But as mentioned before, in addition to understanding the Biblical meaning of the word Gospel, we also need to understand its context. The context is important because there are modifying terms to the word Gospel. Such terms used are "the gospel of God, the gospel of Jesus Christ, the gospel of the Kingdom, the gospel of peace, and the eternal or everlasting gospel." Bible.org helps explain what some of these terms mean:
The gospel of Jesus Christ (Mark 1:1; 1 Cor. 9:12) and the gospel of His Son (Rom. 1:9). These two descriptions speak of the good news of salvation that comes through the person and work of Jesus Christ who is the very Son of God in human flesh. Again, this is a good news of deliverance from sin’s penalty, power and presence through the two advents of Christ.
The gospel of the grace of God (Acts 20:24) emphasizes that salvation in all of its aspects is on the basis of grace rather than on some meritorious system of works.
The gospel of the kingdom (Matt. 4:23; 9:35; 24:14) is the good news that God will establish His kingdom on earth through the two advents of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The gospel of peace (Eph. 6:15) describes how this good news of salvation in Christ brings peace in all its many aspects (peace with God, the peace of God, peace with others, and world peace) through the victory accomplished by the Savior.
The eternal or everlasting gospel (Rev. 14:6) expands our perspective of gospel as we normally think of it. This gospel as proclaimed by the angel has several key elements of gloriously good news that are developed in three commands and two reasons as explained on the website.
The problem, however, is not in the modifying terms because, as Bible.org points out, all these distinctive terms still reveal that the Gospel is essentially one. The real issues are the gospels that are not the Gospel. Whether it's the prosperity gospel, faith healing gospel, gospel of self-esteem, gospel of 'gay affirmation,' the gospel according to Dan Brown, or some gospel-less gospel, there are false gospels that abound in our culture. Unless people are aware of the deceptive nature of these false gospels, they may end up putting their hope in a faith that has no hope.
But why are teachings about these "different" gospels a problem? That is, apart from the obvious. If we used human logic, one could assume that if these are false gospels that they are harmless, that they have no power. The problem is is that a gospel other than the true Gospel is a lie. The warnings are clear in the Bible about false prophets and false doctrine or teaching:
"Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.
1 Timothy 1:3-7
As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain men not to teach false doctrines any longer nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. These promote controversies rather than God's work—which is by faith. The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. Some have wandered away from these and turned to meaningless talk. They want to be teachers of the law, but they do not know what they are talking about or what they so confidently affirm.
1 Timothy 6:3-5
If anyone teaches false doctrines and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, he is conceited and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions and constant friction between men of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain.
However, I believe that the most serious consequence of underestimating false doctrine or teaching and not confronting it and exposing it can be found at Mark 13:22:
For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform signs and miracles to deceive the elect—if that were possible.
Though it can be debated that in this verse that false Christs and prophets with their deception will not be able to deceive Christians, the point remains is that it is still a very serious problem. We need to be proactive. We need to be defenders of the Truth. And part of that is understanding the true Gospel and exposing those that aren't.
So, given what we know, how can we do this? I believe the greatest danger lies not outside the church, but inside. If the church is going to have any influence or any power to dispel the myths and the lies (i.e. false teaching), we need to be able to identify the wolves that are prowling about. We need to call out those leaders that are propagating false gospels that ultimately leads people away from the Savior.
Need examples? According to Dan Corner at the Powerless Gospel, these are some of the "dangerous gospels" that lead people astray and "frustrate people from knowing what to believe":
- A person becomes born again and a child of God when baptized. (Catholicism, Lutheranism and others)
- You must keep the Saturday Sabbath to have salvation. (Seventh Day Adventism and most other Sabbatarian groups)
- You must be part of our group or organization to get salvation or retain salvation. (Jehovah’s Witnesses, International Church of Christ, etc.)
- You must believe you are getting forgiven in the waters of baptism to be forgiven. (Church of Christ)
- God understands our weaknesses (sins). He knows our failures and accepts us as long as we are sincere. (Many churches of different denominations)
- You must read the King James Bible to learn the truth to have salvation. (Some, but not all, King James Only groups)
- You must speak in tongues and be water baptized in Jesus’ name. (United Pentecostal also known as the Jesus’ Only or Apostolics)
- Mentally assenting to the historic death, burial and resurrection of Jesus will bring salvation. (Many liberal churches)
Let's not forget, as well, that false teaching of any kind is dangerous in that it confuses people as to the Truth. There are numerous examples in our world today that we can point to. How about allowing gay clergy to serve within the Presbyterian or Lutheran denominations? What about nuns within the Catholic church that support health care legislation that ultimately funds abortions? (If you ask me, getting a nod from Planned Parenthood is not exactly the endorsement I would want.) And would you be surprised that the Vatican believes there's merit to evolution?
We can see that there is plenty of deception out there. We just need to get involved. If we, the body of Christ that God has revealed and entrusted the Truth, do nothing to defend the gospel, who will? My hope is that collectively, all believers from all walks of life will.