Bible - General Questions

Why Is There Only One Gospel?

By Dr. Paul M. Elliott
The multi-gospel madness of our postmodern age denies what Scripture plainly teaches...

From the TeachingtheWord Bible Knowledgebase

Part two of a two-part series. Read part one.

The multi-gospel madness of our postmodern age denies what Scripture plainly teaches: There is one holy Lawgiver, one Law, one penalty for its violation, one universal condition of man, one perfect Lawkeeper, one perfect Sacrifice, and one Mediator, who is the One Way.

In our first article we discussed one of the most disturbing phenomena of the 20th and 21st-century church, the promulgation of different "gospels" for different people. This leads us to two key questions: What are the common denominators in these pluralistic "gospels"? Why is there, in fact, only one true Gospel? We shall focus on these questions in this second part of our study.

Common Denominators

All forms of the multi-gospel phenomenon have three things in common:

A false view of man. The notion that there are different "gospels" for different people in different times and in different places, assumes and even asserts that man changes in some fundamental way, depending on when and where he lives.

The Hyper-Dispensationalist assumes that Old Testament man was somehow inherently different from New Testament man. The prosperity and self-esteem "gospels" assume that postmodern man is somehow different in his needs and outlook from all who preceded him.

The environmental and social "gospels" assume that the kind of salvation man needs has changed because (so these false teachers assert) man's living environment has changed. Liberation theology assumes that man needs a different kind of "gospel" depending on his political and economic circumstances.

The false gospels that especially plague Reformed churches today (Shepherdism, the New Perspective on Paul, and the Federal Vision) assert that times have changed, and so Evangelicals must reverse the Reformation and re-embrace what are, in fact, the most basic errors of Roman Catholicism.

The feminist "gospel" assumes that the fundamental relationships "Y both physical and societal "Y between man and woman have changed.

The all-ways-lead-to-whatever "gospel" of the television talk shows assumes, in addition to much of the above, that man's intellect has changed for the better.

Furthermore, the notion that there are different "gospels" for different people is based on the assumption that man is not totally depraved. He is, in some sense, capable of saving himself "Y although the definitions of what it means for man to "save" himself vary all over the map.

A false view of God, and especially of Christ. The false teaching that there are different "gospels" for different people in different times and in different places makes man, not God, the preeminent factor. A "God" who can be called by any name and will accept anyone, or who changes His requirements for salvation arbitrarily from one place or time period to another, is less than the God of the Bible. The "God" of liberation theology is nothing more than a liberty-robbing despot. A "God" who needs for man to save society, the environment, government, or the economy is a "God" who has lost control of His creation. The "Christ" of feminism is an impotent shadow of the true Son of God who came "not to send peace, but a sword" (Matthew 10:34) and will rule His kingdom with a rod of iron (Revelation 19:15).

In fact, since the underlying assumption of gospel-pluralism is that man can save himself, these false gospels all assert that an atoning Christ actually isn't needed. God and Christ aren't really needed at all, except perhaps to give man some kind of an assist or psychological uplift during his climb to self-deliverance. The "God" of the self-esteem, and word-of-faith, and prosperity "gospels" is nothing more than some sort of cosmic genie who must accede to fallen man's desires and demands.

A false view of Scripture. All of this, of course, stems from an abysmal blindness to the truth as it is found only in the inspired, infallible, inerrant Word of God. "The natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." (1 Corinthians 2:14)

What does the Word of God say about gospel-pluralism? It condemns it unremittingly. Scripture declares, clearly and unequivocally, that there is only one Gospel, and it tells us exactly why this is true.

Why Is There Only One Gospel?

God the Holy Spirit does so through an unbreakable chain of "ones" that runs from the beginning of the Old Testament all the way to the end of Revelation:

There is one God:

To you it was shown, that you might know that the Lord Himself is God [literally, "the only God"]; there is none other besides Him. (Deuteronomy 4:35)

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. (Deuteronomy 6:4-5)

And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. (John 17:3)

There is one unchanging Law-Giver:

I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before Me. (Exodus 20:2-3)

There is one Lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy. (James 4:12)

The Strength of Israel will not lie nor relent. For He is not a man, that He should relent. (1 Samuel 15:29)

For I am the Lord, I do not change. (Malachi 3:6)

...the Father of lights, with whom is no variation or shadow of turning... (James 1:17)

There is one Law, and Scripture applies this principle not only to God's moral law, but also applied it to the ceremonial and civil law during the days of Israel:

Now we know that whatever the law [God's moral law] says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin. (Romans 3:19-20)

One law shall be for the native-born and for the stranger who dwells among you. (Exodus 12:49)

And if a stranger dwells among you, and would keep the Lord's Passover, he must do so according to the rite of the Passover and according to its ceremony; you shall have one ordinance, both for the stranger and the native of the land. (Numbers 9:14)

One ordinance shall be for you of the assembly and for the stranger who dwells with you, an ordinance forever throughout your generations; as you are, so shall the stranger be before the Lord. (Numbers 15:15)

You shall have the same law for the stranger and for one from your own country; for I am the Lord your God. (Leviticus 24:22)

There is one penalty for violation of the one Lawgiver's one Law:

The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself. (Ezekiel 18:20)

For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul. (Leviticus 17:11)

And according to the law almost all things are purified with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no remission. (Hebrews 9:22)

By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain [the blood of a sacrifice rather than the fruits of his labors], through which he obtained witness that he was righteous [in the Greek, "justified"], God testifying of his gifts; and through it he being dead still speaks. (Hebrews 11:4)

There is one universal condition of man, in all times and places:

Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned. (Romans 5:12)

What then? Are we better than they? Not at all. For we have previously charged both Jews and Greeks that they are all under sin. As it is written:

"There is none righteous, no, not one; there is none who understands; there is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside; they have together become unprofitable; there is none who does good, no, not one."

"Their throat is an open tomb; with their tongues they have practiced deceit"; "the poison of asps is under their lips"; "whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness."

"Their feet are swift to shed blood; destruction and misery are in their ways; and the way of peace they have not known."

"There is no fear of God before their eyes." (Romans 3:9-18)

For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God... (Romans 3:22-23)

The Scripture has confined [literally, has "boxed in" or imprisoned] all under sin... (Galatians 3:22)

There is one perfect Law-Keeper, Jesus Christ:

For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him. (2 Corinthians 5:21)

Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. (Hebrews 4:14-15)

For such a High Priest was fitting for us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and has become higher than the heavens; who does not need daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the people's, for this He did once for all when He offered up Himself. For the law appoints as high priests men who have weakness, but the word of the oath, which came after the law, appoints the Son who has been perfected forever. (Hebrews 7:26-28)

There is one perfect Sacrifice, Christ himself:

And according to the [Old Testament ceremonial] law almost all things are purified with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no remission. Therefore it was necessary that the copies of the things in the heavens should be purified with these, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these.

For Christ has not entered the holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us; not that He should offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood of another, He then would have had to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now, once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself." (Hebrews 9:22-26)

And every priest stands ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God, from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool. For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified. (Hebrews 10:11-14)

There is one Mediator:

For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time. (1 Timothy 2:5)

But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He is also Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises. (Hebrews 8:6)

And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance. (Hebrews 9:15)

But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel. (Hebrews 12:22-24)

There is one Lawgiver, one Law, and one penalty for its violation. There is one perfect Lawkeeper, who alone was able to be the one perfect Sacrifice and Substitute to atone for the sins of men. He is therefore the one Mediator between God and man, and the one and only Savior:

Jesus said to him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me." (John 14:6)

Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved. (Acts 4:12)

All of this means there is only one glorious Gospel for all people in all times and in all places:

For indeed the Gospel was preached to us [who live after the Cross] as well as to them [Israel before the Cross]; but the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it. (Hebrews 4:2)

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.

Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands, that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity. And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near. For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father. (Ephesians 2:8-18)

Therefore, true believers in Christ must ever proclaim this one true Gospel, to the exclusion of all others, which are by their very nature false gospels leading to damnation:

I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.

For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ. But I make known to you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ. (Galatians 1:6-12)

There is one body, and one Spirit, even as you are called in one hope of your calling; 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)


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