The Heart of the Gospel

   In all the world there is not, never has been nor will there ever be anything to compare to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Simple in its truth, yet profound in its origin it is the only power that has the ability to transform the lives of sinful men.

   In Paul’s first epistle to the Corinthians, he describes the presentation of the message of the Gospel. In verse seventeen of chapter one he states:

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 non effect.

   I have emphasized the phrase, “cross of Christ,” because it is the very heart of the Gospel. It is the cross that reveals our sinfulness as well as the righteousness of Christ.

   The message takes precedence over everything else. Baptism is not wrong, but it is no substitute for the power of the cross. There is certainly nothing wrong with wisdom, in fact God places a high premium upon it, but wisdom cannot replace the proclamation of the cross.

   Paul clearly states that he has been called to preach the Gospel. His conviction concerning his call and his determination to let nothing neutralize the cross are a direct testimony to the centrality of Christ’s crucifixion to the message of the Gospel.

   There are those today who do not believe the cross is essential to the content of believing unto salvation. Some choose not to preach the cross for fear of repulsing the lost with the message of a “bloody salvation”. Some preach the cross, yet do not believe it is necessary for one to be aware of the death and resurrection of Christ. I would submit that without believing in the cross, there is no hope of the lost being saved.

   Verse 18 tells us that this message of the cross is not just for believers, but for those who do not believe, as well.  Consider with me the words of verses 21-24.

For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: but we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness; but unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.

   The desire of the unbelieving Jews to see a sign was to establish in their mind the credentials of the Messiah. The unbelieving Greeks desired the wisdom of a god. In other words, if they were going to believe in Christ, it would be on their own terms. Those, however, who placed faith in Jesus did so by believing on God’s terms, that is receiving the message that was given to them, the message of the cross. Only those who embraced this truth experienced the transforming power of God unto salvation.

   To those Jews who believed, the cross became the power of God. To believing Greeks it became the wisdom of God. Both of these were superior to the expectations of man. Literally, the cross has become the credentials of Jesus Christ to the world. When we remove the cross from the message of salvation, we have gutted it, rendering it no more able to save than baptism or earthly wisdom.

   Jesus, Himself, pointed to the crucifixion as His credentials in John 20:24-29. Thomas refused to believe that Jesus was alive, until Jesus pointed to the scars of His crucifixion. The Lord used the cross to establish His identity, even among His own disciples.

   How can we do less than proclaim the message of the cross? How dare we elevate our wisdom above God’s plan and think that it is not essential to power of salvation? I’ll cherish the cross, I’ll proclaim it, I’ll remember it, I’ll hold it forth as the last and only hope of salvation for fallen man.

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35 responses to “The Heart of the Gospel

  1. Hi Gordon,

    This is a wonderful exposition on the heart of the Gospel. No orthodox Christian could disagree with what you wrote, but rather would wholeheartedly agree!

    JP

  2. Gordon,
    Great exposition. The cross is the power of God unto salvation.
    Thank God for the cross of Jesus Christ.
    T.A.

  3. Even some of us who frequently get put in the “unorthodox” box can agree with this 😉

    Well-written post, Gordon!

  4. JP, that’s very kind of you. Thanks for stopping by.

    Bro. TA, I’d love to hear you preach on the cross sometime.

    Steve, I can’t imagine anyone ever trying to put you in the unorthodox box. In fact, I’m not even sure that box would hold you. 😉

    It’s good to hear from you, my friend.

  5. “I’ll cherish the cross, I’ll proclaim it, I’ll remember it, I’ll hold it forth as the last and only hope of salvation for fallen man.”

    Me too Gordon.. that empty cross is our only hope!

  6. Brother Gordon:

    Thanks for this article! You have eloquently in simplicity and with great clarity declared the Heart of the Gospel. The Gospel message that we must preach and the lost must believe to be born again.

    This was a penetrating statement, “Some preach the cross, yet do not believe it is necessary for one to be aware of the death and resurrection of Christ. I would submit that without believing in the cross, there is no hope of the lost being saved.”

    And this, “Those, however, who placed faith in Jesus did so by believing on God’s terms, that is receiving the message that was given to them, the message of the cross. Only those who embraced this truth experienced the transforming power of God unto salvation..”

    Thanks again,

    LM

  7. KB, thanks, Brother.

    Lou, I appreciate the kind words. The cross itself is simply eloquent.

  8. Great exposition! This is the only hope for all mankind. Like you, I will always preach this message!
    Daddy’O

  9. The cross is one of my favorite Biblical themes to preach on, along with the return of Jesus Christ.
    T.A.

  10. Hi Gordon,
    I appreciate this post very much. Thank you for linking to it from the blog where we were discussing these things.

    This right here is where a lot of our battles in our real world have been fought, my husband and I:

    Some choose not to preach the cross for fear of repulsing the lost with the message of a “bloody salvation”.

    My husband’s family is liberal in theology and they think we are ‘gorry’ for talking as we do about Christ’s sacrifice. We have a lot of friends as well who have responded that way to the discussion of the cross. They prefer to think of Christ’s death as the death of a martyr, teaching us lessons of humility only, but having no other significance.

    On the opposite end of the spectrum, my Catholic family keeps Christ on the cross with thier constantly re-enacting it in mass. The crucifixes statues and illustrations of Christ’s death are abundant in the church I grew up in… and in my mother’s home. IMO, I think this actually de-sensitizes them to what Christ has done. They don’t get it either.

    The cross is the love of God. The empty cross is the triumph of God.

    Romans 5:8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

    It seems to me that can’t even begin to understand how God loves and values humanity until we view the cross. The cross puts the love of God in shoe leather. It is vital!

    I appreciate the way you have written your article. I see no scorn or name-calling. You are a wonderful pastor, I am sure, with a heart full of truth and grace.

    God bless you.

  11. BTW, I finally fixed your link on my blog so I can find you easier now that your blogger page is gone.

  12. Thanks, Daddy.

    Bro. TA, from reading your sermons, I kinda gathered that you liked those topics. You do a great job with both of them (and others).

    Rose, you are very kind. You have given two excellent illustrations of extreme views concerning the cross. These views are not dissimiliar from what Paul describes about the Jews and Greeks in I Cor. 1. People want to be able to believe the cross on their terms.

    I’m glad you got the link fixed. You are always welcome here.

  13. Rose:

    This article by Brother Cloud biblically and very clearly states the necessity of belief in the “cross of Christ” for salvation, i.e. to be born again.

    How do you reconcile your affirming comments here when you view the teaching of Zane Hodges (and his followers) that the lost can be saved apart from knowing, understanding or believing in the finished work of Christ as a mere, “theory, nuance of doctrine” and a “difference of opinion that is acceptable?”

    How do you reconcile Hodges’s reductionist view of the content of saving faith with this biblically balanced article that thoroughly refutes Hodges’s teaching?

    Thanks in anticipation of your reply.

    LM

  14. Lou, respectfully, I have now asked you four times in the last week to please leave me alone. Thank you.

  15. Rose:

    This was a fair question. I asked for and received Brother Gordon’s prior permission to ask you this question in this thread.

    I think it is fair to discuss your approving this great message that Gordon wrote, while at the same time openly sympathetic toward and lending credibility to the GES/Hodges/Wilkin message that is wholly antithetical to what has been presented here.

    I am not alone in hoping and praying for you to understand and appreciate the absolute incompatibility of the GES message and the biblical message that Gordon presented in this article.

    LM

  16. Lou, I had my fill of “conversing” with you last week. I wish we could all get past this. That is my prayer.
    If brother Gordon would like to ask me a question, I will be willing to discuss it with him. I have already explained to you the answer to your question, but I have found that you do not receive my answers. Rather, you make fun of me for my views. I do not want to discuss it with you, nor listen to you on the sidelines as you heckle me… which is what I feel that you do. If you were *not* to do that to me, then I would be happy to tell brother Gordon anything he wants to know about my thoughts on this issue. He may not be aware of my specific thoughts on these things and if he wants, I will tell him, but not with you interrupting and interjecting.

  17. Rose:

    You must understand that as long as there is any chance any unsuspecting believer might be deceived and fall into the trap of the GES’s reductionist interpretation of the Gospel there will be no getting past exposing and refuting it and any who teaches or sympathizes with that error.

    If the GES were to fold and their teaching was finally limited ONLY to their shrinking cell of theological extremists, then we may rest, but not until then.

    Last week at Dave’s blog he (Dave) asked everyone this question, “Can one be saved that does not know who Jesus really was and even without knowing that He died for them?”

    Dave asked all to answer with “yes or no to that simple question… .”



    This was your reply- “My (Rose’s) answer: very very doubtful. A probable no. Virtually impossible.”

    That is a classic example of your non-answer to questions that get to the crux and truth of the reductionist teaching coming from Hodges, Wilkin, GES and your blog partners.

    And, I’m sorry, but your feeling you have been made fun of and heckled is just wrong. No one has heckled or made fun of you. Your answers such as you posted at Dave’s blog are unacceptable. They are, therefore, followed up on to get more specifics, but to no avail. If that is what you call heckling, none of us who reject the GES’s teaching and have tried to interact with you, can help that.

    I want you to understand that when you claim the GES Gospel is a mere “theory, doctrinal nuance” and a “difference of opinion that is acceptable” you open the way for the unsuspecting to be deceived by GES reductionist advocates.

    If deep down you understand that the GES is teaching error, which Brother Gordon’s article clearly demonstrates, then come out openly against what GES is teaching.

    What is more important than fidelity to truth and a defense of the Gospel against any assault of it? The twin errors Lordship Salvation and the Crossless gospel are just such assaults: the former by addition, the latter by subtraction.

    You have been open and passionate in your stand against Lordship Salvation’s additions to the Gospel. Why then do you demonstrate open unity, sympathy and tacit support of those who are the prime instigators of the GES’s reductionist assault on the Gospel?

    LM

  18. There is no hypothetical question to be answered.

    Of the idea that someone on an island would only have access to something less than the Gospel that Christ Himself instructed the Apostle Paul to preach and that which was witnessed and preached by every Apostle (1 Cor 15:11) and so a person in that position would have to be able to be saved by “receiving” some lesser amount of information is a contrary-to-the-premise fallacy.

    The premise of the question is that God will not give more information than seems available.

    God Himself has something all-together different to say on the subject. Speaking of the publicity of the Cross – the Lampstand – He Himself has this to say.

    Mark 4:21-25
    21 Also He said to them, “Is a lamp brought to be put under a basket or under a bed? Is it not to be set on a lampstand? 22 For there is nothing hidden which will not be revealed, nor has anything been kept secret but that it should come to light. 23 If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.”
    24 Then He said to them, “Take heed what you hear. With the same measure you use, it will be measured to you; and to you who hear, more will be given. 25 For whoever has, to him more will be given; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him.”

    Like the Eunuch.

    If any responds to any revelation of God, even general revelation of Creation ala Rom 1 God will respond and get that info to them. Even if He has to translate someone from one part of the world to another.

    The Gospel IS the power of God to Salvation. He doesn’t circumvent it so neither should we.

    I think when our zeal to make God accessable to people turns Him into a god (not God but an idol) we expose our how much in the world we still are.

    I might build this up into an article, but I hope it’s helpful here.

    Thanks for your article Gordon.

    Kev

  19. Gordon, lovely weather we’re having isn’t it? 😉 Although it’s a bit chillier than I prefer, but oh well.

  20. Lou, may I suggest that you tell her how you feel….

    Michele

  21. Michele:

    I’ll give you benefit of the doubt that you were attemting tongue-in-cheek. You’ve been observing these discussions for several months.

    Many if us have tried to reason with Rose in the blogs and in private communication. Her answer is ALWAYS the same: the Crossless gospel is a mere “theory, doctrinal nuance…difference of opinion that is acceptable.”

    LM

  22. Lou,

    Rather than offend you I’ll withdraw my suggestion.

    Humbly, Michele

  23. Excellent post, Gordon.

    (Give my regards to Castro, btw.)

  24. OK, I think it is probably time to close this discussion.

    Lou asked my permission to post his initial question to Rose with the promise that he would not allow his end of the conversation to escalate to unseemly combativeness. While some of his wording may be a tad more confrontational than I might personally use, I feel that he has honored his promise. Lou I commend you and appreciate you keeping your word.

    Rose is certainly under no obligation to respond. It would seem that she has opted not to do so and we will respect that choice.

    This leaves us at somewhat of an impasse and seeing no likely ground to be gained in continuance of this discussion I would respectfully request to those involved in the debate that we “cease and desist”. 🙂

    To all involved in the debate, I thank you for not turning this into a knock-down drag-out affair.

    I thank those who have commented outside this debate. Steve, it is indeed lovely weather and personally I could stand for it to get a little cooler. (I assume you mean outside? 😉 )

    Cameron, I’m drawing a blank. You’re gonna have to clarify the Castro thing.

    Since this is my blog, I reserve the right to the last word and here it is: God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.

    God bless.

  25. Gordon:

    Thanks for hosting this discussion, and I especially appreciate your article, which marks out the biblical grounds for the necessary content of saving faith, i.e. the cross.

    Lou

  26. Gordon,
    If you don’t mind, I would like to enter the answer I sent you by email. This way I won’t be accused of “not answering questions.” LOL – I have answered this time and again, but maybe I haven’t found the right words to get the idea across.

    Lou asks me:
    How do you reconcile your affirming comments here when you view the teaching of Zane Hodges (and his followers) that the lost can be saved apart from knowing, understanding or believing in the finished work of Christ as a mere, “theory, nuance of doctrine” and a “difference of opinion that is acceptable?”

    The core beliefs of both sides in this debate are not that different. GES people say that the death, burial and ressurection is the context of “believing in Jesus for eternal life.” They say believing “has to be defined and have a context.” So the whole argument is not about what anyone preaches to the lost, just about whether some of it is necessary to be understood to trigger salvation or if it is more proper to say that it is the all-important “context.” To me that is splitting hairs and a doctrinal nuance. It could be a great thought-stretcher and touchpoint for edifying discussion if it wasn’t all so nasty and we didn’t have to hear the word “heresy” and “crossless gospel” and “legalism” bandied back and forth.

    Both sides have the same content in their presentation to the lost. Those Lou is accusing are preaching the gospel of 1 Cor 15 to the people they witness to. Even Lou will stipulate to that – he admits that GES people preach the same thing to the sinner.

    The beef is about what each side says is the minimum requirement for salvation, if they were able to sort out and see what actually brought the new life, if they could study the conversion of the sinne. Antonio (my GES friend) preaches the gospel of 1 Cor 15 to lost people just like the others. He wouldn’t preach the gospel of 1 Cor 15 and then tell him “Now you don’t have to believe that, just trust in Jesus for eternal life.” The “they don’t necessarily have to believe that” is all for debating theology with other believers. Like “What if a person was reading the gospel of John and believed that Jesus was the Christ beofre he got to the end of the book? Would he be saved?” These kinds of questons are what this is about, IMHO.

    If I don’t get it, I never will, cause I have read and talked about this more than I care to.

    Now I don’t want to answer any more of Lou’s questions. I am getting tired of being chased about the internet over this issue, as I explain in the article on my blog. Thank you. :~)

  27. Rose:

    You wrote, “The core beliefs of both sides in this debate are not that different.”

    Right, what those in the GES personally believe about the Gospel and is not that different. That is not why of all the rest of us in the FG camp that have rejected and separated from GES. So, what is the difference?

    You wrote, “GES people say that the death, burial and resurrection is the context of “believing in Jesus for eternal life.” They say believing “has to be defined and have a context.” So the whole argument is not about what anyone preaches to the lost, just about whether some of it is necessary to be understood to trigger salvation or if it is more proper to say that it is the all-important “context.” To me that is splitting hairs and a doctrinal nuance.”

    Half-Right The argument is NOT over what the GES/Crossless advocates preach, but it IS over that GES insists the lost do not have know, understand or believe any of it to be born again. THAT is the crux of the controversy.

    Here we have you calling the GES reductionist assault on what the Bible clearly says must be believed to be born again, as our host Gordon pointed out, (content of saving faith) what the lost MUST understand and BELIEVE to be born again, “hair-splitting and a doctrinal nuance.” That is a tragic underestimation of the reductionist heresy coming from GES and your Crossless gospel blog partner(s).

    Furthermore, your blog partner, has written and stands by what he wrote, that the lost can be born again no matter what misconceptions he holds. He wrote, “Believe Christ’s Promise and You are Saved, No Matter What Misconceptions You Hold.”

    Your GES blog partner says that misconceptions should be, “put on the back burner,” in an evangelistic presentation. Your blog partner and GES believe ANY misconception about whom Jesus is and what He did to provide salvation can be put on the “back burner” and dealt with in a follow-up discipleship setting.

    There is a specific message called “the Gospel” in the Bible that the lost must believe to be born again. You are aware that the GES says there is NO specific message called “the Gospel.” The GES, and you also know this, insist the Lord’s titles, “the Christ” and “Son of God” do not mean or infer His deity.

    It is sad commentary to read that you view the GES reductionism, specifically that the lost can be saved who do NOT understand or believe in His deity, His death and/or resurrection can be born again, a “theory, doctrinal nuance, difference of opinion that is acceptable.” That is tragic.

    What could more important than the Gospel? The GES has assaulted the Person and work of Jesus Christ. That is no small matter and the unsuspecting must be warned and protected from the egregious errors coming from GES. Your suggesting these teachings coming from Hodges, Wilkin and GES are a mere doctrinal nuance could cause someone to come under the influence and be deceived by GES and your blog partners, the teachers of this reductionist error.

    It is that kind of danger that I will contend for the faith (Jude) over, sound the alarm, and stand in the defense of the Gospel.

    I am hopeful you will one day appreciate the serious of what GES is doing to undermine and corrupt the one true Gospel of Jesus Christ.

    LM

  28. Gordon,
    What I find ironic is that I made a comment agreeing with your post. I have no desire to “spread this egregious error” that Lou is talking about. I made a non-controversial comment… and now he has spread the “egregious error” of the GES by broadcasting it on your blog. I do find that ironic. I could see if I came here and started spouting off some erroneous doctrine that Lou would feel it necessary to correct it so that the “unsuspecting” readers of your blog will not be brought into it. As you look back at my initial comment, I have done no such thing. Your blog is now one of several where Lou has done this – followed me and brought up this belief of my friend. It is interesting how much he wants to talk about this so that everyone can be exposed to his teaching on the crossless gospel. As for me, Gordon, I do not want to defend something that I see as a nuance or theory held by someone else, even if someone like Lou wants to say that it is an asssault on the person of Christ. I don’t agree with him in that description of this issue, but then I don’t agree with my blog partners about everything either – especially some of things Matthew has been posting lately about Millenial Exclusion, for goodness sake. I can be friends with people I disagree with.

    I really feel like I should be allowed to leave this alone between Lou and myself without having to continually discuss it with him – I find it to be not edifying in my life.

    :~) Switching gears and then driving away calmly….

    Lou, I hope that the Lord blesses you this year and that you have great peace and prosperity in your soul. I wish you no ill, but I find it difficult to interact with you on the internet around this issue. Since this issue seems to be all you want to talk about, I have to respectfully ask you to talk with someone else about it.

    You are welcome to comment on my blog as long as you do not bring this up. I never meant to ‘ban’ you. I just didn’t want your comments about this subject anymore. God bless.

  29. Brother Gordon,

    I respectfully ask permission to post this short note. Please, do not hesitate to delete this. I FULLY respect your right to moderate your blog as you wish. You had stated you wanted this discussion to cease and that you wanted the last word. However a slight side topic has come. I would like to comment briefly on it here. But again I will not even in the slightest be offended if you delete this.

    All,

    The discussion between Lou and Rose seems more combative than it is. The reason that Rose feels “chased all over the internet” by Lou on this subject is because Rose interacts on this subject “all over the internet” not because Lou is “chasing” her.

    Rose,

    The simple Scriptural truth is that one must receive the Gospel to be saved. This is Paul’s clear teaching on the subject. 1 Cor 15:1-2.

    There has been an abundance of research, opinion and discussion on this topic.

    No one who loves you could honestly simply agree to let you alone about something you are doing that is dangerous to you.

    I know you feel harassed at times. The relentlessness that people show in coming to you on this topic only matches the relentlessness you show in forwarding the error that you can’t seem to quite commit to.

    I know you love Antonio. I have personally sought after his restoration to the best of my ability. It is now my most loving option to treat him as though he is unsaved. Believe me the moment I hear he’s even hoping for another option I will be right there to restore him. The moment he is seen to be searching for Truth will be the moment he is welcomed in to fellowship with me with great fanfare.

    What I hope you are reading me say is this. The most loving thing you can do for Antonio and the others is to love them enough to hold them to Truth.

    In case you think I’m just preaching to you and not following what I say read my comment here.
    http://freegracefreespeech.blogspot.com/2008/09/getting-gospel-changed.html

    Gordon, I’m sorry this was longer than I intended. Again, while I felt compelled to comment I will not at all mind if you delete it.

    Bless you, I thank God for you. I especially love the Grace you have shown everyone involved.

    Kev

  30. OK, Last Word Part Deux

    Rose has very clearly stated her position. Personally, I would say that I see the differences to be more substantive than mere nuance. However, thank you, Rose, for being willing to share your answer. I did not want to betray your confidence by sharing with others what you had told me via e-mail.

    Lou, you have felt compelled to post a rebuttal. Both sides have now gone into overtime and stated their positions.

    Again, we would seem to be at an impasse. Rose has made clear her desire to stop discussing the issue. For my part, I share that desire. I will never stop proclaiming the power of the cross, but the details of this debate have been batted back and forth ad nauseum. I disagree with those of Zane Hodges’ position in this matter, but I realize that I can neither persuade nor force them to agree with me.

    Some who know me may wonder why I have participated in this debate to begin with. As a Southern Baptist, I am not affiliated with either the Free Grace Alliance or the Grace Evangelical Society, so on that score, I don’t have a dog in this fight.

    My concern in this is that I have seen the passion on both sides of the discussion reach levels where a lack of civility has at times been displayed. This is counterproductive to our message and tends to hide the grace of God.

    As for my part, I am through with the debate. As I said, I will never quit proclaiming the message of the cross, but I am finished arguing the details that have characterized this discussion. I have stated my position as clearly as I know how. It should be apparent to anyone where I stand. It obviously will take someone more eloquent and knowledgeable than myself to convince Antonio, et al, to alter their belief.

    Now, let me reiterate very plainly, THIS DEBATE IS FINISHED ON THIS BLOG!

  31. Very good article.
    Thanks for stopping by pastoralmusings. I would not have had the chance to read your article otherwise.
    Keep holding up the blood stained banner!
    Jason

  32. While I agree with you in that I am growing tired of this debate I do come down soundly in agreement with brother Lou and Kev and am thankful they are out there.

    The cross is an offense that must always be raised above all of our cares and wants as it is all the apostles boasted in and I do the same. I can do no other.

    Good post brother.

    Grace upon grace,

    Brian

  33. Gordon, I am in complete agreement with you on this. The substitutionary atonement is an essential component of the gospel, both to be preached and to be received. Paul would not lesson the content of saving faith even when he knew it would be a stumbling block to others. Bless you for your post.

    Kev, your statements are a God-honoring and beautiful blend of truth and love. Thanks for that.

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