As we have been discussing, the chookwatchers (CW) often interpose a discussion with their stock question “What is the gospel?”
This usually comes when the person being addressed has made several good points about the CW modus operandi or their attitude or the lack of evidence in a claim in one of their posts.
To consistently pose this question, “What is the gospel?”, one would have to think that CW at least has a handle on the doctrine of the gospel. This series has been looking at CW theology and how it measures up to the gospel.
The key scripture used by CW to summarise the gospel is taken from 2 Corinthians 15, where Paul gives a basic outline.
2 Corinthians 15:1-11 Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you–unless you believed in vain.
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, and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve.
After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time. For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.
But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me. Therefore, whether it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.
It is very clear that Paul links the preaching of the gospel with the receiving of faith. When he preaches, people believe. As he says at the end, “so we preach and so you believed.”
As we have shown on this site the chookwatchers promote Reformed theology. Their sites are chockablock with references to recommended Reformed ministries, churches, resources and teaching. They have even published their ABCD of traditional and historic Christian belief, which is, in fact, traditional and historic Calvinist and Reformed teaching.
In 2 Corinthians 15, Paul makes it clear that people are saved by receiving and believing the preached gospel, that is the Word of Christ. This is backed up by other scripture, and especially by the teaching of Paul in his epistles.
“Faith” Paul says, “comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.”
Reformed thinking on regeneration
Reformed theology, however, teaches that particular people are selected by God, who regenerates them without faith, so that they can then receive faith, which is also a download from the Holy Spirit, completely without any involvement from the recipient.
The preaching of the gospel, then, has no part in this. God is entirely responsible for regeneration by quickening the dead spirit of the sinner regardless of the person’s personal will. The gospel has no tangible part in the process, except to awaken society to the fact that there is a God and he has a plan for redemption, but, despite the gospel message, preaching, apparently, has no direct part in regeneration.
In which case, Reformed theology actually speaks against Paul’s teaching in 2 Corinthians 15:1-11.
“In the Calvinist perspective, regeneration proceeds (sic) faith.” CARM
By which we understand he means regeneration ‘precedes’ faith. R C Sproul and John McArthur, heroes of CW theology, make the same claims and go to great lengths to further their cause that regeneration precedes faith, as do all the other Reformed teachers CW quotes and lauds.
Saved by grace through faith
However, according to scripture, we are saved by grace through faith. Salvation is the gift of God. Faith for salvation comes by hearing the gospel. God’s grace is his favour and his gift to us is salvation which is acquired through faith. We receive this granted favour through faith which comes as a result of the preached gospel.
Romans 10:10-17 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him.
For “whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.”
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? 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!” But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our report?”
So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
With the heart one believes. With the mouth one confesses. How does the heart believe? Through preaching. What is preached? The gospel. What is the gospel? The Word of Christ.
“Whoever calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
How can we call if we have not first heard? That is what Paul is clearly saying here. Regeneration, which is salvation, comes through the preaching of the gospel.
“How shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard?”
Clearly, then, we can only believe when we hear. Faith comes by hearing. Hearing comes by the Word of Christ – the gospel.
The power of the gospel
The place of faith in regeneration is made abundantly clear in these passages. We believe because we hear. The gospel is power. It has the power to change and the power to save.
Romans 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.
The gospel is the power of God unto salvation. The grace of God is the favour bestowed through the work of the cross and the resurrection of Christ which works forgiveness, redemption and the possibility of eternal life through faith in Christ’s cross and resurrection. God’s grace withholds his wrath. Wrath is deserved, but love, peace, mercy and grace are offered. God has made the way clear for all to be saved through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
In 2 Corinthians 15, Paul gives the order of salvation through the gospel.
“I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you–unless you believed in vain.”
1 The gospel was preached.
2 The gospel was received
3 They stand on the gospel
4 They were saved by the gospel
5 They hold fast to the gospel
The gospel Paul preached is summed up thus: “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, and that He was seen…”
He finishes off the passage by reminding them that ’so we preach, and so you believed’.
So faith comes by hearing the gospel, which is the power of God unto salvation for those who believe. We are saved by calling on the Lord.
The new birth
God does not regenerate us apart from faith. Regeneration is the new birth which comes as a result of hearing, receiving, believing and confessing the gospel. The Holy Spirit works alongside the preacher confirming the gospel and convincing the hearer.
The power of the gospel is in its simplicity. It is the grace that is on the gospel as it is preached by faithful people which generates faith in the hearer. God has empowered the Church to deliver the gospel to the world.
“With the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth one confesses unto salvation.”
Salvation comes as a result of the confession of the faith we receive having heard the Word of Christ preached.
As long as the chookwatchers promote the Reformed teaching that regeneration is sans faith they are not preaching the true gospel. They claim 2 Corinthians 15 as their standard for the gospel, yet deny it by their theology.