By Charles H. Welch
Gospel. For a full examination of this most blessed word, the doctrinal associations of REDEMPTION, FORGIVENESS and JUSTIFICATION would have to be included. See these themes in the closing volumes of this Analysis which are devoted to doctrine. This is beyond our present limits, our concern in this section is the Dispensational aspect of truth, and the preaching of the Gospel will be clear and convincing or beclouded and unconvincing largely as the preacher realizes the dispensational changes that have influenced the gospel that should be preached. From one point of view, of course, we can most truthfully say "there is only one gospel", and by that we mean that all men everywhere, whether Jew or Gentile, are sinners, that it is one God Who saves, and One Offering that provides the basis of such salvation. But if we intend by the expression "there is only one gospel" to sweep aside all the dispensational differences that are observable, we shall be hinderers and not helpers, and we shall give forth an uncertain sound. Let us first of all tabulate the different "Gospels" that are spoken of in the N.T.
In addition we can add Ephesians 3:6, and 2 Timothy 1:10,11, where the gospel is defined as that of which Paul had been a minister, a preacher, an Apostle and a teacher of the Gentiles. It would be as untrue as it would be absurd to say that because we have compiled a list of fifteen different titles of the Gospel, that there are fifteen "gospels", but it would be equally harmful and untrue to sweep aside all the manifest differences that are here, and reckon them of little or no importance. Let us take an extreme case to illustrate.
The everlasting gospel (Rev. 14:6). Without turning aside to discuss the word "everlasting" let us note the following features about this "gospel". The exhortation is to "fear", the reason is because the hour of "judgment" has come, and worship is directed to Him Who made heaven and earth, and the fountains of waters. Not only is this "gospel" notable for the terms employed, it is even more notable for the obvious omissions. Not one word as to faith, no mention of Christ, no reference to redemption, no promise of life, no allusion to the forgiveness of sins. It is an extreme case certainly, but it nevertheless challenges us, and calls us to realize that what may be a "gospel" in one era may be no such thing in another. By the time this gospel is preached, materialistic science will have done its worst. God as a Creator and Moral Ruler will have ceased to exist in the mind of man except as an historic specimen, and the man who fears God as Judge and Creator in those future godless times will be a saved man. Let us now go to the head of the list:
The gospel of the kingdom (Matt. 4:23). It will be noted that this gospel of the kingdom is evidently expressed in verse 17 in the words "Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." It will further be noted that healing all manner of sickness and disease was its accompaniment. In Matthew ten, the "twelve" are commissioned to preach this gospel of the kingdom, and here we not only have the accompaniment of healing,
but the restriction:
Among those thus commissioned in Matthew ten was "Simon, who is called Peter". There is no reason to doubt that he preached this gospel with signs following. Yet in Matthew sixteen, we find him making it manifest that he did not know that Christ should suffer and be killed (Matt. 16:21-23). So therefore we have in the gospel of the kingdom another example of a preaching with most evident Divine approval that had no place in it for "Jesus Christ and Him crucified". It would be as evil for anyone to preach this gospel of the kingdom today as it would be to preach the everlasting gospel-neither is a message for the present dispensation, and these two extreme cases make it abundantly clear that, apart from a knowledge of dispensational truth, there is every likelihood that the very gospel that is preached will be a garbled message.
Even if we transfer our allegiance to Mark 16:15-20 and say that here this gospel must include the sacrifice of Christ, for the one offering had been made, here "every creature" cancels the limits imposed in Matthew ten, here "Go ye" countermands "Go not", yet we still have to face the fact that
That such conditions obtained during the Acts of the Apostles it is easy to show.
Mark sixteen therefore was fulfilled during the Acts, and its terms obtained right up to the last chapter. In fact these conditions belong to "the hope of Israel", a hope expressed in Acts 1:6 and confessed in Acts 28:20, and which therefore is in the background of all the intervening ministry of the apostles. (This feature is discussed more fully under the headings HOPE, SECOND COMING and MIRACLES.) That there were two phases of this gospel during the same period a reference to Galatians 2:7 makes clear. Before dealing with any one verse, let us see the section as a whole.
Paul went up to Jerusalem "by revelation", and his purpose is expressed in the words "I communicated unto them THAT gospel which I preach among the Gentiles", which, to say the least, makes it appear that those at Jerusalem did not preach exactly the same message. Whether we are prepared to recognize a difference or not, we are not left without evidence that Peter, James and John were convinced.
Into the differences that are to be observed between such expressions as "The gospel of the grace of God" and "The gospel of the glory of the blessed God" and what constitutes "My gospel" in the three references made by Paul, we do not here enter. Romans 2:16 will fall to be considered in its place when the epistle to the Romans is before us, as also will the closing verses of Romans sixteen. Romans 16:25-27 will be given a fuller scrutiny in the article entitled MYSTERY. all that we hoped to accomplish in this article was to demonstrate the essential part that dispensational truth has to play, even in the preaching of the simple gospel, in spite of the prejudice that many evangelical believers have against the whole subject.
If the reader is still unconvinced, let him limit himself to the gospel of Matthew, find the three references to eternal life in that gospel, and then ask himself if he could, with a good conscience, make those three references, without modification, his gospel message today? If he cannot do so he has no alternative but (1) to deny the inspiration of Matthew's gospel or (2) to admit the place of dispensational truth. See DIVISION, RIGHT.