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GOSPEL TRUTH: Authentic Gospel

Comparing the New Testament with Today…..

 

 

 

“How ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God”    (1 Thess.1:9)

 

 

 

In his first epistle to the Thessalonians Paul recalled the time he had spent with the people he was addressing. He remembered the characteristics of their lives before they had come to believe in the message of the Gospel and compared them with what could be seen now as he wrote. The new believers in Thessalonica had turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God. There had been a radical change in their lives.

 

From time to time it is helpful to examine what we are doing so see if it is right. It is never more important to do this than is assessing our presentation of the Gospel. When we do this, we will soon discover that the message being proclaimed today is often distorted or deficient rather than being dynamic. What has happened?

 

 

DISTORTED GOSPEL

It is possible to distort the Gospel by giving undue emphasis to one part of it. Very often it is the love of God that is stressed. While it is true that “God so loved the world,” (Jn.3:16), this is not the whole truth. In his epistle John teaches that “God is love,” but he also reminds us that “God is light” (1 Jn.4:8; 1:5). Although God’s love provides salvation, John did not begin his epistle by writing about that love. Before describing this John had already emphasized the sin which needs to be forgiven. In other words, the holy light which shines upon our sins must be preached before the boundless love which can forgive it.

 

Many evangelists today are afraid of speaking the truth. John MacArthur wrote, “Nothing in Scripture indicates the church should lure people to Christ by presenting Christianity as an attractive option.” [1] He also wrote: “User-friendliness is incompatible with true biblical theology.” [2] To avoid causing offence some evangelists distort the truth and concentrate on aspects of the Gospel which may seem more palatable to their listeners.

 

 

DEFICIENT GOSPEL

The other shortcoming is to present a message which is deficient. It is easy to miss this point. A preacher can be very persuasive and may captivate an audience. What he says may be thoroughly orthodox, with the message being biblically correct. Sometimes, however, it is worth listening to the message again because certain matters may have been omitted. The explanation of Christ’s death upon the cross for our sins as He suffered in our place may seem compelling. We may not be able to fault the preacher’s theology as he explains substitution. But has everything necessary been said? A careful listener often has to change their assessment of the Gospel presentation. Initially they were impressed – and they still are – but they have to admit that no mention was made of repentance or of the just punishment which awaits the unbeliever. Just saying “I’m sorry” to God is not enough.

 

 

DYNAMIC GOSPEL

Two essential elements in the preaching of the Gospel are “repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 20:21). Both of tese points featured in Paul’s preaching – not simply the second. The popular message today is to ask Jesus to come into your heart, or to receive Jesus. It involves mental assent and an awareness of the fact that we are not good enough, but Jesus took our place. However, we are not saved simply by mental assent. Salvation is a work of the Spirit of God who convicts us of our sin (which is awful and serious) and points us to Christ.

 

Evidently when Paul visited Thessalonica he preached both repentance and faith. In the verse quoted above he described how the listeners had turned from idols and had turned to God. At one time they had faced those idols and had been devoted to them, but now they were facing a completely different direction. Their backs were now to those idols and their faces turned to the living and true God. They had repented of sin – meaning they had turned from it. Their lives had been completely changed. They were now living for a new Master.

 

If the authentic message of the Gospel is not preached, the response in the listeners will not be authentic either. The need of the hour is to fear nobody but God and to return to true biblical preaching in the power of the Holy Spirit. It is His work, and He alone can bring about salvation.

 

[1] John F. MacArthur, Ashamed of the Gospel, (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books, 1993), p.72.

[2] Ibid., p.65.