What is the Gospel?
We can see in the scriptures that Abraham had the gospel proclaimed to him. Gal 3:8. What exactly was this gospel? What about the preaching of Jeremiah? Jesus and the apostles preached the gospel. What was that? Christ had not died nor risen from the dead yet!
The gospel is ‘good news’. It is a developing, an unfolding, or as Paul called it, ‘the mystery’, over the centuries of the church, the truth of messiah. In it’s infancy, less than what we know in this age-yet, it is still good news and truth. It was a plant that grew over time.
The gospel is a spiritual message conveyed by the Holy Spirt. It is an imbedded DNA that transcends time and space that is only effectual to the elect of God unto salvation. To the reprobate, it conveys condemnation and death. Consider the gospel message that was ‘preached to Abraham’. The gospel message that the Apostles preached while they walked w/ Christ. The message that we proclaim in this age. There is only one gospel and one truth; hence, it has to be appreciated spiritually and the message must be of Messiah.
The external call of God has changed over the centuries, given the circumstances. For example, what was proclaimed to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Noah (to name a few) was most likely different from the gospel proclamation of the Apostles while they walked w/ Christ and most definitely different in obvious fashions than the message we proclaim in this age. You might say, “Scott, all of these messages were in essence, ‘There is a Messiah and if you repent and believe, you can be saved!’ This is true, however, it has developed based on obvious unfolding of truth.
However, the internal call, that which the Holy Spirit brings to the elect, has been unchanged in all epochs. In that way, the gospel has not changed. That which men can mess up, the Holy Spirit perfects. Men can only be saved by the true gospel. This is exactly why many of us were saved under false teachers and aberrant presentations of the gospel message. This is exactly why, God continues to save people in these settings. When the actual word of God is read, no matter how many men mess up an orthodox theology, The Holy Spirit uses the real word of God to save.
When we consider this question, one might say: “It is a belief in who Christ was and the work He accomplished on the behalf of the Elect for the forgiveness of their sins-sins that they could not pay for”. But is that all it is?
To begin with, one needs to understand that faith is a gift. For example, is it possible for the infant in the womb to have any type of faith? If infants cannot have faith then that would say that all infants who die, perish. Men cannot be saved outside of faith in Christ, right? Eph 2:8,9
Having concluded that even the infant in the womb can have faith, we need to understand where faith comes from and how it get to the elect.
Who is the author and finisher of our faith?
2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Is it Christ’s faith or our faith? It is our faith, but it is given to us of God. Eph 2:8,9
How do men get this faith? It comes from above! John 3 shows us that it comes down from Heaven.
John 3:3 Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born hagain, he cannot see the kingdom of God.
The word ‘again’ in the Greek is defined as:
Both in and outside the NT a. an adv. of place “from above” Mt. 27:51: ἀπʼ ἄνωθεν ἕως κάτω (the veil of the temple), b. adv. of time “from an earlier period” (Ac. 26:5; cf. Ditt. Syll.3, 685, 81: νόμοις γὰρ ἱεροῖς καὶ ἐπιτιμίαις ἄνωθεν διεκεκώλυτο ἵνα μηδείς …; Jos. Ap., 1, 28: ἐκ μακροτάτων ἄνωθεν χρόνων etc.). c. “From the first” (Lk. 1:3; cf. Epict. Diss., II, 17, 27: ἄνωθεν ἄρξασθαι). d. “anew” (Gl. 4:9; cf. Artemid. Oneirocrit., 1, 13: ἄνωθεν αὐτὸς δόξειε γεννᾶσθαι; Jos. Ant., 1, 263: φιλίαν ἄνωθεν ποιεῖται πρὸς αὐτόν, of the renewal of an original friendship).
As regards Jn. 3:3, 7 the original usage does not help us to decide, but inclines in favour of a. ‘Born from above’
So this ‘new birth’ happens as it is sent down from Heaven to the elect who were decreed before time, in covenant, between the Godhead-predestined, as the scriptures would show.
Rom’s 8:29 For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. 30 Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified. 31 What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? 32 He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? 33 Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth. 34 hWho is he that condemneth? It is Christ that idied, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. 37 Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. 38 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor tpowers, nor things wpresent, nor things to come, 39 Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
So, we can easily see, using scripture that God predestines and gives the actual faith that the elect has, by divine decree. It is our faith, but God initiates it. God cannot believe for us. It cannot be God’s faith per se, but in the absolute, it is. Any belief we have is because God allowed it. Consider the belief you have now as a born again believer. Compare it to the belief you had prior to this spiritual birth. Yes, prior to this miracle, you believed, but it was a different belief. One that was not Heaven sent. One that had no spiritual gas.
This ‘gift’, as described in Eph 2, shows that it had nothing to do with you personally. Not as a result of any works you did. Even if you were the greatest humanitarian, God saw nothing but your sin, preior to being ‘born from above’. The Lord sees nothing in an unregenerate man but his sin condition and until Christ takes those sin upon Himself, you remain dead and God cannot look upon you. Look at Titus 3:3-7:
3 For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in omalice and envy, hateful, and hating one another. 4 But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, 5 Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by vthe washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; 6 Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; 7 That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
25 Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began,
11 He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given.
11 And he said unto them, Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables:
10 And he said, Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God: but to others in parables; that seeing they might not see, and hearing they might not understand.
25 For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.
25 Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began,
1 Corinthians 2:7
7 But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory:
The Holy Bible: King James Version, Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version. (Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2009), Mt 13:11–1 Co 2:7.
What exactly does a person have to believe in to be saved?
Well, as I have already shown, a person will believe exactly what is embedded in the faith God sets on us at regeneration. It is in seed form mind you. You may ask, “Scott, what is seed form’?
Consider an apple tree. When the farmer plants the seed, all of the genetics of that full grown tree are imbedded in the seed itself-yet, it is not a tree yet. It is a seed. When God regenerates, as we saw in John 3, our eyes were opened and minds were made right to the degree that now, the mind and heart are able to perceive and correctly process the mathematics of the faith. Consider how now, when you read the scriptures, it means something entirely different than what it meant prior to your being ‘born from above’.
Again, let us consider the infant dying in infancy; What exactly does he/she believe? Upon entering glory, that infants theology is perfect. He/she knows more truth than you ever will while walking about in this life. Any wrong theology is corrected prior to entering glory by the Holy Spirit-illicit theologies are sin and hence, all sin must be removed prior to glorification.
Could this infant ever explain the level of faith and truth God has given him? Well, no, he is an infant. Infants cannot communicate. But given what I have already extrapolated, it makes sense in the spiritual.
27 And he said, The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.
Regeneration is not conversion
I believe it is important to speak a bit about the order of salvation, better known as the ordo salutis. If you will again look at the passage from Romans I posted above, it shows the actual order of salvation.
The actual order is:
1) election/predestination (in Christ)
3) gospel call
4) inward call
J.P. Boyce helps:
“VI. There is not only antecedence, but in some cases an appreciable interval.
- This is true even of conversion regarded as a mere turning to God. Between it and regeneration must intervene in some cases some period of time until the knowledge of God’s existence and nature is given, before the heart turns, or even is turned towards that God.
(1.) This must be true of all infants and of all persons otherwise incapable of responsibility, as for example idiots.
(2.) There is no reason why it should not be true of some heathen. The missionaries of the cross have been sought by men, who knew nothing of Christianity, but whose hearts, unsatisfied with the religion of their fathers, were restlessly seeking for what their soul was crying out.
- It is still more manifestly true of full Christian conversion.
(1.) The Scriptures teach this in many examples of persons pious, holy, and fearing God, yet unacquainted with the full truth which secures union with Christ.
Ethiopian Eunuch: Acts 8:26-40.
Paul: Acts, chapter 9, 22 and 26. Galatians, chapters 1st and 2d.
Cornelius the Centurion: Acts 10:2.
Lydia: Acts 16:14.
(2.) The experience of ministers in all ages with persons seeking and attaining salvation confirms this idea. The attainment of conversion may be marked by stages. The sinner is at first totally indifferent. The word produces on him no effect. Then (1.) There is an evident willingness to give serious attention to the truth of God. God has opened the heart as he did that of Lydia. (2.) There is conviction of sin, sense of its vileness, and of its dangerous effects. (3.) The soul, oppressed by these, strives to do something by which to attain salvation, but finds all in vain. (4.) At last accepting the truth of God’s word it rests in trust of a personal Saviour.
VII. The term conversion is not technically applied to any change, except that which follows upon regeneration, and consists in the Godward turning of one heretofore turned entirely away from God. The return of men who have backslidden, or fallen into grievous sin, is also called “a return to God,” and such a return is possibly what is called “conversion” in Peter’s case. Luke 22:32. But conversion is theologically used exclusively of the first act.”
Men are not saved by what they know. Regeneration happens outside of that. It is not the cause of salvation, it is a response to God’s call. Think a bit about Lazarus. Dead in the tomb-stinking. God calls the dead and they live.
In response to this call, men believe, accept, repent. Solely on the fact that they have been ‘born from above’. In this regeneration, the data may be in seed form, but it is there. As the Holy Spirit sanctifies the believer, he becomes a sponge for truth and builds upon this miracle.
We can see in Isaiah a example:
9 Whom shall he teach knowledge?
And whom shall he make to understand doctrine?
Them that are weaned from the milk,
And drawn from the breasts.
10 For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept;
Line upon line, line upon line;
Here a little, and there a little:
Conversion is the response to knowledge obtained.
Gordon Clark writes:
“When Adam fell, the human race became, not stupid so that the truth was hard to understand, but inimical, to the acceptance of the truth. Men did not like to retain God in their knowledge and changed the truth of God into a lie, for the carnal mind is enmity against God. Hence the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness, for the natural man receives not the things of the Spirit of God because they are spiritually discerned. In order to accept the Gospel, therefore, it is necessary to be born again. The abnormal, depraved intellect must be remade by the Holy Spirit; the enemy must be made a friend. This is the work of regeneration, and the heart of stone can be taken away and a heart of flesh can be given only by God himself. Resurrecting the man who is dead in sin and giving him a new life, far from being a human achievement, requires nothing less then almighty power.
It is therefore impossible by argument or preaching alone to cause anyone to believe the Bible. Only God can cause such belief. At the same time, this does not mean that argument is useless. Peter tells us, “always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you.” This was the constant practice of the apostles. Stephen disputed with the Libertines; the Jerusalem council disputed; in Ephesus Paul disputed three months in the synagogue and then continued disputing in the school of Tyrannus. (Acts 6:9; 15:7; 19:8,9: compare Acts 17:2; 18:4, 19; 24:25). Anyone who is unwilling to argue, dispute, and reason is disloyal to his Christian duty.
At this point the natural question is, What is the use of al this expounding and explaining if it does not produce belief? The answer should be clearly understood. The witness or testimony of the Holy Spirit is a witness to something. The Spirit cannot produce belief in Christ unless a sinner has heard of Christ. “How then shall they call on him of whom they have not heard?…So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God” (Romans 10:14,17).
No doubt God in his omnipotence could reveal the necessary information to each man individually without a written Bible or ministerial preaching. But this is not what God has done. God gave the apostles and preachers the duty of expounding the message; but the production of belief is the work of the Spirit, for faith is the gift of God.”
The Holy Spirit waters and the seeds grow into full trees.
1 Corinthians 3:6
6 I have planted, oApollos watered; but God gave the increase. 
Is it true that one can have a belief that is not from above?
Yes, surely. Look at what Christ said:
22 When therefore he was risen from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this unto them; and they believed the scripture, and the word which Jesus had said. 23 Now when he was in Jerusalem at the passover, in the feast day, many believed in his name, when they saw the miracles which he did. 24 But Jesus did not commit himself unto them, because he knew all men, 25 And needed not that any should testify of man: for he knew what was in man.
‘did not commit’
πιστεύω, πίστις, πιστός, † πιστόω, ἄπιστος, † ἀπιστέω, ἀπιστία, ὀλιγόπιστος, ὀλιγοπιστία
- Specifically Christian Usage.
- πίστις as Acceptance of the Kerygma. To be distinguished from all the senses under 1. is the specifically Christian use of πίστις which is to be seen most clearly in the formula πίστις εἰς, → 203, 10 ff.; 204, 14. πίστις is understood here as acceptance of the Christian kerygma. It is thus the saving faith which recognises and appropriates God’s saving work in Christ. Here too, of course, πίστις contains the element of believing. Obedience, trust, hope and faithfulness are also implied. Conversely, if any one of these elements is primary, faith in Christ can be included. Nevertheless, the primary sense of πιστεύειν in specifically Christian usage is acceptance of the kerygma about Christ
Kerygma: Is the proclamation of the gospel call.
In essence, what this passage in John says is that Christ did not make the gospel call and proclamation effectual to these ‘believers’. They did believe, but not in an effectual sense. This shows that many believe, but in vain.
I just finished a paper form my Doctor of Divinity program at The North American Reformed Seminary and it dealt with ‘false professions’. The question I posed was ‘Is it possible that you are a self-deceived believer?’ You can find this paper on my website entitled, ‘3 Select works of Thomas Brooks’, for further study.
The Holy Spirit does not leave His people in ignorance!
Matt 24:5 “Jesus answered and said to them: ‘Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying, “I am the Christ,” and will deceive many’ ”
24 For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.
22 For false Christs and false prophets shall rise, and shall shew signs and wonders, to seduce, if it were possible, even the elect. 
2 Peter 2 But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. 2 And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. 3 And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you:
15 Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.
16 Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves. 
Obviously, there will be people claiming to hold truth. We are warned, repeatedly to search out these liars. Not every ‘Christ’ is the Christ of the scriptures and it would behoove us, to know the difference. The scriptures are divinely inspired. They are the words of men, who by the power of the Holy Spirit, penned exactly what the Holy Spirit commanded. It is here where we can delineate these false teachers.
The scriptures are divine and perfect-without error.
Gregg Strawbridge writes:
“Sola Scriptura: The Scripture Alone is the Standard
The doctrine that the Bible alone is the ultimate authority was the “Formal Principle” of the Reformation. In 1521 at the historic interrogation of Luther at the Diet of Worms, he declared his conscience to be captive to the Word of God saying, “Unless I am overcome with testimonies from Scripture or with evident reasons — for I believe neither the Pope nor the Councils, since they have often erred and contradicted one another — I am overcome by the Scripture texts which I have adduced, and my conscience is bound by God’s Word.” Similarly, the Belgic Confession stated, “We believe that [the] holy Scriptures fully contain the will of God, and that whatsoever man ought to believe unto salvation is sufficiently taught therein…Neither may we consider any writings of men, however holy these men may have been, of equal value with those divine Scriptures nor ought we to consider custom or the great multitude, or antiquity, or succession of times and persons, or councils, decrees or statutes, as of equal value with the truth of God… Therefore, we reject with all our hearts whatsoever does not agree with this infallible rule” (VII).
As the Scripture says,
Open my eyes, that I may behold Wonderful things from Thy law….I will bow down toward Thy holy temple, And give thanks to Thy name for Thy lovingkindness and Thy truth; For Thou hast magnified Thy word according to all Thy name….You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them; and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.
All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. (Psalm 119:18; Psalm 138:2; II Tim. 3:14-17)”
The Protestant view of sola scriptura is amplified by C. Hodge:
“Again, Protestants admit that as there has been an uninterrupted tradition of truth from the protevangelium to the close of the Apocalypse, so there has been a stream of traditionary teaching flowing through the Christian Church from the day of Pentecost to the present time. This tradition is so far a rule of faith that nothing contrary to it can be true. Christians do not stand isolated, each holding his own creed. They constitute one body, having one common creed. Rejecting that creed, or any of its parts, is the rejection of the fellowship of Christians, incompatible with the communion of saints, or membership in the body of Christ. In other words, Protestants admit that there is a common faith of the Church, which no man is at liberty to reject, and which no man can reject and be a Christian.”
The doctrine of sola scriptura does not mean that scripture is open to private interpretation;
2Pet. 1:20 knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation,
and even though we have this passage it does not undermine the doctrine of Sola Scriptura:
John 16:13 However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.
Chapter 1 of the Westminster Confession reads:
IV. The authority of the holy Scripture, for which it ought to be believed and obeyed, dependeth not upon the testimony of any man or Church, but wholly upon God (who is truth itself), the Author thereof; and therefore it is to be received, because it is the Word of God.
- We may be moved and induced by the testimony of the Church to an high and reverent esteem of the holy Scripture; and the heavenliness of the matter, the efficacy of the doctrine, the majesty of the style, the consent of all the parts, the scope of the whole (which is to give all glory to God), the full discovery it makes of the only way of man’s salvation, the many other incomparable excellencies, and the entire perfection thereof, are arguments whereby it doth abundantly evidence itself to be the Word of God; yet, notwithstanding, our full persuasion and assurance of the infallible truth and divine authority thereof, is from the inward work of the Holy Spirit, bearing witness by and with the Word in our hearts.
- The whole counsel of God, concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man’s salvation, faith, and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men. Nevertheless we acknowledge the inward illumination of the Spirit of God to be necessary for the saving understanding of such things as are revealed in the Word; and that there are some circumstances concerning the worship of God, and the government of the Church, common to human actions and societies, which are to be ordered by the light of nature and Christian prudence, according to the general rules of the Word, which are always to be observed.
1 John 4:1
Dear friends, do not believe everyone who claims to speak by the Spirit. You must test them to see if the spirit they have comes from God. For there are many false prophets in the world.
Aberrant gospel messages:
Without counsel purposes are disappointed: but in the multitude of counsellers they are established.
The church is built on history and the faithful saints that have gone before us. In this we have a witness. The majority view is the safest approach. Being Protestant, I will go with the venerable dead every time. The gospel that these men held dear is consistently passed down to our age. Not every gospel is truth. Some are full of deceit and lies. Consider the health and wealth gospel. The Jehovah’s Witnesses. Mormons, Modalists. Arminians. These are not true gospel accounts as they contradict scripture. How does one know the difference between a false representation and a true account? You need to study your bibles. Consider that your eternal life depends upon it. False belief will damn you. Subscribing to another Jesus will damn you. There is only one truth and it is your job to know the difference. Obviously, given what I have said above, this begins with prayer. Petitioning God without ceasing is the key. You must go to God and ask for forgiveness for your sin. Ask Him to reveal truth to you. The scriptures tell us:
34 Then said they unto him, Lord, evermore give us this bread. 35 And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst. 36 But I said unto you, That ye also have seen me, and believe not. 37 All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.
The Holy Bible: King James Version, Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version. (Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2009), Jn 6:34–37.
 The Holy Bible: King James Version, Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version. (Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2009), Jn 3:2–3.
 The Holy Bible: King James Version, Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version. (Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2009), Ro 8:29–39.
 The Holy Bible: King James Version, Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version. (Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2009), Tt 3:3–7.
 The Holy Bible: King James Version, Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version. (Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2009), Lk 18:27.
 The Holy Bible: King James Version, Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version. (Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2009), Is 28:9–10.
 The Holy Bible: King James Version, Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version. (Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2009), 1 Co 3:6.
 The Holy Bible: King James Version, Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version. (Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2009), Jn 2:22–25.
 Gerhard Kittel, Geoffrey W. Bromiley, and Gerhard Friedrich, eds., Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1964–), 174.
 Gerhard Kittel, Geoffrey W. Bromiley, and Gerhard Friedrich, eds., Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1964–), 208.
 The Holy Bible: King James Version, Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version. (Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2009), Mt 24:24–Mk 13:22.
 The Holy Bible: King James Version, Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version. (Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2009), 2 Pe 2.
 The Holy Bible: King James Version, Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version. (Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2009), Mt 7:15–10:16.