Is the gospel message we preach a gospel of true substance? Is it entirely biblical? Does the listener really understand the message? Does it result in genuine conversions? In many cases, I believe that the gospel message that is commonly preached from the pulpit, taught in books, and shared by individual Christians, is a gospel that is lacking not only in substance, but the right context. Let me explain.
The gospel message presented from many pulpits today is so shallow, with such little content, that it makes you wonder if anyone understands enough to really get saved. The heart of the gospel message is the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the blood that He shed for us for the forgiveness of our sins. There is no argument that this is the central message of the gospel of Christ.
The problem is, oftentimes that’s all you hear. Or, the message may be so shallow that you don’t even hear that much. Furthermore, it’s presented in such a manner that it makes the listener think that what is being offered to them is simply a ticket to Heaven, and all you have to do is say a prayer to get your ticket punched. And then they hear, “welcome to the family!” But in reality, I think the listener has heard so little and understands so little about Christ, that they really don’t know what they’re doing when they “receive Him as their Savior.” However, this isn’t really their fault. It’s the fault of the one presenting the message.
I believe that this shallow type of message that’s being promoted by many today, produces a lot of false conversions. However, there is yet another problem with the way the message is being presented. In regard to those who do get saved, who do experience the new birth, they have been taught and led to believe that the life they live now as Christians, has nothing to do with their salvation – as if the two are completely separate from one another. Again, this is not their fault. It’s the fault of the preacher. It’s the fault of the one doing the teaching. But then, they’re only teaching what’s been taught to them.
In this seeker-sensitive environment in which we live today, doctrine simply isn’t a priority. Thus you’re not likely to hear much of it from the pulpit in those types of churches. When churches major on fluff, and minor on doctrine, there’s going to be error in what is being taught. And this is so true in regard to the message of salvation.
I believe that the gospel message commonly presented today, is a message that lacks a certain context, one that was used in the early church. What context is that?
The context is the Kingdom of God:
Matthew 4:7 Acts 28:30,31
Matthew 4:23 Acts 14:17
Matthew 9:35 1 Corinthians 6:9,10
Matthew 24:14 1 Corinthians 15:50
Mark 1:14,15 Galatians 5:19,20,21
Luke 4:43 Ephesians 5:5,6
Luke 9:1,2,6 Colossians 1:13
Luke 9:11,62 1 Thessalonians 2:12
Luke 1:1,8,9 2 Timothy 4:18
John 3:3,5 Hebrews 1:3,8
John 18:36 Hebrews 12:28
Acts 1:3 2 Peter 1:10,11
Acts 8:12 Revelation 11:15
Acts 19:8 Revelation 12:10
The Kingdom of God, the Kingdom of Heaven, and the Kingdom of Christ, are all one Kingdom, and is a dominant theme throughout the New Testament. The list above is only a partial list of references to God’s Kingdom, as the Theopedia reveals. It says this about the Kingdom of God:
“The presence and coming of the Kingdom of God was the central message of Jesus. For example, “his teaching was designed to show men how they might enter the Kingdom of God (Matt. 5:20; 7:21). His mighty works were intended to prove that the Kingdom of God had come upon them (Matt. 12: 28). His parables illustrated to His disciples the truth about the Kingdom of God (Matt. 13:11). And when He taught His followers to pray, at the heart of their petition were the words, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10). On the eve of His death, He assured His disciples that He would yet share with them the happiness and the fellowship of the Kingdom (Luke 22:22-30). And He promised that He would appear again. on the earth in glory to bring the blessedness of the Kingdom to those for whom it was prepared (Matt. 25:31, 34).”
The term “Kingdom of God” occurs four times in Matthew (12:28; 19:24; 21:31; 21:43), fourteen times in Mark, thirty-two times in Luke, twice in the Gospel of John (3:3, 5), six times in Acts, eight times in Paul, and once in Revelation, (12:10). Matthew actually prefers the term “Kingdom of heaven” which he uses over 20 times in his gospel.
While Matthew primarily uses the term “kingdom of heaven” and other gospel writers (notably Luke) use the term “kingdom of God,” it is clear that these two expressions mean exactly the same thing (e.g. compare Matt. 5:3 with Luke 6:20). In the past some have tried to maintain a distinction between the kingdom of heaven and the kingdom of God; however, the vast majority of theologians today recognize the terms as synonymous.”
Jesus went about preaching the Kingdom of God. Jesus sent His disciples to preach the Kingdom of God. Philip the evangelist preached the Kingdom of God when preaching Christ (Acts 8:12). The Apostle Paul preached the Kingdom of God when preaching Christ. Who today makes it a practice to include the subject of the Kingdom of God when they present the gospel of Jesus Christ? Who today even mentions the Kingdom of God when sharing the plan of salvation?
I think it’s safe to say that it’s not a common practice to present the gospel of Christ within the context of the Kingdom of God. If the Kingdom of God is such a central theme in the New Testament, why is it that we do not talk about it when we preach the gospel of Jesus Christ? That’s a good question, and I think the absence of this practice indicates a lack of understanding of the gospel message among many Christians. Furthermore, since we do not view the gospel message in light of the Kingdom of God, I think it has resulted in erroneous doctrinal positions regarding how one gains salvation, and how one views eternal security.
A discussion about the different aspects of the Kingdom of God is not the purpose of this study. The purpose is to demonstrate the importance of presenting the message of Christ within the context of the Kingdom of God. I think it will explain why there is so much division regarding the means of salvation and our understanding about our security in Christ. For the purpose of this article, I want to focus on the Kingdom of Christ that we enter into at the point of regeneration, as mentioned in Colossians 1:13.
As I mentioned above, the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Christ are essentially the same thing, but for the purpose of this article, from this point forward, I will refer to it as the Kingdom of Christ as presented in Col 1:13, which is a spiritual kingdom that we enter into at the moment of conversion.
The important focus when discussing the Kingdom of Christ is the fact that His Kingdom is a literal kingdom, and that it has a literal King who rules with all authority, shared by both the Father and the Son (Acts 2:32,33; Eph. 1:20,21).
The moment we receive Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we’re transferred from the kingdom of darkness into the Kingdom of Christ. This is a literal kingdom that we now dwell in as Christians, and Christ literally reigns as our King ( Tim. 6:15). We now belong to Him (1 Cor. 6:19,20). We are His servants. While we enter into all the fullness of that Kingdom upon our resurrection unto the Eternal Kingdom of the “new heaven and new earth” (Rev 21:1-2), we become citizens and servants in the Kingdom of Christ in this life.
Since this is such a wonderful aspect of our salvation, why is it that it’s not commonly a part of the message we proclaim? In order to ensure authentic conversions, I believe it should be. I realize people get saved without ever hearing anything about the Kingdom of Christ, but those who do get saved have an understanding of the authority of Christ, which results in a surrendering of their lives to His authority. It’s the authority of Christ that is in view when we talk about the Kingdom of Christ. With the great emphasis the New Testament places on the Kingdom, I believe the message of Christ was meant to be presented within the context of His Kingdom.
I want it to be clear in your mind that Paul himself commonly preached Christ with His Kingdom in view:
Paul was in the synagogue of Ephesus for three months “reasoning and persuading the people about the Kingdom of God.” But when they continued in unbelief, he withdrew from them, and preached in the hall of Tyrannus, reasoning daily with them. And “this continued for two years, so that all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks.”
Let’s take a look at another passage in Acts where Paul is speaking to the Elders of the church in the same city of Ephesus:
Within the context of the “gospel of the grace of God,” Paul mentions proclaiming the Kingdom to them in the past, and that he is “innocent of the blood of all of you,” a possible reference to Ez. 33:1-6. Meaning, he had labored faithfully in proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ to them, so if they failed to come short of it, it was not because he had failed to show them the way. This is all within the context of God’s Kingdom.
Let’s take a look at how the book of Acts finishes with Paul:
Three days after he had arrived in Rome, and in prison, he sent for the local leaders of the Jews in order to explain his situation to them, and why he was in prison. They then appointed a day for them to hear Paul’s views. Great numbers showed up, and from morning till evening he spoke to them about Jesus within the context of the Kingdom of God. Then for two years he had many visitors, “proclaiming the Kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ.” It doesn’t matter if he was speaking to the Jews or to the Gentiles, the Kingdom of God applies to both groups, because in Christ we are fellow-citizens of the same spiritual kingdom. It’s a reference to His kingship, His authority over us as our King. We may not know everything that Paul taught about the Kingdom of God/Christ, but surely at the very least, he spoke of Christ’s authority as our king. That’s basic to the discussion, because a kingdom implies a king, and a king implies authority.
The Apostle Paul understood the gospel message better than anyone. Most of our understanding regarding salvation and our life in Christ is because of his writings. So if he thought it was important to preach the gospel of Christ within the context of His kingdom, shouldn’t we also? What reason could we possibly have for not doing so? Do we know better than Paul?
Philip the evangelist is another example:
As his title reveals, Philip was an evangelist. He preached the gospel of Jesus Christ. That’s what he did as an evangelist. It says that “he preached good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ.” He preached Christ within the context of the “Kingdom of God.” I think he and Paul were aware of something relating to the gospel message that has been all but lost today.
Please click on the link below to read Part Two: