A Gospel Without the Cross

Justin Johnson

Let’s start with a cliché: the word gospel means good news (something we don’t hear much of these days).

Meanwhile, there are multiple times in the Bible that God’s messengers bear good news (‘good tidings’ is the Biblical phrase). The news is not always the same. The news is not always good for everyone.

Not every gospel in the Bible is yours.

John the Baptist and Jesus, in his earthly ministry, taught the gospel of the kingdom. The good news was that the long promised kingdom to Israel was finally “at hand”, it was “nigh”.

“Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.” – Mark 1:14-15

Without the Cross

Salvation according to the gospel of the kingdom meant deliverance from the unrighteous rulers all over the world. God’s people, and the faithful nations, would be ruled by God’s Messiah in obedient Israel.

What is certain is that the gospel of the kingdom did not require knowledge of the cross of Christ, not to mention understanding what it meant.

In Luke 9:1-2 Jesus gave power to his disciples and sent them to preach the gospel of the kingdom of God.

Nine chapters later, Jesus tells the same disciples that he must die, and they were clueless about it.

“And they understood none of these things: and this saying was hid from them, neither knew they the things which were spoken.” – Luke 18:34

The preaching of the gospel of the kingdom is without the preaching of the cross.

The Gospel of the Cross

However, Paul’s gospel does include the cross, moreover, it is the preaching of the cross.

“I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you…By which also ye are saved,… 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 Cor 15:1-4

The disciples in the red letters were ignorant of the gospel of the cross. Yet the preaching of the cross is the power of God unto salvation for the church today (1 Cor 1:18).

Rightly Dividing the Gospels

As a result, a fundamental thesis of mid-Acts Pauline right division is established.

The gospel taught by Peter and the Lord in his earthly ministry was without the cross. Nobody could be saved in Matthew-John by the gospel of the cross, which is the only gospel that brings salvation to all men today.

Today, preaching the gospel without the cross is vain (1 Cor 1:17-18). There are other gospels in the Bible given to Israel that are without the cross. They would not be vain according to God’s promises to Israel, but they need to be rightly divided from the gospel that saves into the church.

God is not bringing in his kingdom to Israel today, but he is ministering the good news of Christ crucified and resurrected for the sins of all men. A gospel without the cross is no gospel to lost sinners. The only gospel that saves today requires the cross of Christ.

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Published: July 6, 2013
Last Modified: March 7, 2018
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