NO, That’s NOT the Gospel!
Lonnie Hendrix/Miller Jones
The Church of God International recently posted a message for their Armor of God program by Canadian Pastor Adrian Davis titled What is the Gospel?
In their advertisement for the program, CGI asks a couple of questions: “What was the Good News that Jesus proclaimed nearly 2,000 years ago?” and “How is it relevant to us today?” Unfortunately, Mr. Davis does not provide scriptural answers to either of those questions.
Unexpectedly, Pastor Davis begins by directing his listeners to turn to the Old Testament for his answers to those questions. More particularly, he begins by focusing on the story of Ahimaaz and Cushi carrying the “good news” of the victory of the king’s forces over the armies of Absalom to King David (II Samuel 18:19-32). Using the Septuagint (a Greek version of the Hebrew Bible), Mr. Davis insists that this passage constitutes the first substantive use of the Greek word translated into English as “gospel.” Hence, for the pastor, this passage of the Hebrew Scriptures translated into the Greek language should inform our understanding of what the English term “gospel” means! And, within the context of this narrative, Mr. Davis informs us that the term indicates: 1) the favorable outcome of an event, and 2) that the message is taken to/delivered to someone.
What about that? Is Mr. Davis’ characterization of the “euangelion” of the Kingdom correct? Is it a message about the favorable outcome of a single event? OR Is it primarily a message about how humanity is to be saved from the penalty which its sins have incurred (death) and finally reconciled to Almighty God?
Pastor Davis invites his listeners to Google the definition of the word “gospel.” And, when we do, the first two definitions presented are as follows: 1) “the teaching or revelation of Christ” and 2) “the record of Jesus' life and teaching in the first four books of the New Testament.” Pastor Davis then informs us that both of these definitions are incorrect! Is he right? Is the gospel message really NOT about Jesus Christ and his teachings? How does Pastor Davis get around Christ’s clear instructions to his disciples to teach the nations about the things that he had presented to them and to baptize them into the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit? (See Matthew 28:18-20)
Of course, like most Armstrongites and Jehovah’s Witnesses, Pastor Davis is able and ready to tell everyone that it is called the Gospel of the Kingdom of God in Scripture (Matthew 24:14). Moreover, according to Mr. Davis, that message must exhibit three qualities to be regarded as the genuine article. He insists that it must be: 1) the same gospel Christ preached, 2) consistent with the gospel of our forefathers, and 3) controversial. Of course, for him, the passage which he quoted from Matthew underscores the fact that Christ was preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom of God. But what about points two and three?
For the answer to that question, Pastor Davis directs his listeners to the Gospel of Luke. He begins by noting that Christ observed the Jewish Sabbath (Luke 4:16), and then asks how anyone who is not keeping the Sabbath could call themselves a Christian. Mr. Davis continued reading: “And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written, The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, 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. And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him. And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.” (See Luke 4:17-21) Mr. Davis then proceeds to point out that Christ was reading from the sixty-first chapter of the book of Isaiah, and that this demonstrates that Christ was preaching the same message that had been given to his Israelite forefathers (please take the time to reread that passage and notice the expansive nature of Christ’s work).
From there, he attempts to associate that message with the Armstrongist teaching about Anglo-Israelism (that the English-speaking peoples of the earth are part of the “lost ten tribes” of Israel)! In other words, for Mr. Davis, the “gospel” or “good news” was all about (and for) the people of Israel. After all, didn’t Scripture declare that God was the “Holy One of Israel” (see Isaiah 47:4). Hence, for the pastor, what he sees as the ethnocentric nature of the gospel satisfies the requirements that the message be the same one preached by/to our “forefathers,” and that it be controversial. Of course, absent from this interpretation of the gospel is Paul’s message to the saints of Galatia, where he wrote: “For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:26-29)
In fairness to Mr. Davis, he did mention a more extensive treatment of the subject of the gospel message by Pastor Bill Watson. Moreover, seeing how deficient Pastor Davis’ presentation actually turned out to be, I thought it might be worthwhile to check out the recommended literature on the subject by Mr. Watson. In doing so, I was immediately encouraged by the date of publication (2008) listed for Pastor Watson’s What is the Real Gospel Truth?
“That was back in the day when Pastor Watson wasn’t consumed with headline theology and right-wing politics,” I thought.
And, sure enough, I actually found there a more accurate reflection of the nature of the gospel message. In fact, some of the statements in that booklet were much better than what Pastor Davis offered! For example, in the section titled “Good News About What?” we read: “The gospel Jesus commissioned His disciples to announce is a large subject. There are many aspects to this announcement of good news, or glad tidings. And furthermore, it contains multiple teachings, analogies, similes, parables, examples, instructions, and commandments for our edification.” Continuing, we read: “This mission, in a very broad sense, was clarified at the conclusion of Christ’s earthly ministry: “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen” (Matthew 28:18–20).” Yes, now we’re getting somewhere!
A little further, in the same booklet, we read: “The Person of Christ, how He lived, and what He taught were central to the early New Testament Church. The apostles emphasized Jesus Christ and His example and teachings as the foundation for pleasing God. They taught that He, Jesus Christ, was the door to eternal life (John 10:7–18). Using the Old Testament, Paul publicly taught the Jews that Jesus was, in fact, the Christ (Acts 18:28, 31). This point was central to the gospel message because of what Jesus claimed about Himself and, in the course of His ministry, proved to be true.” Moreover, in the pages that followed, Mr. Watson went on to discourse upon the importance of “Christ crucified” to the forgiveness of our sins and ultimate salvation, and just how focused the early Church was on Christ’s resurrection.
Now that is starting to sound like the REAL GOSPEL! Please don’t misunderstand - I’m NOT endorsing everything in Mr. Watson’s booklet on the subject, but his understanding of the scope and nature of the gospel message is much closer to what is revealed in Scripture than what is outlined in this latest offering from Pastor Davis! To be clear, the Gospel of the Kingdom of God is about Jesus Christ, and the salvation that is available to us through him! In fact, Mr. Davis’ version of the gospel is not even as expansive as Herbert Armstrong’s very limited and narrow understanding allowed! Indeed, the offering by Mr. Davis is so narrow and twisted in nature as to render it a FALSE gospel, and we all know what Paul had to say about anyone who would dare to preach a different gospel (see Galatians 1:6-9)!
I wish that Mr. Davis had focused on the many parables which Christ gave to his disciples on the subject of the Kingdom of God. Take a moment just to consider a few of them: The Sower and the Soils, The Tares Among the Wheat, The Mustard Seed, The Leaven, The Hidden Treasure, The Net, The Unforgiving Servant, The Laborers in the Vineyard, The Marriage Feast, The Ten Virgins, and The Talents. What do these parables of Christ teach us about the nature of the Kingdom of God, and how to be a part of it? They certainly don’t reinforce Pastor Davis’ notion of a physical kingdom of and for the Israelites!
The ”PLAIN TRUTH” about the Gospel of the Kingdom of God is that the king of that kingdom (Jesus Christ) came here to save us from the consequences of our sins. His kingdom is a spiritual entity, and it is all about salvation and reconciliation with God and Christ. To be sure, it does point to the time when all of the systems and governments devised by humans will be replaced by God’s system and government. Likewise, it certainly does point to the time when the earth will be filled with the knowledge of God and his will, and to the time when God will dwell with his saints! Even so, the heart of the gospel message is the narrative about HOW all of that is/will be accomplished! Let’s all hope that Pastor Davis will abandon his false gospel and return to the real message of and about the Messenger/Savior/King, Jesus Christ!