Intro: Have you ever encountered this? We should preach the gospel and not concern ourselves with doctrine. At times, in religious discussions the distinction is made between that which is the gospel, and that which should be viewed as doctrine.
The gospel is often defined as the story of Jesus as contained in the accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. The gospel contains the historical facts that we must all believe.
Doctrine, on the other hand, are the other teachings, such as the commands concerning the worship, work and organization of the church, the teaching on the necessity or the mode of baptism, personal holiness, eschatology, etc. One popular approach today is to view these doctrines as the products of the churches, or the traditions of men.
The though is often presented that we can and should unite on the gospel message (about Jesus’ life), but we cannot (and should not try to) unite on doctrine.
Others teach that we should teach the gospel to sinners, and doctrine to Christians. Doctrine is not essential to becoming a Christian, only the gospel
Does the Bible support such a distinction?
I. Defining the Terms: How does the NT use the words themselves?
A. The Greek word for gospel is euangelion. (yoo-angaleon). It originally referred to the reward for bringing good news, and later referred to the news itself. It has that prefix eu which comes into English in a variety of words. We talk about euphonious music, which refers to something that sounds good. A eulogy is a good word about someone at his funeral service. The prefix eu– refers to something good or pleasant. The word angelos or angelion is the word for “message.” Angels are messengers, and an angelos is one who delivers a message. Thus the word gospel means good news.
1. The gospel was first preached as the good news about the coming of the kingdom of God.
a. Matt 4:23-23 And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease among the people.
b. Matt 11:4-5 – Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and tell John the things which you hear and see: 5 The blind see and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them.
c. Luke 20:1-8 – Now it happened on one of those days, as He taught the people in the temple and preached the gospel, that the chief priests and the scribes, together with the elders, confronted Him 2 and spoke to Him, saying, “Tell us, by what authority are You doing these things? Or who is he who gave You this authority?” 3 But He answered and said to them, “I also will ask you one thing, and answer Me: 4 The baptism of John — was it from heaven or from men?” 5 And they reasoned among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ He will say, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ 6 But if we say, ‘From men,’ all the people will stone us, for they are persuaded that John was a prophet.” 7 So they answered that they did not know where it was from. 8 And Jesus said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.” Notice that when the chief priests and scribes objected to Jesus preaching the gospel of the kingdom, that he rebuked them for not accepting the baptism of John. Does this indicate that the call to be baptized by John was a necessary element of the gospel Jesus was preaching at the time?
2. Later the term gospel came to refer to the teaching about Jesus Himself. The word is most often used by Paul. Vines says this about Paul’s use of the term… The apostle uses it of two associated yet distinct things, (a) of the basic facts of the death, burial and resurrection of Christ, e. g., 1 Cor 15:1-3; (b) of the interpretation of these facts, e. g., Rom 2:16; Gal 1:7,11; 2:2; in (a) the “gospel” is viewed historically, in (b) doctrinally, with reference to the interpretation of the facts, as is sometimes indicated by the context.
B. The word for doctrine is most often..didaskalos (did-as’-kal-os) – an instructor, or what has been instructed. It refers to teaching. The Bible speaks of the doctrine of demons, the doctrine of the Nicolaitans.
C. If there is a distinction to be viewed in the words themselves, it is in the difference between a fact that is stated (news) and a command that is given (instruction) One is accepted, the other is obeyed. But, as we shall see that distinction does not hold up int the biblical use of either word.
II. What is the difference between gospel and doctrine? I affirm that there is very little difference. The words and concepts involved in the terms are nearly synonymous.
A. The apostle Paul preached the gospel by teaching doctrine. He warned the Galatian Christians in Gal 1:8 – But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. He told Timothy in 1 Tim 1:3 – charge some that they teach no other doctrine,
1. Rom 1:15 – So, as much as is in me, I am ready to preach the gospel to you who are in Rome also. Paul told the Roman Christians that he was ready to preach the gospel to them. But they were already Christians and had heard the story of Jesus. What he was getting ready to do was give the interpretation and application of the story.
B. Consider 1 Cor 15:1-4 – Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, 2 by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you — unless you believed in vain. 3 For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures,
1. What Paul describes here as the gospel could be understood as the core facts of the story. Death – burial – resurrection of Christ – according to the scriptures. But we also recognize that there is more that leads up to those events. The gospel would include that as well (miracles, preaching of the kingdom, etc.)
2. Is there any doctrine in what Paul describes as the gospel? David McClister points out in recent article that a good example of doctrine is right in this text – “for our sins”. It is a fact of the story, but it is also an explanation or interpretation of the story. This phrase gives personal meaning and application to the fact.
3. Doctrine is the application or interpretation of the facts of the gospel.
a. Col 3:1-5– If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. 2 Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. 3 For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory. 5 Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. Paul teaches doctrine about idolatry and sexual uncleanness. Where did this doctrine come from? It is presented as an application of the gospel story – Jesus died; must die with him. To die with Christ means to crucify the flesh and die to the world. This how I obey the gospel. The doctrine is an explanation, application, or interpretation, of something that is already in the gospel of Jesus Christ.
b. Read Romans 6:1-13 – separate the gospel from the doctrine? The facts from the commands. The doctrine of baptism (even the mode of baptism) comes right out of the story of Jesus. We join Him in His death, burial and resurrection.
• Rom 6:17-18 – 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. 18 And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. They obeyed the doctrine that corresponded to the gospel.
• Rom 10:14-16 – How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? 15 And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, Who bring glad tidings of good things!” 16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our report?”
c. We are commanded to love and forgive our brother, because He loved us and forgave us, as told in the gospel story.
d. What about the Biblical doctrine of sin? It is clearly implied in the death of Jesus, since His death was “for our sins.”
e. Jesus call to discipleship, and all the obedience that it implied, is conveyed in the language of the gospel story. Matthew 16.24: “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.” The gospel story becomes the pattern… It becomes the doctrine by which we live. We must live the gospel by obeying the doctrine that explains and applies it.
Conclusion: Wherever we find doctrine that calls for compliance and obedience it ultimately goes back to the story of Jesus – the gospel. The doctrine is an explanation, interpretation, or application of what we find in the gospel, the story of Jesus. The doctrines are another way of saying what the gospel says. That is, doctrines are not the invention of churches. Doctrines come from the gospel. Have you obeyed the gospel?
2 Thess 1:7-8– and to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, 8 in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Peter 4:17 – For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God?
From an article by David McClister – www.focusmagazine.org