I Corinthians 15 revisited
Based upon what has been written in the previous parts, we can see that the Gospel is not simply the "Death, Burial, and resurrection of Christ;" as if these words existed in some vacuum.
Rather, the Gospel is the Death, Burial, and Resurrection of Christ "according to the scriptures." Thus through the scriptures, the Gospel reveals:
Who (and what) Christ is;
He is God the Son (co-equal to God the Father and God the Holy Spirit in the Triune Godhead)
He is the promised Saviour and Messiah who came to actually seek AND save that which was lost (God's elect);
He is the God-Man mediator that makes communion between God and His elect possible.
Why He became incarnate and why He had to die;
To keep the law of God perfectly as a man;
Though being spotless and without sin, to suffer the wrath of God (equivalent to eternal damnation for all of the sins of His people), so that He would atone for them, and establish for them a righteousness that guarantees their salvation.
All those for whom He died;
Every single one of God's elect (none one more and not one less).
The significance of His burial;
Setting for that He truly died for His people, and that His people are buried with Him being dead to the law, having the old man crucified, and being free from the dominion of sin.
The significance of His resurrection; and
Irrefutable proof that His work was finished; that atonement had been made for His people; that His people would be raised again with Him; and that He was our King victorious (conquering Satan, Death, and Hell and reigning over Heaven and Earth).
What was accomplished by His finished work?
Our blessed Prophet, Priest, and King, the Lord Jesus Christ, saved His people to the utmost by His atoning blood and imputed righteousness. His faithfulness to the Father in atoning for the elect glorified God in the highest. He reigns supreme, and His bride (the elect church) will be with Him forevermore. No one, and no thing, has ever, nor can ever frustrate His divine will, purpose, kingdom, honour, and glory.
Romans 1:16-17 and the Gospel revisited
We also see that the righteousness of God (established and imputed to all of God's elect) will be revealed when the true Gospel is declared. When a faithful preacher, teacher, or witness in general proclaims the Gospel, you can guarantee that the truths of free and sovereign grace and righteousness imputed will be affirmed.
When false prophets and false brethren bring their counterfeits, these doctrines will either be rejected, maligned, ignored, or water-down to make them of no real effect (in the hearts and minds of carnal men and women).
The assertion that believers proclaim a Gospel that is too in-depth and confusing for the young believer is nonsense. To claim that the true Gospel is "Gnostic teaching" is bewildering at best. This argument could be plausible perhaps, if a man-mustered faith and a carnally-obtained understanding were prerequisites for salvation. However, for the true saint, drawn of the Father and regenerated and taught by the Holy Spirit, there is nothing complicated or extraneous about this Gospel. It is all very clear, especially when worked out in the heart, mind, and experience of the saved sinner.
The reality is that the essence of the Gospel can be laid out in a very short period of time (not that we are rushing, or that the time is at all relevant, but since our accusers pretend that our Gospel is too difficult, excessive, complicated, and time-consuming to be the true, it is worth pointing out). True believers know that there is no need to artificially "shorten" the Gospel, water it down, or make it more palatable (by leaving key elements out). Those who feel the need to do such things do not know the truth, they are those who have "made lies [their] refuge, and under falsehood have hid [them]selves" (Isaiah 28:15).
A sample message
But let's test it, let's see how complicated the Gospel really is.
Consider the following:
All of us are sinners by nature, guilty of the wrath of God. We all fell in Adam and we all commit an innumerable number of sins, the very first of which was enough to send us to Hell for all eternity. Nonetheless, despite our wretched state by nature, God sovereignly purposed to save a people for Himself. Through the Gospel, God declares to us the good news of His promise to save His people from their sins based upon the atoning blood and imputed righteousness of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.
From before the foundation of the world, out of the mass of fallen humanity, God the Father elected a people for Himself; in multitude, they are a number that no man can count (though they are a remnant compared to the whole of mankind). In the divine covenant, the Father purposed to give His people to His son, that they would be His bride (His church or body of believers). Jesus likewise covenanted with the Father to save the elect, knowing that this would mean (a) humbling Himself, (b) becoming Incarnate, (c) keeping the law perfectly on their behalf; (d) dying in their stead (suffering both physically and spiritually under the wrath of God though He, himself, was pure and innocent); and (e) being raised again (evidencing that God's law and wrath were fully satisfied, Christ reigns victorious, and that His people are guaranteed all aspects of salvation - from regeneration to glorification in Heaven). Thus when Christ, in willing obedience to the Father, became incarnate, kept the law, died on the cross (declaring "it is finished"); and was raised again, we can rest assured that He completed all that was necessary and that all who truly believe in the Gospel are saved, and will persevere until the end.
However the Bible makes clear that a person believes only because they have been given the gift of faith and repentance to believe. They believe due to the fact that, as part of the salvation covenant, the Holy Spirit purposed to save all of the elect of the father, all for whom Christ atoned. At God's appointed time, the Gospel is brought to the elect sinner, and He is regenerated by the Spirit of God. The Holy Spirit converts that individual, and reproves him of sin, righteousness, and judgment. He convicts them of their sins, and points them to that blessed remedy (the Lord Jesus Christ). From the declared gospel, He reveals to them both doctrinally and experientially (experimentally) that their only hope for salvation is in the finished work (atoning blood and imputed righteousness) of Christ and that nothing they say, do, think, abstain from doing, etc. plays any part in getting them saved or keeping them saved. The Holy Spirit causes them to throw all of their hopes on Christ, and on Him alone (causing them to reject will-worship and any notion that salvation is conditioned in any way upon them).
God saves a person so that they will go out and testify of the great things the Lord has done for them. That saved sinner is commissioned to go forth and witness to others both in word and in deed. Since no one can determine whether a person is elect by outward appearance, the believer is to witness to all mankind as God gives opportunity. Our focus isn't on determining who is elect or not, but on prayerfully and faithfully declaring the word of God (knowing that if the hearer is of God, the Holy Spirit will quicken and convert them). As each elect sinner becomes saved, we see the advancement of the promise of the Kingdom (i.e. the good news and glad tidings of Christ and his coming Kingdom). God reigns in Heaven and in Earth and His people reign with him as they seek to do His will (knowing that it is god who worketh in them both to will and to do of His good pleasure). Come judgment day, the Kingdom will be visibly manifest in all of it's glory and splendor as God's people are raised to be with Him in Heaven and the reprobate (those whom God never planned to save) are judged and cast into hell for all eternity.
What I have written above is what I often say when I witness to others. Words change here and there, as with order; and surely questions are asked and objections raised. Nonetheless, the truth is summarised in what I believe to be a clear, succinct, and accurate way. From there, I can then go on to address whatever questions or concerns the hearer may have. But nothing above is "too complicated" for them; or too lengthy and time-consuming. Nothing in the above is extraneous, unnecessary, or unimportant as it pertains to the salvation of souls.
So, does the charge still stand?
Is the charge of Neo-Gnosticism accurate when it comes to those who proclaim the true Gospel?
In light of the above (and the previous parts) are Christians really guilty of making human knowledge and understanding a requirement, precondition, or prerequisite for initiating salvation?
I think the clear answer is "no." We are simply guilty of affirming and proclaiming the God-ordained Gospel in a way that does not allow for corruption or compromise.
So let the false accusers tell you what they think about the matter of true Gospel preaching; let them tell you how they feel you are going beyond what the Bible declares the Gospel to be. Let them tell you how unloving you are, unkind, and how you hold to too strict a definition. Let them lament how you refuse to fellowship spiritually with those who deny the true Gospel (or compromise it by speaking spiritual peace to those who deny it).
As they do so, notice how these accusers rarely (a) use biblical means in an attempt to refute the arguments and proof-texts set forth herein; and how they (b) are rarely able to set-forth the scriptural proof-texts necessary to systematically support their own arguments.
You will find that, far more often than not, their biblical exegesis and hermeneutic is based primarily upon biblical misquotation and misinterpretation, carnal feelings/emotions, and their ties to their own groundless opinions and "insights" on the matter (or those opinions and "insights" of other men whom they respect).
All of this leads to one last question...
From whence did these errors derive?
When the "Reformed," "Calvinistic," and "Predestinarian" compromisers water-down the Gospel to embrace heresy, where did they get their arguments to justify such things?
When the Arminians (Semi-Pelagians), Romanists (Sacramentalists), Arians (false-Jehovah Witnesses), and other heretics bring forth their polluted gospels (which are no gospels at all), from where do their arguments originate?
The answer should be simple given that such error did not stem from God; His prophets and apostles; or from any of His faithful witnesses.
So where did this working of error stem?
From Satan, himself, and from the bellies and lusts of corrupt men and women who want to give themselves (and others) the glory in the working-out of their supposed salvation. Trace it back; those who proclaim such heresies can no doubt trace them back (if records survive and they are diligent) to those who "went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us." (1 John 2:19).
By Curt Wildy