The Bible Warns About False Gospels
There are some who claim that the different Church of God (COG) organizations preach a different gospel. So, what is the Gospel? Are there significant differences in the messages being preached?
- The mainstream gospel falls well short. It is only half of the story.
- The focus should be on the Kingdom of God. The rest is the means to that end.
- Most of the larger COG groups preach the Gospel of the Kingdom, so where’s the problem?
18 And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.
19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:
20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.
In this section, often called the “Great Commission”, Jesus commanded His disciples to “teach all nations”. Teach them what exactly? You would think that this would be a self-evident question, but you might be surprised at what some may give as an answer!
Just what did Jesus teach them for 3-1/2 years?
1 The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God;
4 …John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.
15 …And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.
15 And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.
16 He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.
So, Jesus wanted them to teach the Gospel! He preached the Gospel and made disciples of them, so now it was their turn to preach the Gospel and make disciples.
Which begs the question: “What is the Gospel?”
What Many Say the Gospel Is
In Christianity, the good news or evangelium (also translated as ‘gospel’, ‘glad tidings’ and variants) is the message of Jesus, the Christ (the Messiah), specifically his atoning death on the cross and resurrection, the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost as ‘helper’ (paraclete), and the resulting promise and hope of salvation for the faithful.
~ Good news (Christianity). (n.d.). Retrieved 9 July 2009 from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Good_news_(Christianity).
The gospel is the good news of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ that provides full and free deliverance from the power and penalty of sin according to the grace of God alone through faith in Jesus Christ alone.
~ McKenzie, Rolaant L. (n.d.). What Is the Gospel? Retrieved 9 July 2009 from http://www.gospeloutreach.net/gospel.html.
To put it all together, many believe the Gospel is that Jesus came as a man to die on the cross for our sins, thus providing salvation for mankind. Some will go on to say that you must “accept Him into your heart” or some such wording, and then you will be “saved”. If they are truly astute, they might even mention repentance and baptism, but most don’t even get that far.
What Did Herbert W Armstrong Say the Gospel Is?
What is the one and only gospel of Jesus Christ? THE WORLD DOES NOT KNOW! It has not been preached for 19 centuries, strange as that may seem. Look into your BIBLE. Look at it from the very beginning!
“The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ” you’ll read in Mark 1:1. “Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the GOSPEL OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD, and saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel” (Mark 1:14-15). It is necessary to believe that GOSPEL to be saved! And how can you believe it, unless you know what it is? And for 1,900 years, the world did not know. That gospel was suppressed and replaced by man’s gospel about Christ.
~ Armstrong, Herbert W. Chapter 7: Mystery of the Kingdom of God. Mystery of the Ages. Available from http://reluctant-messenger.com/HWA/Mystery/Chapter7.html#CHRIST%27S.
Herbert W Armstrong (HWA) taught that the Gospel was about the Kingdom of God. He saw that Jesus preached about the Kingdom of God. He read that Jesus told people to believe the Gospel, the Good News, about the coming Kingdom of God. He saw that very few were teaching about a literal Kingdom in his day, so he came to the conclusion that the others were a false gospel.
So, that settles it, right? Well, let’s not be so quick to throw the baby out with the bath water.
What Does the Bible Say the Gospel Is?
Let’s notice something Paul wrote:
15 Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand;
2 By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.
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:
Many Protestants would point at this and say, “See! There’s the Gospel!” They would then close their Bible and walk away. Unfortunately, they haven’t heard the rest of the story.
50 Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.
~ v 50
Friends, can knowledge of the Kingdom of God save you? We cannot be saved without this knowledge! Paul says we are “saved” by the “Gospel”! Then, notice the items Paul lists:
- Christ died for our sins.
- Christ was dead and buried.
- Christ rose again the third day.
This brings up an important point: Is the Good News just that Christ is building a Kingdom? Is the Good News just that it will be established on the earth? No! The really, really Good News is that we can be in the Kingdom!
What saves us is Christ! He died for our sins so we can be in the Kingdom! That’s the Good News!
The rest is the means to an end.
Let’s compare this to what John the Baptizer taught:
4 John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.
~ Mk 1:4
What does the Great Commission say?
19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:
~ Mt 28:19
46 And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day:
47 And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.
48 And ye are witnesses of these things.
Yes, part of the Gospel is repentance and baptism. Christ died to justify us. We realize we are sinners and repent and are baptized.
Why? What’s the point?
14 Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God,
15 And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.
So, yes, there is more to it than just “getting right with God”!
The problem is that traditional Protestantism has only told half of the story. Yet, we cannot make it into the Kingdom of God without Christ dying for our sins.
What Do the Larger COG Groups Teach?
It seems that from time to time, someone has to make a bunch of claims that so-and-so group isn’t preaching the Gospel or they are focusing on something different. Well, let’s look at some of their websites and see what they say the Gospel is and what they are doing.
The Church is responsible to inform the public at large of the soon-coming, glorious Kingdom of God.
~ Philadelphia Church of God. (n.d.). Church Doctrines. Retrieved 27 July 2014 from http://about.pcog.org/ourbeliefs.php.
PCG also has a focus on church government and the family of God, but they seem to now tone that down in their fundamental beliefs section.
We trace our origins to the Church that Jesus founded in the early first century. We follow the same teachings, doctrines and practices established then. Our commission is to proclaim the gospel of the coming Kingdom of God to all the world as a witness and teach all nations to observe what Christ commanded (Matthew 24:14; 28:19, 20).
…We believe that the Church is that body of believers who have received, and are being led by, the Holy Spirit. The true Church of God is a spiritual organism. Its biblical name is “The Church of God.” We believe that the mission of the Church is to preach the gospel (good news) of the coming Kingdom of God to all nations as a witness, and to help reconcile to God such people as are now being called. We believe that it is also the mission of the Church of God to strengthen, edify and nurture the children of God in the love and admonition of our Lord Jesus Christ….
~ United Church of God, an International Association. (n.d.). Fundamental Beliefs of the United Church of God. Retrieved 27 July 2014 from http://www.ucg.org/about/fundamentalbeliefs.htm.
UCG doesn’t focus on government, but instead on “preparing a people”. Since Christ said to “make disciples”, it takes more than just dunking someone under water and telling them to have a nice day.
The Gospel of Christ is the “Good News” of the soon-coming Kingdom and government of God, and of the forgiveness of our sins through Christ’s sacrifice. Christ’s Gospel of the Kingdom of God reveals the means by which we are to be qualified by God to be ruling members of His Kingdom ….
~ Living Church of God. (n.d.). Official Statement of Fundamental Beliefs. Retrieved 27 July 2014 from http://www.lcg.org/statement-of-beliefs.shtml.
There’s no doubt they are teaching about the Kingdom. Also note the completeness of the description. Not only do they preach the Kingdom, but they emphasize the means of getting there. We also see “government” mentioned in this one.
The Church of God is a spiritual body composed of believers who have and are being led by the Holy Spirit. The Church is not a denomination, a human organization or a building but the people God is working with in any age. The biblical name of this church is the “Church of God.” Its mission is to preach the gospel of the coming Kingdom of God to all nations and to make disciples of all who respond to God’s calling, assisting them in their spiritual development and reconciliation to God.
~ Church of God, a Worldwide Association. (n.d). Fundamental Beliefs. Retrieved 27 July 2014 from .
Focus on Government vs Not
So, it appears that two of them have a focus on government, One has a focus on the family of God (now left out of fundamental beliefs), three have a focus on forgiveness of sins and/or reconciliation, and two have a focus on discipleship, aka “preparing a people”. All state they preach the Gospel of the Kingdom of God!
Where are these “large” and substantial differences? I submit to you that they only exist in the minds of those who make mountains out of molehills.
Can any of these organizations truly state that only they are preaching the true Gospel? Since all claim to be preaching the “Kingdom of God”, I submit to you that none can make that claim.
Of course, each of these may or may not have their own particular issues aside from this one. In fact, even while some of them state their focus is on the Kingdom of God, it is unfortunate that some are so controlling and power hungry that their actions speak louder than their words.
The Laodicean Attitude
I submit to you that those who are judgmental of other COG organizations need to tread carefully. “Laodicea” means “judgment of the people”, which is different from God’s judgments. People are judgmental out of hypocrisy. God is above that intellectually, emotionally and morally.
Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily: and thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of the LORD shall be thy reward.
9 Then shalt thou call, and the LORD shall answer; thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am. If thou take away from the midst of thee the yoke, the putting forth of the finger, and speaking vanity;
Those who would criticize and state that other groups are not proclaiming the Gospel need to first pull the plank out of their own eye.
I submit that sometimes the criticisms that are leveled at various organizations are because of the stubbornness and pride of the person doing the accusing.
24 Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.
~ Jn 7:24
Another Sign of the True Church
Believe it or not, though, having the truth and preaching the truth alone is not enough! Unbelievers will not be drawn to the truth alone, for they will not recognize the truth.
35 By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.
~ Jn 13:35
This is where too many organizations and even some congregations fall short! We are commanded not only to love, but we are commanded to love with the same love that Jesus showed for His disciples (Jn 13:34)!