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The half-gospel of popular evangelicalism

(Garth D. Wiebe, Jan 2015)

The English word "gospel" (from the Old English word "gōd"+"spel" = "good+news") is translated from the Greek word ευαγγελιον ("eu-aggelion"), literally meaning "well-message," transliterated into English ev-angel, from which we also get the word "evangelist" and "evangelism."

The apostle Paul in Gal 1:6-9 tells the Galatians that some people are giving them a message that is really "no gospel at all" (i.e. "no good news at all").

If it's not good news, it's not "gospel." Pretty simple, right?

In that same passage, the apostle Paul says to consider αναθεμα (Greek "anathema"), which refers to something banned, denounced, considered devoted to evil, anyone bringing another message that is "no good news," and he repeats that twice for emphasis (verses 8 and 9).

Today's modern popular "evangelicalism" teaches that "the gospel" is limited to Jesus shedding his blood for our sins, dying, then rising from the dead. In that, it is true that we have forgiveness of sins and, believing this, are being saved from the wrath of God to come. Meanwhile, with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and freedom from condemnation, it is true that we can lead moral lives out of a changed heart, and be at peace with God.

But, if this is only half the truth, then it becomes a half-truth.

By narrowing the proposition in that way (i.e. just the "blood of Jesus"), Jesus' suffering in his body is looked upon with an attitude that is merely sentimental. "Oh how he suffered for us" is declared, but he did not suffer "for us" if his suffering did not do us any actual good, but is of only sentimental value. If he only shed his blood for the remission of our sins, then his suffering was something that he did for some reason that does not apply to us now in any real, effectual way.

It is also true that Jesus' behavior under wrongful persecution is an example and model for us to follow. But it is not necessary for us to be persecuted in order to be redeemed from either the devil's curse or God's wrath. Nor was he persecuted to cause us not to be. He wasn't persecuted in our place. He suffered in our place.

Popular "evangelicalism" teaches that he is the passover lamb, and that is also very true. However, the passover lamb of the old covenant was not whipped, beaten, bruised, tortured, mocked, spit upon, and turned into an unrecognizable object of horror, nailed up on a tree for all to see. Rather, its throat was slit so that the blood drained out, and it died a quiet, humane death.

So, if the shedding of blood for the remission of sins was all there was, and Jesus' suffering in his body doesn't apply to us, then we end up being taught that there is no sure remedy to direct affliction at the hands of the devil.

Therefore, popular "evangelicalism" teaches a "half-atonement." Jesus atoned for sins, so that we are not considered by God to be guilty of them anymore, but either it is said that he didn't atone for the works of the devil, or he did and we don't get the benefit until Jesus comes again and the devil and his angels are thrown into the lake of fire. If this is true, then we only have "half-victory," because Jesus was only "half-victorious" in the atonement.

Therefore, they teach that we are under a "half-curse." They say that we are not under the curse of God (judgment) for transgression (sins), but they assume we are under the curse of the devil and his works, so that the consequences of the fall of man are inescapable, except for the matter of the forgiveness of sins.

Though Jesus said "it is finished/accomplished/completed" (Greek τετελεσται, "tetelestai") on the cross (John 19:28,30), this would mean that Jesus only really "half-finished/half-accomplished/half-completed" when both John (v. 28) and Jesus (v. 30) said, "τετελεσται."

Therefore, theirs is only a "half-gospel," or "half good news."

It also makes the New Covenant out to be inferior to the Old Covenant. In the Old Covenant of the Law of Moses, you can read in Deut 28 and elsewhere of all the blessings that were promised the Israelites if they obeyed the commandments and did not follow after other gods. Health, prosperity, protection from enemies and other such blessings were all theirs for the taking. They could choose blessings or curses, based upon whether they chose to walk in obedience to the Law, or disobedience to it.

And, there were times that they were indeed blessed! Yet, many not-so-good-news-ers, particularly in the professional clergy today, teach that we are under the curse of the fall of man, with no sure remedy other than to beg God and hope that he will make a few exceptions, a provision here and there, before Jesus comes again! Under the Old Covenant, you had a sure remedy: Worship only the true God and obey the commandments, and you will live healthy and blessed. Under the New Covenant have we no remedy??

That is not "good news."

So, now we have a New "half-Covenant" with "half-promises."

However, Jesus became a "curse" for us (Gal 3:13) and redeemed us from the curse of the Law. Now none of those horrible things that the second part of Deut 28 describes apply to us who believe. Instead, we can live in the "blessings of Abraham," the man of faith who preceded the Law by 430 years (Gal 3:17), simply by believing who we are in Christ and living according to the Spirit. Abraham was healthy, prosperous, and protected.

We are rightly told that we do not shed our own blood for the remission of our or anyone else's sins, but we are told that we must put up with suffering at the hands of the devil (or perhaps God, if God is blamed for the devil's works).

Anyone who thinks that he must suffer in sickness, disease, oppression, poverty, and the like is, at least unwittingly, succumbing to a selfish "works" mentality that supposes that he must pay the price, when in reality, Jesus paid the price. Or, that Jesus only figuratively conquered the devil at the cross, but not really, or not completely, or not yet, leaving us powerless against the devil and his works.

The analogy to this would be those who think they must do penance for sins and live in constant, or at least repeated guilt and condemnation as Christians, only hoping that God will forgive them, with no assurance that he has yet.

That is very "Catholic." So the popular evangelical "protestant" half-gospel is also "half-Catholic" in its thinking.

Those who believe in this "half-gospel" are also waiting for their "messiah" to come (again) before they are fully redeemed from the curse. Now, in one sense, it is true that there will be a new heavens and new earth, we will have glorified, incorruptible, imperishable bodies, and the devil and his angels will be thrown into the lake of fire, making it impossible for us to be afflicted.

But, if Jesus only half-paid the price, then he was only a "half-messiah" when he came the first time. Most modern evangelicals are really waiting for their "other half of the messiah" to come (again) and give them a way out of the curse in their own lives. Or die, so that they can "be with Jesus" immediately and be free from the curse. They do see themselves as sons of God with respect to being in right standing with God now (because with sin paid for, they are no longer guilty or condemned), but they don't see themselves as sons of God with respect to having inherited authority over the devil and his works, in Christ, which Jesus also paid for and achieved victory for, 2000 years ago.

Yet, when Jesus comes again, he is not going to come to atone for anything, either sins or demonic affliction. That was already done 2000 years ago! Both the sin problem and the affliction problem were dealt with, so that we can walk free from both right now, if we choose to, by faith!

So, most modern evangelicals walk in "half victory" because they believe that Jesus only achieved "half victory" for them. Sins but not affliction. Morality but not blessings and prosperity. Peace with God but not freedom from the curse.

Apologists for the "evangelical" group often accuse "full gospel" believers of perverting the "gospel" by making it into a "health and wealth" gospel, in that they suppose that they add to "the gospel." But in reality they are guilty of perverting the "gospel" by taking away half of what Jesus did for us, half of the "gospel," making their "gospel" a half-gospel.

Meanwhile, they say, we must live under the curse. Does this sound like "good news"? It is not. It is not "gospel" and it is not "the whole gospel."

In Matt 24:14 Jesus says "And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come."

The gospel of the "Kingdom" is what we preach. At the time Jesus spoke the words of Matt 24:14, he had not died yet. So, it is also true that we now look back at the cross and preach the fulfillment of what Jesus did in the events of his suffering, shedding his blood, death, burial, and resurrection. That gives us more revelation about the gospel of the Kingdom than what people had before the cross, and is the "first" (Greek πρωτοις, "protois") aspect of what we now preach (1 Cor 15:1-3). But it does not change the gospel of the Kingdom.

The "gospel" or "good news" of the "King"-"dom" is that Jesus is "King" and has legal "dom"-inion over everything, including the devil and all his works. Sin is paid for, sickness and oppression is paid for, the curse of the fall of man is reversed, and we now have restored the divine provision and prosperity that Adam and Eve had before the fall.

That is "good news."

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