The gospel is rooted in the fact that all have sinned and fall short of God’s glory (Rom 3:23). The wages of sin are death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom 6:23). Mankind, left alone, is lost, without hope, and unforgiven. There is no grace without Christ, and no path to God without Jesus as the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6). The gospel message is that we can receive forgiveness of sins through the blood of Jesus and be born again to that living hope, reserved in heaven, through the resurrection (1 Pet 1:3-5). This is why we need to “stand” in the gospel and hold it fast, for by it we are saved (1 Cor 15:1-4).
The gospel is also inseparable from this primary message: “repent!” Jesus said, “repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15). This a a clear kingdom mandate, as many other passages testify:
“Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38)
“Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19).
“God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead” (Acts 17:30-31).
God wants all to “come to repentance” (2 Pet 3:9). He wants the gospel taught to grant “repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth” (2 Tim 2:25), for godly repentance leads to salvation (2 Cor 7:10). If anyone wishes to follow Jesus, self-denial and taking up the cross is paramount (Luke 9:23). This requires repentance.
Sadly, this message has been rejected in favor of one much more palatable and easily accepted by a world indoctrinated with moral relativism and forced tolerance. The world sees no need to recognize the problem of sin, so why should repentance be on the world’s radar?
The anti-gospel is the message of non-repentance. The message is that repentance is unnecessary, that it is good to embrace your own version of self, that those who say otherwise are the haters, the bigots, the ones who need to be shunned and shamed. God made us the way we are, so there is no need to do anything but affirm our own feelings. Self-affirmation rather than self-denial is the foundation for the anti-gospel. Modern culture deems that the more enlightened embrace this anti-gospel, for modern understanding is superior to the ancients; and since Scripture is a product of the ancient world, we can see the need to move beyond it as a damaged relic of the past.
The anti-gospel fails to consider the fallen state of mankind and, instead, turns the grace of God into a license to sin (Jude 4), allowing for all to continue in sin while affirming this twisted version of grace (Rom 6:1-2). Anti-gospel preachers proclaim that “love wins,” that the Spirit is with them, that God understands. Consequently, a new idolatry has emerged. God has been reshaped to look just like the anti-gospel message. This god does not require repentance and despises those who preach it. This god bends to the whims and desires of those who embrace the anti-gospel. The standard of the anti-gospel is self-will, not Scripture, though occasionally a passage will be trotted out in support of what has already been decided. Scriptures that do not support the predetermined conclusions are summarily dismissed and relegated to the shelf of antiquities, appealed to only as evidence of a world that everyone now knows was ignorant and backwards.
This message is anti-gospel because it teaches people to affirm their sinfulness, to be proud of their sinful behavior, to march in lock-step with flags unfurled to show solidarity in their pride. Grace is perverted and the real gospel is veiled as the minds of the anti-gospel advocates are unable to “see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ” (2 Cor 4:4), while they preach themselves rather than “Christ Jesus as Lord” (v. 5). Ironically, those who deny the need for repentance from sin will themselves demand a form of repentance from those who do not agree with them. They do not use “repentance” terminology much because of religious overtones, but they still push the need for people to change and embrace their form of morality and tolerance. If people will not willingly do so, then they will make a grab for political power and force the issue.
The anti-gospel shuns the Lordship of Jesus. It mocks those who embrace God’s authority as revealed in Scripture. It manifests the works of the flesh while parading in disguise as the fruit of the Spirit. Because the anti-gospel denies true repentance, it also denies the kingdom of Christ. There is no grace of living waters in the anti-gospel, but only a poison that may momentarily taste of pleasure. In the end, it will become bitter, and it will destroy those who drink of it.
Failure to see the need to repent is a failure to see the need for God’s grace. Fruit can only be produced when we understand the grace of God in truth (Col 1:6). The grace of the true gospel is always needed. “Repent and believe in the gospel.” Only in Christ will salvation be found (Acts 4:12). Preach the gospel. Let the foolishness of the cross become the power of the saved (1 Cor 1:18ff). Now is not the time to compromise; now is the time to hold fast the real gospel so that people can be redeemed, reconciled, and reformed. It’s not about politics; it’s about grace in truth. It’s about real love defined by God, not man.
Let us also recognize that the gospel of God grace, which includes repentance, is not just for “them.” It’s not just about those whose love for the world and sin is obvious and blatant. It’s for all of us. We are all in the same boat, adrift and in need of God as our anchor. It’s because of realizing that we all need this grace that should spur us on to teach others about it.
“The Lord’s bondservant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.” (2 Tim 2:24-26).