What Is Christ's Gospel ?
by Burnell D. Johnson
Friends: It is my privilege to bring to you good tidings of great joy that is for all people.
The best news that ever came to this poor troubled world was expressed in the words of the Savior in the text He used to open His first evangelistic meeting in His home town of Nazareth. Luke 4. "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he bath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; He hath sent me to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised. To preach the acceptable year of the Lord. This day is this scripture (Isaiah 61) fulfilled in your ears ."
His introductory words made a very favorable impression. They "wondered at the gracious words that proceeded out of his mouth."
As He proceeded with His sermon a great change came over His audience, and ere He finished His discourse His auditors were transformed into a hostile mob. They thrust him out of the city and led Him to the brow of a hill to destroy him. His revival service broke up in a riot. And this was only an incident in his turbulent ministry of three years of gospel preaching As He sent out His disciples to preach, He assured them that they might expect similar experiences, and they did.
What was the trouble? Doesn't everybody like to hear good news? -- Well, that depends .
He came to bring "Good tidings to the meek." But they were not meek.
He came to heal the broken-hearted. But they were not broken-hearted.
He came to give sight to the blind. They resented the insinuation that they were blind!
They were well satisfied with themselves, and were proud of their ancestry, and especially of their religion. Jesus Christ reminded them of some very unpleasant incidents in their cherished national history.
A gospel that does not begin with stripping folks of their nice robes of self-righteousness, as its first objective, is not Christ's gospel. That is why "His own received Him not ." Here is the offense of the cross . "Blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me." Christ's gospel is good news to those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, and to no others!
Christ's gospel is the militant enemy of all worships and all religions but that gospel and that worship of which He is the author and finisher. "I am the door. Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber ." John 10:1.
"Preaching the Bible is all right, but you have no right to run down other churches ." So said a woman, after hearing a discourse that showed by the scriptures the difference between Christ's church and other churches that claim to be His . Was she right?
A missionary writes from Florida, "Our work is non-denominational, and we are on good terms with all the denominations we come in contact with." Was the missionary right?
A precept of the Hindu Buddha was, "A man should never abuse the faith of others, and should never say or repeat anything that may cause sorrow or ill feeling." How about it? What saith the Scriptures?
The Bible says, "Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice." It says, "Foolish and unlearned questions avoid, knowing that they do gender strifes . And the servant of the Lord must not strive: but be patient unto all men, apt to teach, patient, in meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; and that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will. 2 Timothy 2:23-26.
Carnal strife, religious quarreling, persecution, personal abuse, and slander are anti-christian.
The warfare of clashing rival creeds, quarreling over religious opinions; strife and divisions over sacred meats and drinks, forms and ceremonies, are disgusting and wicked! because human opinions, human creeds and religious externals are foreign to righteousness and salvation. It is strife "about words to no profit, but to the subverting of the hearers ."
The spiritual war between truth and lies, between right and wrong, between the temple of God and idols, is another matter!
There is such a thing as truth! and truth is the friend of everyone. If it condemns me, it is still my friend; and if I want to be right, I love it still . Speaking the truth in love is not evil speaking. Truth never conflicts with truth. God's Holy Spirit is "the Spirit of Truth, " and it wages relentless war on all lies and deceptions by exposing them. Jesus Christ is the embodiment of truth. Christians may be ignorant of many truths, but every Christian has in his heart the love of the truth. All enemies of Christ make lies their refuge.
There is such a thing as virtue. There is such a thing as right! It wrongs no man. Its foundations are immovable and eternal, and it towers majestically above the raging sea of man's petty creeds and opinions . Christians offer no apology for fighting its enemies to the last ditch, with the only offensive weapon they carry, "The sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God."
There is one true God, and the first, supreme, and most sacred of all obligations resting upon every man and woman is to love and worship Him. Therefore the greatest of all sin is idolatry -- the setting up of false gods .
"Thou shalt worship the Lord God and Him only shalt thou serve !" The root and source of all the evils that afflict the world is in that "evil heart of unbelief in departing from the Living God." "Because that, when they knew God, they glorified Him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools -- -Even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;"
"Filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, ---without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them." Romans 1:21-23.
In the interest of God and humanity, Christians are divinely commissioned to "fight the good fight of faith" to "contend earnestly for the faith which was once delivered to the saints ." There is no malice in that fight, or any desire to injure a fellow-being, yet it is liable to arouse the most cruel and bitter antagonisms . "Think not , that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword, " said the Master. That sword is Truth; "Thy Word is Truth, " "The sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God."
It is no fight about opinions . It is light against darkness, right against wrong, truth against lies . It is the one God, the Creator, against all other gods; the one ever living Savior against every other ground of hope; His gospel against all other gospels; the church of the First-born against all other churches; the faith of God's elect against all other faiths . "Though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (for the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God, to the pulling down of strongholds;) casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God." 2 Cor. 10:4-5.
Neither Christ nor His true servants take pleasure in causing "sorrow or ill-feeling" and there would never be any occasion or excuse for doing so if there were no sin in the world. But sin is here and it is responsible for all the sorrow, and all the ill-feeling. Jesus comes "to bless you in turning every one of you away from his iniquities ." "O what a Blessing!
The challenge of Elijah against Baal, and of Gideon who destroyed Baal's altars, and of Moses who ground to powder the golden calf, is the challenge of every true servant of God always against all other gods, all other faiths, all other religions, all other "churches ." If denominations are of God then no Christian has any right to be "nondenominational"; if they are not of God, then no Christian ought to be "on good terms" with them. The Bible settles this question. "Mark them which cause divisions, and offenses contrary to the doctrines that ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words, and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple." Romans 16:17-18.
Preaching the pure gospel of Christ never divides Christians ! Denominations are the result of other gospels, or perversions of the gospel. Says the inspired Apostle, "Though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that we have preached unto you, let him be accursed." (Not very conciliatory toward other denominations)
The particular "other gospel" Paul here referred to was the teaching that gentiles who had been saved by faith in Jesus Christ, without any ceremonial rites, needed such rites to complete them as Christians; a fair sample of the "many gospels" that have bred the denominations.
From India, from China, and from the Philippines come telling rebukes of the divisions of apostate Christendom.
"China welcomes Christianity but has no room for denominations, " says a writer in a popular magazine. Referring to a "Message of the Church, " issued by a gathering of native Chinese Christians in 1922, the writer says, "To the divided west, she cries in piercing tones: 'For the love of Christ, hinder not our scattered fragments from becoming one . We appeal to those who love the same Lord to follow His command, and be united in one church, catholic and indivisible, for the salvation of China! '"
Surely the unity of Christians is as vital to the salvation of America as of China: and the obligation to obey Christ's commands is as binding on His followers here as there. If those who ignore His commandments are Christians, then who are not Christians?
The editor of a prominent newspaper in India is quoted as saying: "India accepts Christ, but rejects Christianity," which is another way of saying that what goes by the name of Christianity is not truly Christian. Unfortunately true!
Camillio Osias, a native Filipino, President of the National University at Manila, spoke before a "United Brethren" Conference in our City some time ago as follows: "As a non-Catholic, may I utter a word of advice to the Protestant Evangelical denominations who are working in the islands: too much denominationalism cannot be appreciated by the Filipinos . In its unity the Catholic church finds its greatest strength. I beg of you, for the sake of the work, don't transplant in my country the countless sects, scisms, and denominations that obtain in this country."
Is it important to receive Christ? "As many as received Him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name:" John 1:12.
Is there any other religion that can save lost men? "Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved." Acts 4:12.
Can the heathen receive Christ and reject His church? "And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved." Acts 2:47. "There shall be one fold, and one shepherd. I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved. He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber."
Can the heathen receive Christ and reject denominations? "He that receiveth you receiveth me." "Receive ye one another, even as Christ received us, to the glory of God the Father, that ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ ." Rom. 15:5-7. "If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. 1 John 1:7.
The very existence of a denomination is a flat denial and contradiction of the gospel; therefore, neither heathen or anyone else can receive Christ without in their hearts rejecting denominations.
A Methodist Sunday School Quarterly, commenting on John 17, says: "Our present church, divided into a great many separate denominations, is opposed to the desire of Christ as expressed in this prayer." And yet they persist in their opposition to Christ, and in calling their anti-christian denominations the "Christian Church, " and whoever dares to obey his divine Master is by them branded as an outlaw and a crank.
"Be astonished, 0 ye heavens, at this, and be horribly afraid, be very desolate, saith the Lord. For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters , and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns , that can hold no water." Jeremiah 2:12-13. That is a Bible view of "other faiths ." Every faith of which Jesus Christ is not the "author and finisher" (Hebrews 12;2.) is a "broken cistern": Man is its author; it cannot supply the "Water of Life" but constitutes a "horrible" sin against God, and against the souls of men.
But the infidel sectarian preachers have persuaded the people that there is really no harm in having a variety of religions; that all faiths and all worships should be honored and respected, and that about the only sin that is really "horrible" is "intolerance" toward "other faiths ." To preach that there is but one true church, "one body, and one Spirit - - - one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all." (Ephesians 4:4-6), is counted unpardonable bigotry.
Said an Evangelist to his converts: "Glad to have you join our church, but if ours don't suit you, there are lots of others to join. If you are hard to suit, and can't find one that pleases you - this is a free country, get up one of your own. But be sure you join some church; otherwise, you'll be like a stalk of corn growing outside the garden, in danger of being nipped off ."
This is the worldly-wise counsel that has produced a "Christianity" that is not Christian. It is the proper formula for making good sectarians, i .e., dummy Christians . Joining a denomination, or society, will keep a backslider in his profession; but it will not keep a Christian spiritually alive for one minute. The sin of Baal's prophets was exactly the sin of every sectarian preacher who points souls to another keeping power besides a living faith in God.
"But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life." (Jude 20, 21.) "Kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time." 1 Peter 1:5.
"And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified." Believe it! And you will be "like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper ."
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