A curse was Paul’s prescription for those who distorted his gospel (Gal.1:8). We know from Scripture that the gospel he preached was the same message he received from the Lord (Gal. 1:12). That’s why it’s ironic that some claim Paul preached a different Gospel than Jesus and the other apostles.
But, what do you think? In light of Paul’s reverence for God and risking his life multiple times to lead the lost to salvation, would he have condemned those who distorted a message he knowingly created? That’s basically what some Christians believe and teach.
I’m sure you’ve heard the argument before. Usually it goes something like this: “Jesus preached the kingdom of God while Paul preached the gospel of grace. Therefore, the gospel we should preach is the one Jesus preached which is the gospel of the Kingdom.”
Those who teach such things either discount “Paul’s gospel” as being irrelevant or false, or they claim there are two different “programs” as they call them. That is, God has one program for Jews and another for Gentiles.
On one hand, Jesus and the other apostles preached the kingdom which was only for the descendants of Israel and didn’t pertain to Gentiles, and on the other hand for the Gentiles there was the gospel of grace, mainly proclaimed by Paul, which teaches we’re saved by grace through faith in the Lord.
However, there are some issues with this. Number one, we’re all made right with God by grace through faith in him. This is evident in both the Old and New Testaments. Physical and spiritual salvation have always been according to God’s grace when one turns and places their trust in him as God alone.
And #2, contrary to what is taught here, Jesus, Paul, and the others preached the same gospel. This gospel, which calls all people to repentance through the message of the atonement for sin, including Christ’s death, resurrection, and the promise of a new and perfect creation, is for everyone.
But don’t take my word for it. Let’s take it to the Scriptures to confirm.
In 1 Corinthians 15:1-6, Paul gives a snapshot of the Gospel. He writes:
“Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep.”
Paul continues to discuss the kingdom of God and the resurrection of the dead throughout the remainder of the chapter.
Peter and other apostles proclaimed a form of this message to Jews:
(Acts 2:22-38 NIV shortened) 22 “Fellow Israelites, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. 23 This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men,[d] put him to death by nailing him to the cross. 24 But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him………32 God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it. 33 Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear”……….36 “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.”…….38 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. “
(Acts 4:1-2 NIV) “The priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to Peter and John while they were speaking to the people. 2 They were greatly disturbed because the apostles were teaching the people, proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead.”
(Acts 4:10) “…then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed.”
Peter also preached the Gospel to Gentiles. Concerning Jesus, he spoke to Cornelius and his household saying:
(Acts 10:39-43) 39 “We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a cross, 40 but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen. 41 He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen—by us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. 42 He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. 43 All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”
Some people believe Jesus preached an entirely different gospel than Paul. However, we can confirm from Scripture that Jesus’ message was the same.
(Matt. 4:23) 23 Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people.
(Matt. 12:40) “For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.”
(Luke 9:22) And he said, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.”
(John 2:19) Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.”
It’s the same message only with different wording.
I think most of the confusion lies in us getting hung up on the word “gospel,” attempting to point out a new authoritative gospel each time we see the word in Scripture.
Nevertheless, the English word gospel is not unique to the Bible and has no special meaning by itself.
In English, it can be translated as “good news” or “good message” from the Greek word euangelion. It was used historically to refer to an authoritative declaration made by a herald, such as a victory in battle.
So, when we read that Jesus began to preach the gospel of the kingdom and commanded all to repent, that is exactly what he did. In his message, he announced the good news, or the authoritative message, that God’s kingdom was near.
There’s no reason to believe that this gospel of the kingdom is somehow separate from God’s ultimate plan for mankind’s redemption and salvation, which is the ultimate gospel. Rather, this message from Jesus is only one part of the full gospel.
Another element of the gospel comes mainly from the teachings of Paul. When Paul began proclaiming the good news of God’s grace which consisted of the message of Jesus’s death, burial and resurrection, he wasn’t preaching another gospel. If anything he was attempting to bring more clarity and understanding to the message that Jesus began to proclaim.
In other words, if John and Jesus preached telling the people to repent because the Kingdom of heaven was near, then Paul and the apostles would have shared more about the kingdom and details concerning how to repent.
They advised salvation is not by works but by placing faith in God alone through his son Jesus Christ, believing, trusting, and acknowledging him as Lord with the intention, therefore, to obey him. That’s how to gain entrance into this new spiritual kingdom.
Continuing on from Paul, the book of Revelation, also part of the gospel, gives us hope of a future restoration which should strengthen our faith, helping us to endure to the end.
So to conclude, we can summarize the complete gospel as follows: It includes the creation and fall of mankind, redemption, and restoration. God’s messengers didn’t preach different messages to his people. But it seems that each served a special role in proclaiming a portion of the gospel and then passed the baton to the next runner to reveal more of the plan until the revelation to mankind was complete.
It’s true that some aspects of the gospel were emphasized more than others by some, but the gospels were not different or contradictory. It’s clear that the gospel that Jesus, Paul and the other apostles preached was the same. Their messages were not foreign to one another, but fit together perfectly in the puzzle that revealed God’s ultimate plan for creation.
**Unless otherwise noted, the thoughts expressed in this post are my own, and are intended to guide, not replace one’s own conviction and study of Scripture.