The ‘Popular’ Gospel

For some time now I’ve been listening for a genuine gospel message, or at least a hint that Jesus died for OUR SIN when I read popular Christian books and magazines, listen to popular pastors and teachers,  and even when I listen to contemporary Christian music. The intent in my ‘listening’ is not to intentionally look for false teaching or brand anyone a heretic or apostate, but only to hear how the ‘good news’ is being presented in our American evangelical culture. Here is some of what I’ve heard in the last few months being presented as as the gospel:

“God loves you so much He can’t imagine heaven without you. . .”

“Jesus would rather die than live without you.”

“God hugs us WITH our sin. . .”

“Jesus accepted you a long time ago WITH your sin. . .”

“The core of Christianity is. . .the news of ‘a God who is passionate about his relationship with you.”

“God sent his Son to die for us because he wants a relationship with us.”

“When the gospel is reduced to a legal transaction shifting our guilt to Christ and Christ’s righteousness to us, the gospel focuses too narrowly on a transaction and becomes too impersonal.”

Now compare any of the above statements with the Apostle Paul’s definition of the gospel:

“Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.  For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve.” – 1 Corinthians 15:1-5

What’s the difference between the ‘popular’ gospel and the Gospel Paul preached. . .and why does it matter?

6 responses to “The ‘Popular’ Gospel

  1. AW Tozer has a chapter in his best of book..called the Other Cross (which one are we following) it is very thought provoking on this topic. It really helped me to re-evaluate what are we teaching.. Teach the Gospel…and the truth. Love it!


  2. Some of those that are listed as popular gospel…if taught with the “we all have sinned, and fall short”, “while we were yet sinners Christ died for us”, is still part of the gospel, and taught by Paul in his letters. it all begins with repentance, agreeing with God that there is sin, then believeing that CHrist paid the penalty for our sin, then going out and spread the knowledge of knowing HIM. Hope is the GOspel…without it, there is no hope. Good thoughts


  3. I know as a child what spoke to me was John 3:16 – not unusual since it’s the best known verse among children.

    I knew God loved me and wanted a relationship with me, but I was bad. I did bad things and only Jesus could help me do good things. I remember Mom explaining that God is holy – perfect – blameless – and He cannot look upon sin. I needed Jesus’ Spirit in me to help me obey.

    That was it – Mom didn’t understand enough to teach me anymore until much later. I did understand Jesus took my sin and made me clean and I’ve always believed it was out of love and a desire upon God’s part to have the relationship from the garden restored among men.

    All of it was in there, I think. It was simple – I understood I was to put my trust in Jesus’ death and resurrection for my sins to save me.

    I guess what I’m saying is, I heard all those statements and came to believe in Jesus based upon John 3:16. I thought, and still do believe, Love is what motivated God to restore the relationship…are we saying the same thing?


  4. Hi Michelle,

    You bring up a good point – the faith of children. I didn’t know all the ‘ins and outs’ as a child either but I was raised by a woman of faith and I can’t remember NOT believing in God and His Son. Later in life I learned what it all meant and the concept of grace became more incredible than ever!

    My whole point here is that when we present the Gospel it needs to include what is of ‘first importance’along with God’s love. After all, that He died for us in OUR place is the greatest expression of God’s love!


  5. Amen! The understanding of grace didn’t really hit home for me since I was raised under the false teaching that you could lose your salvation. I always questioned what grace was all about, if I had to work so hard to keep myself in the faith. Very confusing time…

    Now, it’s so amazing…at times I can’t comprehend…

    In regard to the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but in regard to election they are dearly loved for the sake of the fathers. For the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable. Just as you were formerly disobedient to God, but have now received mercy due to their disobedience, so they too have now been disobedient in order that, by the mercy shown to you, they too may now receive mercy. For God has consigned all people to disobedience so that he may show mercy to them all.

    Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how fathomless his ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor? Or who has first given to God, that God needs to repay him? For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever! Amen. ~Romans 11:28-36


  6. “Now, it’s so amazing…at times I can’t comprehend…”


    Those few words perfectly describe what should happen in the heart of any believer who is having a 2 Peter 3:18 kind of life.

    “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.”

    The more we learn of God and exactly how he “seeks and saves” the more awesome is His grace to us!


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