By Tom Cucuzza
The Simplicity of the Gospel
Words matter. God has seen fit to communicate with us through the words of the Bible. Therefore, it is important to understand and simply believe what He says.
As the debate continues to rage as to what exactly it takes to be saved, I wanted us to think about what distinguishes the true gospel from a false one. What do I mean? There are three aspects to this issue I want to mention.
1. The terms involved. Let’s define some biblical words. The Bible states many times that salvation, in the context of this article I mean eternal deliverance from eternal death to eternal life, comes through believing the gospel. Paul said in Romans 1:
Romans 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it (the gospel) is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.
a. What is the gospel? It is the truth that Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, died for our sins and came back from the dead. It is well defined in 1 Corinthians 15:
1 Corinthians 15:1 Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand;
1 Corinthians 15:3 For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;
4 And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:
Luke records this:
Luke 2:10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
In v.10, “good tidings” means “good news” and it is the same root word as “gospel” in Romans 1:16 and 1 Corinthians 15:1. Also in 1 Cor. 9:16 where it says:
1 Corinthians 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!
b. What is believing? It is the Greek word “pisteuo” meaning to have faith in, or to trust in. Simply put, when a person understands their need for a Savior, and trusts in Jesus Christ, believing that He paid for their sins on the cross and came back from the dead, that person is saved.
2. The reality of what the believer already possesses. If I already have everlasting life, then it makes no sense that I have to do something more to get what I already have.
Many times in Scripture it tells us that if we will trust or believe in Christ, He saves us that moment. If we are saved that moment, then there is nothing else for us to do to be saved. In other words, you don’t have to do something more to possess eternal life if you already possess eternal life. The transaction has taken place. You have been saved. Millions can testify that when they quit trying to earn salvation, but simply put their faith in Christ, they were born again. If this is enough, and it is, then that is all a person needs to do to be saved. Many scriptures bear this out.
Let me give some examples:
John 6:47 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life.
The word “hath” means you have it now. If I have it now, and I received it by putting my faith in Christ, then there is nothing else to do. I am already born again, a child of God, adopted into the family of God, I possess eternal life, I have an inheritance reserved for me, etc, etc.
Put another way, if trusting in Christ “did the job” then the job is done! Look at these verses:
John 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.
John 3:18 He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
Notice that if you believe you are not condemned. John 5:24 says that passing from death to life is a one way door, and it is only by believing:
John 5:24 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.
Again, the one who believes “hath” or has, or possesses now, everlasting life. Also, “is passed” means “has passed”. It is a done deal. This is again repeated in John 3:36.
John 3:36 He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.
We see the same truth in Acts 16:31. Paul and Silas could have told the jailer anything when he asked them, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”. They said only one thing: Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved”. They did not say, believe and commit, believe and behave, believe and turn from your sins, believe and follow Christ. All of these things are good to do, but they have nothing to do with saving you.
My point again is simply this: If I can be saved by simply putting my trust in Jesus Christ as my Savior, then why would I have to do anything else to be saved? I am already saved! If this brings salvation, then this is the gospel, the good news. To add commitment, surrender, becoming a follower of Jesus, etc. must be false, because I have already been saved through faith in Christ.
3. The fact that there is only one message that brings salvation. In Romans 1:16, it says that IT (the gospel, singular) is the power of God unto salvation. If there is only one gospel, and by believing the gospel you receive, that moment, everlasting life, then any other message must be false. The letter to the Galatians explains it ever so clearly in chapter 1:
Galatians 1:6 I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel:
“Another” is the word heteros. It means another of a different kind.
Galatians 1:7 Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ.
“Another” in v.7 is the word allos, which means another of the same kind.
What Paul is saying is that the Galatian believers were being led astray by false teachers who did it with a different message. In v.7 Paul says that this different gospel perverts the true gospel. The word “pervert”, metastrepho, means, according to Vine’s Expository Dictionary, to transform into something of an opposite character”.
In other words, the false teachers introduced a “gospel” that could not save but just the opposite- it kept people lost and gave people a false hope. Paul has strong words for those who would add to the true gospel:
Galatians 1:8 But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.
9 As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.
What was the false gospel? The false gospel that the false teachers brought in added good works to faith in Christ. This is clearly brought out in chapter 2-
Galatians 2:16 Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.
How is a person saved? There’s only one way- by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.
Ephesians 2:8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.
In conclusion, let me wrap things up by giving a summary: The gospel is the good news that Jesus Christ died to pay for all of our sins and came back from the dead. If I put my faith in Him, that He did that for me, I receive that moment everlasting life as a free gift. If I have everlasting life as a present possession, then there are no other requirements to getting saved, for I already am saved. Therefore, any message that adds to faith alone in Christ alone, is a false, counterfeit message that cannot save.
I can rejoice in the simplicity of the gospel and my eternal security in Christ.
1 John 5:13 These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.
Tom Cucuzza Voice of Assurance