next phrase will help us to answer that question. “Christ is among you (believers) the hope of glory“.
In order to fully appreciate that believers of the dispensation of the mystery have the hope of glory we must understand the place of the believing Gentiles before the mystery was revealed. We read in the Old Testament that Israel will be glorified in the millennial reign of Christ. Gentiles were grafted into Israel but the glory was not theirs as such, it was Israel’s glory. There was no glory for believing Gentiles apart from Israel. Let’s look at just a few of those Old Testament passages that speak of the glory of Israel in the millennium.
Is. 60:14,”The sons of your oppressors will come bowing before you (Israel); all who despise you will bow down at your feet and will call you The City of the Lord, Zion of the Holy One of Israel”
Isaiah 60:3, “Nations will come to your light and kings to the brightness of your dawn”.
Is. 60:5,”Then you will look and be radiant, your heart will throb and swell with joy; the wealth on the seas will be brought to you, to you riches of the nations will come”.
Is. 60:10, “Foreigners will rebuild your walls, and their kings will serve you”.
These passages all show the glory of Israel in the millennium. But in the dispensation of the mystery, believers of every nation have been promised glory in resurrection that has nothing to do with Israel. Where we read of the “riches of the glory of this mystery” we are reading of the fact that Christ is among the people of the nations and that glory will be theirs in resurrection, again apart from Israel.
So the good news of Eph. 3:6 is the truth concerning the dispensation of the mystery which, because all nations are together bodies, all believers of the nations have their own hope of glory apart from Israel.
9) Heb. 4:2, “For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it”. The gospel, or good news, that was preached to them of whom the context speaks (i.e. those who fell in the wilderness because of unbelief) was that they would enter into God’s rest. I believe it is the good news of entering into God’s rest that is the gospel of this passage.
10) I Peter 1:10-12, “Of which salvation the prophets have enquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you: searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow. Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us, they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into”. Given that Peter wrote here of “the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow”, I believe we must conclude that it was that good news about which the angels, in this context desired to look into.
11) I Peter 1:25, “But the word of the Lord endureth forever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you”. The context seems to indicate that it is the “word of God” that is “the gospel” in this passage.
This study was written by Joyce Pollard. If you like to respond please e-mail me at: firstname.lastname@example.org