The Old Testament books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are commonly referred to as the Four Gospels. Many Bibles even have in the titles of these books “The Gospel According to…” Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John.
All four of them contain the same gospel: the gospel of the kingdom. The gospel of the kingdom declared the fulfillment of the prophetic kingdom to the nation Israel.
What they do not contain is the gospel of the cross for salvation. Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection do not even occur until the final chapters of the books.
Jesus in his earthly ministry confirmed the kingdom promises to the circumcision (Israel):
“Now I say that Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers:” – Romans 15:8
Each of the four books start with the earthly ministry of Jesus to the circumcision and ends with his death and resurrection. This outlines the ministry and message of Peter, John, and the Twelve according to prophecies of Christ.
Their ministries begin with the prophecies and end with their fulfillment in Christ.
However, there is a fifth gospel. Paul’s gospel was not copied from Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John. It was personally revealed by the Lord (Gal 1:11-12).
As such, Paul’s gospel as told in 1 Corinthians 15 is different than the four traditional Gospels. It includes the revelation of the mystery of Christ.
A New Beginning
Paul does not begin with Jesus’ ministry to the circumcision as do Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. He says elsewhere that he does not know Christ after the flesh:
“…though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more.” – 2 Corinthians 5:16
Instead, the first thing in Paul’s gospel is the last thing in the four gospels: the death and resurrection of Christ.
“…I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures: And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures;” – 1 Corinthians 15:3
This seems right as the foundation of Paul’s gospel of the grace of God was not the kingdom promises to a circumcised people, but the cross itself (1 Cor 1:18, 2:2, 3:10). The very first point of Paul’s gospel is neither the genealogy of Jesus nor Jesus’ relationship to prophecy, but his death for our sins.
A New Ending
Also different is how Paul’s gospel ends in 1 Corinthians 15:1-10.
The four so-called Gospels do not progress beyond the appearance of the resurrection Jesus to the Twelve apostles. However, Paul is nowhere to be found in the four Gospels. He is not only absent but an unbeliever and an enemy of the gospel of the kingdom:
“And Saul was consenting unto his death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem;…” – Acts 8:1
Paul’s gospel goes beyond the resurrection of Christ to his kingdom remnant. Paul explains the revelation of the mystery of Christ to himself “last of all”.
“And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time.” – 1 Corinthians 15:8
Born out of the due time of prophecy, Paul was given salvation by the Lord himself and was chosen as the dispenser of the gospel of the grace of God:
“If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward:” – Eph 3:2
“… a dispensation of the gospel is committed unto me.” – 1 Corinthians 9:17
The Mystery Gospel
It is popular to pursue the gospel narratives found in Matthew-John as the key to understanding the Bible.
While there are doctrinal gems and spiritual truths in these books, we must remember Paul’s gospel in order to understand all things (even those things beyond the resurrection of Jesus).
“Consider what I say; and the Lord give thee understanding in all things. “ – 2 Tim 2:7
The gospel Christ gave to Paul is missing from Matthew-John, and so is called a mystery gospel (Rom 16:25, Eph 6:19).
Instead of trying to pattern ourselves after the Lord’s earthly ministry passed on to his twelve apostles to Israel, we should start with Christ crucified and pattern our ministry after the heavenly message of the apostle of the Gentiles (Rom 11:13).
When our focus is on the gospel God gave to Paul then we will be in position to grow in the grace of God as did Paul, according to his gospel:
“But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.” – 1 Corinthians 15:10