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Almost the Gospel
Almost the Gospel

By Dave Breese

There are millions of Christians in today’s world who are “almost” effective. This because they believe a message which is “almost” the Gospel. In the same vein, there are thousands of churches that are “almost” successful. This because they hear Sunday-by-Sunday a message that purports to come from the Word of God, which is “almost” the Gospel. Many an evangelist assembles a crowd with great cost and effort and then preaches to that crowd an articulate message characterized by moving illustrations. The problem is that the message is not quite but “almost” the Gospel.

The word “almost” is a beguiling thing because it means “nearly,” “not quite,” “just about.” This reminds one of the unfortunate King Agrippa, whose testimony was “Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian” (Acts 26:28).

Agrippa was almost saved, but not quite. How sad! Agrippa’s problem, however, was not that he had heard “almost the Gospel.” He had heard the Gospel thoroughly, but only allowed himself to be almost persuaded. In our time, too many people hear “almost the Gospel” and so they face the liability of insufficient conviction because they have heard an insufficient Gospel.

What then is the Gospel? Let us remind ourselves again that the Gospel is categorically defined as being the message 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” (I Cor. 15:3,4). When one presents the message of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, he is preaching the Gospel. He then can invite the hearer to believe that Christ is the Son of God and that His death on the cross was sufficient. This simple message becomes the “power of God unto salvation.”

The problem is that much preaching purports to be the Gospel but it comes short or goes beyond the message of true salvation. It then becomes an “almost” Gospel. There are many versions of this going in our day.

One is the message that, “Yes, Christ died for our sins on the cross and by believing in Him we have everlasting life. We must, however, like the rich young ruler, sell all that we have and give to the poor and come and follow Christ.” In this invitation, grace is lost and the message and the earning of salvation become human works.

Another says, “Yes, Christ came into the world to save us, but He saves us from sin by His life, not by His death on the cross.” The problem is that this message is partly true. Christ saves us from the penalty of sin by His death on the cross. Then He is able to save us from the power of sin by His present life. We are saved from hell by the death of the Lord Jesus and saved from sin's continued power by His present life within us. Salvation from hell by the life of Christ is “almost” the Gospel.

Another says that, “We are saved by Jesus Christ, but not without the proof that comes in water baptism.” Here the value of the death of the Savior is eroded in favor of an ecclesiastical experience. Salvation is not by faith plus baptism. It is by faith alone. Faith, plus anything, is not the Gospel, it is “almost” the Gospel.

It is even said by some that, “The death of Christ was simply His example that we, too, should be willing to give ourselves for the fulfillment of great spiritual purposes.” Salvation, therefore, is not “faith in His blood.” Rather, it is commitment to live for the things for which Christ lived and died.

Christ is, indeed, the example for the life of the Christian. We are not, however, saved by following that example, we are saved by faith in His blood.

It is also suggested that, “Individual salvation is fine, but really, there is no salvation outside of the Church.” The people who preach this doctrine are rarely referring to “the Church which is His body.” Rather, they are demanding membership in some organized religion that purports to be Christian. The fact is that we are not saved by membership in anything, but rather saved by the efficacy of the death and resurrection of Christ.

There are even others who insist that, “We are saved by Christ plus we must add a lifetime of good works.” These people forget that the Bible says, “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us” (Tit. 3:5).

So it is that one or another form of human responsibility is placed upon the package called salvation. Salvation then comes as a result of faith in Christ plus obedience to the Law. How sad then is the slavery that follows, for the Scripture says, “For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them. But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith” (Gal. 3:10,11).

Many insist that salvation consists in the observing of various religious days. Conversely, the Apostle Paul said, “Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years. I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labor in vain” (Gal. 4:10,11).

It would be easy to point up a score of other instances where the message being preached is “almost” the Gospel. How sad that something beside faith in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ then becomes the basis of eternal life. In our time we have salvation by discipleship, by probation, by good works, by church membership, by religious practice, by human faithfulness, by tithing, by charitable activity and by many other things. None of these can be included in the meriting of the gift of God, which is eternal life. To lose the Gospel is to lose it all. An “almost” Gospel is no Gospel at all. “Almost” cannot avail. “Almost” is but to fail.

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