In my previous series, "The Anatomy of the Gospel", I broke down the Gospel message into five basic components (as an attempt at constructing a helpful witnessing framework) and called them the "Five Pillars of the Gospel". I have recently received correspondence concerning this series of posts questioning what basis I have for defining the Gospel message as something that should contain:
PILLAR 1 – THE HOLINESS OF GOD
PILLAR 2 – THE DEPRAVITY OF MAN
PILLAR 3 – THE NECESSITY OF JUDGMENT
PILLAR 4 – THE WORK OF CHRIST
PILLAR 5 – THE RESPONSE IT DEMANDS
I can only commend people for being Bereans and testing what I have to say. "The Bottom Line" is a blog which regularly puts "Christian teaching" under the blowtorch scrutiny of Scripture. Therefore it would be inconsistent, were I not willing to subject myself to the same scrutiny. So what follows is my biblical defence of the use of these five pillars as the critical core elements of Gospel proclamation.
First up consider these two important passages of Scripture:
Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you--unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).
But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. (Galatians 1:8-9)
It is important to remember that 1 Corinthians 15 is meant as a defence of the resurrection, hence it has a major emphasis on the resurrection of Jesus Christ and briefly deals with the other issues when defining the Gospel. Nonetheless I can still make my case for defending my "five pillars" from 1 Corinthians 15. Additionally, it is worth paying close attention to Galatians 1:8-9. It is here that Paul goes on to say that there is only one Gospel, it is the Gospel that Paul preached, and preaching any other gospel is a damnable offence. Purity is, quite clearly, extremely important with the Gospel - it is life or death, heaven or hell! We must get it right.
We must also remember this simple rule of hermeneutics:
Scripture cannot contradict itself - therefore in understanding 1 Corinthians 15 rightly, it must harmonize with the rest of Scripture.
DEFENDING PILLAR 1 – THE HOLINESS OF GOD
In 1 Corinthians 15:3 we see the two characters of pillars 1 (The Holiness Of God)and 2 (The Depravity Of Man) - God (as Christ) and man (our sins) are presented in the roles of redeemer and criminal respectively. We also see that this message submits to "accordance with the Scriptures". In other words, Paul's terms of reference ("Christ" and "our sins") can be safely defined within the entire counsel of Scripture. We can know that God's Holiness, His character, and His nature, must be understood rightly because 1 John 2:22-23 teaches:
Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also (1 John 2:22-23).
This stresses the importance of knowing God rightly and defining Him rightly. That is why we call Mormonism a cult - because even though they name the name of Jesus, they define Him not as fully God but as a brother of Satan (among other things). So the God Paul mentions in 1 Corinthians 15 must be understood and presented rightly (as Scripture does) in order for a sinner to be rightly saved. I am not suggesting that to be saved you must understand and know every attribute of God - we cannot do that. After all, who can fathom the Trinity? But conversely, it is damnable to consciously deny God as He is presented in Scripture - which Bishop TD Jakes does, for example, when he denies the three distinct Persons of the Trinity by describing them as three manifestations (http://www.thepottershouse.org/v2/content/view/18/32/). This is a heresy that was denounced in the fourth century AD by the Athanasian Creed (http://www.ccel.org/creeds/athanasian.creed.html). TD Jakes' modalist presentation of God is clearly not the God of Scripture and therefore an idol.
The Christ Who dies for our sins in 1 Corinthians 15 is God incarnate, "the Holy one of God" (John 6:69). The God of the Bible is Holy and unlike anything in the universe. He is the creator and sustainer of all things (John 1:3). He is so powerful that He spoke the universe into existence (Genesis 1). He is so huge that he measures the entire universe with the span of His Hand (Isaiah 40:12). He is so detailed that he numbers the hairs on our head (Luke 12:7). He is so just and righteous that He must punish all sin against Him (Genesis 18:25, Isaiah 13:11). He is so loving and merciful that He withholds his judgment giving us time to repent (2 Peter 3:9). Many people and religions use the Name of God, but in defining Him differently they commit the sin of idolatry.
On Friday I will continue with a biblical defence of PILLAR 2 – THE DEPRAVITY OF MAN.
Go On To Part 2
Go To "The Anatomy Of The Gospel" Series