IS THERE REALLY A DISTINCTION BETWEEN THE GOSPEL AND DOCTRINE?
By Nana Yaw Aidoo
"Preach the gospel not doctrine" is and has since the long ago, been the clarion call of many who have become ashamed of the Lord's one true church of Christ and its distinctiveness from among the churches that belong to men. I once sat at the feet of a man who in preaching from Acts the eighth chapter said; "Philip preached Christ not doctrine." Another preacher also said; "If you preach doctrine and the person dies the next day, would that person be saved?" Not so long ago, I read two articles that charge that the Lord's people, when evangelizing the lost, only briefly touch on the gospel so they can move on to doctrine.
From the foregoing, you would notice that there are some in the Lord's church, who think and believe that there is a difference between the gospel and doctrine and that whereas the gospel saves, doctrine does not. We wonder from "whence cometh this teaching?" Because as surely as the Bible is God's word, the idea that there is a distinction between gospel and doctrine does not originate with the Prophetic Scriptures.
Is there really a distinction between the gospel and doctrine? Let us hear the apostle Paul on this matter;
"Knowing this: that the law is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless and insubordinate, for the ungodly and for sinners, for the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, for fornicators, for sodomites, for kidnappers, for liars, for perjurers, and if there is any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine, according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God which was committed to my trust." (1 Tim.1:9-11).
It is most interesting to see that, some have decided to put asunder that which an inspired apostle joins together. No amount of sophistry would suffice in changing the fact that, the apostle in this inspired document (cf. 2 Pet.3:15-16) joined in an inseparable way, sound doctrine and the gospel, something which some people think it is heresy to do. "...if there is any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine, according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God..." Amen!
We believe that this idea that there is a distinction between the gospel and doctrine, stems from an improper handling of 1 Corinthians 15:1-4. In no way, does this great text teach that the gospel is the death, burial and resurrection of Christ alone. Indeed, the gospel is the death, burial and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ but not that alone. For some strange reason, some miss the fact that the apostle Paul wrote;
"Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you...For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: 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 death, burial and resurrection was what Paul delivered to the Corinthians "first of all," of that which he received by inspiration (Gal.1:11-12). It was not the only thing he preached to them as the gospel. Rather, it was what he preached, first of all.
Furthermore, in contending against the false teaching that gentiles had to keep the Law of Moses or had to be circumcised in order to be saved, this same apostle Paul, the author of 1 Corinthians 15, wrote that he and Barnabas "did not yield submission even for an hour that the truth of the gospel might continue..." (Gal.2:5).
What has gentiles not being compelled to be circumcised or to keep the Law of Moses, got to do with the "gospel," if the gospel is the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ alone? According to those who would divorce the gospel and doctrine, if in evangelism, I teach an Adventist that keeping the Law of Moses this side of the cross is sinful, then I have not preached the gospel because I did not preach the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. Brethren, the Bible would have to be re-written for this idea to be true.
Does doctrine save? Once again we would hear the inspired apostle Paul on this issue.
"Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one's slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness? But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness." (Rom.6:16-18).
We really are interested in knowing what the gospel-doctrine divorcers, would do with this text.
What shall we conclude? Evidently, the idea that there is a difference between the gospel and doctrine and that the gospel saves whiles doctrine does not is only true in the minds of some who like has already been asserted, have become ashamed of the Lord's one true church of Christ and its distinctiveness from among the churches of men.
This false teaching has far reaching consequences than some care to admit. It would be disastrous to the church of Christ and remove those things which distinguish her from false churches and groups if all we tell denominationalists is the death, burial and resurrection of our Lord, something which most denominations teach and believe of a truth. Like one so aptly said, if this idea is accepted in the Lord's church, "our children's childen will have no concept whatsoever of New Testament Christianity." God forbid that this be so.
May the faithful, those who are not ashamed of the Lord's one true church of Christ, follow the example of the peerless apostle Paul (1 Cor.11:1) in continuously preaching in public and from house to house, "...the kingdom of God and teaching the things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ with all confidence..." (Acts 28:31).
God bless us all in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.