Many are surprised to hear that there is more than one gospel in the Bible. Many more are offended because they associate the meaning of ‘gospel’ with ‘how to get to heaven’.
If we would say that there is more than one way to get to heaven, then we would spend our time in vain trying to explain John 14:6 and 1 Tim 2:5:
“Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” – John 14:6
Yet, this is not what is meant by gospel, this is only an example of a gospel (and an important one).
Gospel literally means a joyful message or good news. The gospel that explains Jesus was the Messiah and is the ‘way, truth, and life’ was part of one particular gospel not revealed until Matthew-John. Before that time, the prophets were ignorant of what and when their salvation would be:
“Of which salvation the prophets have enquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you: Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow.” – 1 Peter 1:11-12
Although there are many gospels or new messages from God found in the Bible, there is only one ‘way to get to heaven’. Throughout history there has been only one way that man can be saved – by God’s grace through faith. [See ‘Is there more than one way to be saved?‘].
However, the message offered for salvation that demands the obedience of faith has varied according to God’s word progressively revealed.
God’s Word progressively revealed
Not every person in history had access to the complete revelation from God that we have today in the Bible. Since man can only believe a message which he is presented, we should be careful not to place into every verse of Scripture what had not yet been revealed.
By asking ‘to whom’ and ‘at what time’ the Scripture was revealed we can discover the different gospels, or the contents of faith that lead to righteousness. [See ‘How many different gospels are in the Bible?‘]
“For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.” – Romans 1:17
These accumulated messages which lead the obedient faithful to righteousness and salvation are normally found in separate dispensations from God. In one dispensation it may be faith in a promise, in another faith in the law, in another the kingdom, or faith in the work of Christ at the cross. When we put our faith in the appropriate gospel message we reap the associated benefits.
In every dispensation salvation is always by faith in God and obedience to the word which he has revealed. Every new dispensation from God perfectly fits together into God’s plan for the ages [See ‘God’s Plan for the Ages‘]. Although there are many gospels delivered to man in the Bible there is one message of salvation for today.
Rightly dividing the word of truth
In order for us to understand our own salvation and status before God, Scripture tells us to study to show ourselves approved before God. We must ‘rightly divide’ the Scripture and recognize which message of salvation is offered for us today (2 Tim 2:15).
We must ask ‘What is God doing today?’ and ‘How do we get involved in it?’ It will be a shame to those who blindly study their Bibles and put countless hours of their life into efforts for which God has not purposed for today.
“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” – 2 Tim 2:15
Although zealousness for God is something we greatly lack, misdirecting the zeal we have can be a bigger problem. Taking two steps in the wrong direction can be worse than standing still.
Redeeming the time
There is a reason that we are to study to understand our salvation and the varied dispensations of God as he has given them to us in the Bible. God does not want us to waste our time needed in his service.
“See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” – Eph 5:15-16
There are many who are wasting their valuable lives on Earth without regard to the specific dispensational instructions God has provided. We must not be as fools. We must study to know the distinct messages revealed by God, and understand the will of the Lord.
“Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is. “ – Eph 5:17