April 15, 2018 The Whole Gospel



Scripture reading: Mark 1:14-17; 8:27-35; Luke 4:43


There was a recent survey where a ministry group sought out students who had been raised in evangelical churches and were now attending college. They asked them one simple question: “What is the gospel?” Shockingly, four out of five students could not answer the question even though they had, supposedly, been attending church most of their lives! Why are things this way? There may be more than one answer. It could be that they were attending under duress and so they never paid attention because they were uninterested. These youngsters may have made a profession of faith but there was no reality to their so-called faith.


It could be that the evangelical churches in our land are not offering or explaining the gospel very often in the meetings of the church nor in Sunday School.


It could be that the evangelical churches are proclaiming a defective gospel.


I do think that young people very often do not pay attention in church. That is true. Evangelical churches are, though, proclaiming a gospel. But the young people are not giving attention. But, surely, 80 % not paying attention seems high. I suspect that if the rest of the church members were surveyed the results would not be much better. In fact, about 40 years ago a brother who discipled me was often asked to speak at churches. This brother, Terry Haynie, was rather bold. He would ask the congregation: “Can someone tell me the gospel?” Most often, no one would say anything. Thinking that maybe they were just shy, he would begin calling on members of the congregation and have them tell him what the gospel was. (I told you he was bold!) Some may think that this was out of line because he was putting people on the spot which is, most often, not done in polite society. But, you see, the gospel is a matter of life and death. If we don’t understand the gospel it has profound consequences in this life and the next.  He cared more about their eternal welfare and the cause of Christ than being polite. When he did call on people to tell him the gospel, they could not do it! Now, these were church members who had been attending church a good portion of their lives.


There is more bad news. Most often, the ones who did try to explain the gospel got it wrong. That was 40 years ago, but if we asked the same question today I do not think the results would be any different. If anything, they would be worse.


I am convinced that the main problem is that evangelical churches are proclaiming a defective gospel. A gospel that leaves out what Jesus put in. There are essential parts missing from the modern gospel.


There are seven essential elements to the gospel that Jesus preached.[1] It is not too much to say that unless all seven portions of the gospel are given then we are presenting a defective gospel. God can still save a person with a defective gospel. Charles Spurgeon, for example, was saved by hearing the preaching of an uneducated farmer speaking on an obscure passage in the Old Testament. Spurgeon just knew that he was a sinner and he needed Christ and surrendered himself upon the invitation even though he barely understood what was being said. God had mercy on him and melted his heart.


But, just as easily, a person will not be made right with God in responding to a defective gospel and they will go on their way thinking that they are right with God when they are not! Let us get the gospel right.


Let us look again at Mark 1:14-17. Each of the four gospels has a distinctive purpose. All the gospel writers, of course, sought to persuade their readers to believe in the gospel. However, they each did so with a certain emphasis. The advantages to the gospel of Mark are that it is the shortest gospel. Being concise, it is easier to discern the basic parts of the gospel. His intended audience was Gentiles. So there are fewer Jewish cultural references, making it easy to understand.


14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”

16 Passing alongside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. 17 And Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.”[2]


Here is the beginning of Mark’s gospel. This short passage is important because it is so specific. It is rare to find such clarity. Generally, the other gospel authors simply tell us that Jesus preached the gospel but do not specify what he actually said. This passage tells us what Jesus actually said in proclaiming the gospel.


Look at verse 14. “…Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying…” (vs 15) What follows is the gospel! What does he say? “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand;”


The good news (that is the meaning of the word “gospel”) is that the kingdom of God is at hand! The good news is about the kingdom of God! That is Jesus’ gospel. And, it is the apostle’s gospel. But, how often do you hear anything about the kingdom of God in modern gospel preaching? You don’t! The modern gospel does not line up with Jesus.


The first element of the gospel is that the kingdom of God has come! It was “at hand” when Jesus first appeared and it came by the time his ministry on earth was completed. This will be shown shortly. There is a fuller manifestation of the kingdom still to come, but the kingdom has come in the Person of Jesus Christ and this is good news!


We also read in Luke where Jesus said, “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns as well; for I was sent for this purpose.”[3] Jesus’ gospel was about the kingdom of God!


What is the kingdom? The kingdom is simply the rulership of God where the subjects of the kingdom gladly submit to their Sovereign King because they know His good will towards them. His revealed will is what is best for them and they know it. Before the kingdom came man was his own master. When the kingdom comes they have a new Master, the Lord Jesus Christ.


Any gospel that ignores this or that permits a person to continue on as their own master and guide is not the gospel that Jesus preached.


The second element is actually a response to the gospel. Yet, it is still an essential part of the gospel itself. This is because without the necessary response the gospel is not good news. We must respond to it in order for it to be good news to us. What is it? You can see it there in verse 15: “Repent!”


This is another element of the gospel that is often left out in modern gospel presentations. “Just believe that Jesus died for your sins. Raise your hand if you believe that. Oh, I see a hand raised there. I see one there. I see another. You are all saved now!” Brothers and sisters, there is nothing like that in the entire Bible! It is just an evangelical tradition that is worse than the traditions of the liberal churches.


We are not saved by believing facts. We are saved by trusting in a Person. And, that trust is generated by the Holy Spirit. Our mental assent in itself has no power. Even the demons believe that Jesus died for sins.


There was a former member of this church that passed away a few years ago. She was young. Less than thirty years of age. I did not attend the funeral because I did not know the family nor was she a member here any longer. But there was a pastor that presided over the funeral. Because she had made a profession of faith this pastor assured everyone at the funeral that she was in heaven. Do you know how she died? From a drug overdose. Not only that, but I was told that she often engaged in fornication, wild parties, often abused drugs, and used vulgar language. If those things were true then she was not a child of God. She was given a forgiveness-only gospel. A “ticket to heaven” gospel. An easy-believism gospel.


The true gospel calls people to repent of their sins, to renounce their sins, and to continue repenting as they seek to live in the kingdom of God now and prepare to enter the kingdom in its next phase.


Repentance is the second element of the gospel.


Still in verse 15, Jesus says, “Believe in the gospel.” Even the word believe is somewhat misunderstood. A contemporary connotation of the word believe is simply to agree with something. But in the NT the word believe means to trust. It includes the idea of commitment because trust includes commitment. Of course, we must agree with the good news. But, we must also trust in it.


The third element of the gospel is belief or trust.


In verse 17 we see that Jesus says to Simon (that’s Peter) and his brother Andrew, as they were fishing, “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” Here is an important question. Is Mark just incidentally recording this statement of Jesus? Or, is he recording it to illustrate the response to the gospel? Some versions of the Bible, like the ESV, even separate verses 16 and 17 and give it a separate topical heading as if this is a whole new subject. We must remember that both verses and paragraphs are recent innovations, historically speaking, and were not present in the original text that Mark wrote.


In Mark’s original writing, verses 16 and 17 follow immediately after verses 14 and 15 without even any punctuation (because they did not use punctuation in Koine greek.). From many other passages in the NT we see that the call to follow Jesus is the necessary issue of believing the gospel. In other words, following Jesus is not optional. It is the necessary response to the gospel. If one does not follow Jesus all the other facts pertaining to the gospel will not help you.


Mark includes the calling of Peter and Andrew to show what the response to the gospel is. One repents, believes, and follows Jesus!


The fourth element of the gospel is following Jesus.


The last three elements of the gospel are often found together. They are also what most people think of when they hear the word “gospel.” In Mark chapter eight we read:


And Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi. And on the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” 28 And they told him, “John the Baptist; and others say, Elijah; and others, one of the prophets.” 29 And he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Christ.”[4]


The gospel centers around a Person and that Person is the Lord Jesus. The kingdom of God has come because Jesus has come. The Lord wants to ensure that his disciples know who he is. He is the Christ – the Anointed One! He was anointed by God the Father with both the Spirit of gladness (Heb 1:9) and with power and authority. This is what Christ means: the Anointed One.


Then in verse 31 we read:

And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again.[5]


Here, in one verse, we see the other essential elements of the gospel.


  • “be killed” – his death
  • “after three days” – his burial
  • “rise again” – his resurrection


The apostle Paul would later identify these three truths as the core of the gospel in I Corinthians 15.


His death is good news because a penalty must be paid for sin and Jesus paid that penalty on the cross! His death brings our forgiveness. Oh, how we need forgiveness! Our sins are what prevent us from becoming part of God’s kingdom. Thank you, Lord!


Being entombed for three days shows that his death was not hearsay, but an historical fact with a known, locatable tomb that was empty.


His resurrection means that he is alive forevermore and his power is available to us so that we follow him by his resurrection life, not by our own weakness. A complete proclamation of the gospel must include the resurrection.


There is more good news. In the pages of the New Testament there is found a fuller revelation of how the Lord wants to fill us with Himself so that so that we become his expression on the earth. This is the very purpose of our God in creating us. But that good news comes after one has believed the simple gospel.


In Mark 8, once Jesus has taught his disciples about his coming death, burial, and resurrection, he says:


“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 35 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. 36 For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? 37 For what can a man give in return for his soul?[6]


Again, Jesus speaks of following him. Following Jesus, becoming his disciple, is the response Jesus wants to those who believe the gospel. Because it is a necessary response it is part of the gospel.


What ought we to do? We must ensure that we embrace the whole gospel. Have we become his disciples or have we just believed a “ticket to heaven” gospel? The forgiveness-only gospel is not the gospel that Jesus and the apostles preached. If anyone has not become the disciple of Jesus you can do that today. Simply confess to the Lord that you have been your own master and guide. You repent of that and follow Jesus.


Secondly, when we present the gospel let us give people the whole gospel. To that end, here is a definition of the gospel that includes all seven elements:


The gospel is this: the kingdom of God has come in a Person. He is Jesus Christ, God’s one and only Son. He died on the cross for our sins, was buried, and was resurrected on the third day. God calls you to repent of your sins, believe the gospel, and follow Jesus – live your whole life for him. Those who do receive forgiveness, a new life now, and will enjoy participation in the kingdom when it comes in its fullness.




[1] These constituents of the gospel have been well identified in the book, The Discipleship Gospel, by Bill Hull & Ben Sobels (HIM Publications, www.himpublications.com). Also, in Conversion and Discipleship by Bill Hull.

[2] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mk 1:14–17). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[3] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Lk 4:43). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[4] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mk 8:27–29). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[5] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mk 8:31). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[6] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mk 8:34–37). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.