The contemporary invitation to accept salvation runs along the following lines:
“If you have never put your faith and trust in Christ, I urge you to do so now. Christ loves you and He died for your sins. Your hope of salvation is in Him alone. By a simple prayer of faith you can invite Him into your heart and join the millions through the ages who have come to Christ and become part of His church. Then become active in the church.”
Backed by a verse from Ephesians (1:7-8), the evangelical call seems plausible enough: “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us.”
The purpose of this study is to show that the offer of salvation as presented in the outline above is treacherously misleading; that it will induce a false sense of security; that it is a partial Gospel, which cannot lead to the desired salvation.
The popular Gospel may be true as far as it goes. What is omitted from the message makes it untrue to the Bible. The Good News (Gospel) brought by Christ and preached by the disciples was not concerned with forgiveness of sin alone. It was the proclamation of the Kingdom or Reign of God (Luke 4:43). It is that central element of the Gospel which is entirely absent from nearly all contemporary appeals to accept salvation.
In order to understand what is meant by the Gospel of the Kingdom of God, we must examine the Scriptures. Unless we do this, we will not know what Christ is asking us to believe, and consequently we will be unable to respond to his call for repentance and belief in the Gospel of the Kingdom (Mark 1:14-15; Acts 8:12).
If you are doubtful whether an understanding of the Kingdom of God is necessary for salvation, consider the following facts: The New Testament disciples were sent out to preach the Gospel, before they even understood that Jesus was to die for the sins of mankind. This must lead us to the conclusion that the death of Jesus for our sins and his resurrection is not the entire Gospel message.
In Luke 9:6 we find that the disciples “went through the towns preaching the Gospel.” Later we read: “Then Jesus took the twelve disciples aside and said to them, ‘We are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be accomplished. For he will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon, and after they have scourged him they will kill him, but on the third day he will rise again.’ But the disciples understood none of these things, and the meaning of this statement was hidden from them, and they did not comprehend the things that were said” (Luke 18:31-34).
What was it that they had been preaching, then, while still ignorant of the coming death of Jesus? The answer is found in Luke 9:2: “He sent them to preach the Kingdom of God.” In verse 6 this is defined as the Gospel. They had been preaching the Gospel, but with no understanding of the death of Jesus for sin. The facts about Jesus’ death and resurrection were added to the Gospel message about the Kingdom after his resurrection (Acts 8:12).
How much about the Kingdom of God have you heard in contemporary preaching of the Gospel? Probably the Kingdom of God is not even mentioned!
It is reasonable that we should inquire what the disciples preached as the Gospel after the death of Jesus for the sins of the world. The answer is found in the book of Acts, the record of the early Church’s preaching:
“When they believed Philip announcing the Good News about the Kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were being baptized, both men and women” (Acts 8:12).
In verse 14 of this chapter it is said that the people had thus “accepted the word” (or message). We learn from this that the Good News of the Kingdom and the name of Jesus Christ is summarized under the single term: the word (or message). So in Acts 19:8 Paul spent three months “persuading the people about the Kingdom of God.” In this way the whole of Asia heard the word (message) of the Lord Jesus (v. 10). Paul described his own preaching as the proclamation of the Kingdom of God (Acts 20:25) and later, from dawn to dusk, he expounded and declared the Good News of “the Kingdom of God and the things concerning Jesus” (Acts 28:23, 31).
We see, then, that the Gospel was still the Gospel of the Kingdom of God, as it always had been. The information about the death of Christ was added after his crucifixion.
The evidence is conclusive that the Apostles did not simply invite people to believe in the death of Jesus for their sins; nor was his resurrection all that they preached. They also proclaimed the Good News of the Kingdom of God. All these elements are needed for the full Gospel. A half-Gospel or a mutilated Gospel will not lead anyone to salvation.
If you have not believed in the Kingdom of God, or if you are in doubt about what this is, you have not accepted the Good News of the Bible. Your attention may never have been called to the need for believing in the Kingdom of God as well as the death and resurrection of Christ. It is possible to attend church for years and hear nothing about the Kingdom of God, Jesus’ own Gospel message.
The crucial question for your salvation is, therefore: have you repented and believed the Good News of the Kingdom of God? To do this was the very first command of Jesus (Mark 1:15). Without an understanding of the Kingdom of God there can be no belief leading to salvation. The parable of the sower shows that the “message about the Kingdom” (Matt. 13:19) must take root in your heart. It is essential to find out what is involved in believing “the Good News of the Kingdom of God” (see Matt. 4:23; 9:35; 24:14). Only those hearing and believing the message (word) about the Kingdom (Matt. 13:19) are promised eternal life in the Kingdom (John 5:24). And belief in the Gospel and the practice of a corresponding lifestyle must be held fast until the end.