The Simple Gospel
by Pastor Barry Black
(formerly entitled, “Easy Believism” – A Misnomer concerning the Pure Gospel)
Misnomer: 1. Unsuitable name – a wrong or unsuitable name or term for something or somebody. 2. calling something by a wrong name – a use of a wrong or unsuitable name or term to describe something or somebody.
Generally when the suffix “ism” is placed behind a word, it describes a movement, doctrine, or system of belief. Usually it is meant to allude to cult beliefs (i.e. Mormonism, etc.). Obviously, the usual reason for calling the Pure Gospel of grace (faith alone in Christ alone for eternal life) “easy believism” is to insinuate those who adhere to it as “sectarian” or “cult like”.
So is what some consider “easy believism” a new view of the gospel? Is it a deviation from the real gospel? Or is it indeed the good news that sinners may have – and thus be guaranteed of – eternal life by simple (simple, not “easy”) faith in Jesus Christ? Let’s look and see what Jesus said concerning eternal life. We will primarily focus on the gospel of John.
The gospel of John is the only of the 4 gospel accounts written for the sole purpose of assuring us how to know we have eternal life (see John 20.31). Strangely enough, the only condition for receiving eternal life (i.e. heaven when we die) is to believe on Jesus Christ…period. In fact, the Apostle John uses the word “believe” or “faith” (same word) 98 times in the gospel of John. He never says to “believe and be baptized”, “believe and join a denomination or church”, “believe and repent”, “believe and be sorry for your sins”, “believe and turn from your sins”, or even “believe and pray to be saved”. Only one condition and one condition only: believe. Why do people (even well meaning people) add something else to believe? “It seems too easy to just believe”, is the usual argument. Well, believe is the only condition given. Look at John 3.15-18, 36. In John 3.18 it is clear that he that does NOT believe is condemned already (present tense) ; and in John 3.36 it is clear that the one who does NOT believe, the wrath of God (eternal judgment, i.e. Hell) abides on them.
Over and over, the gospel of John records that the one and only condition for eternal life is faith in Christ. The words “faith” and “believe” are English words for the Greek word, “pistis”. “Faith” is the noun form, “believe” is the verb form. After the death of His friend Lazarus, Jesus came to the home of Mary and Martha. Before Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, He talked to Martha about eternal life. John 11.25,26 records, “Jesus said unto her (Martha), I am the resurrection and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.” After telling her that, Jesus asked a very simple question of Martha. It had nothing to do with Martha joining a church, or turning from or quitting her sins, or professing Christ publicly, or promising to do better, or walking an aisle, or filling out a card. She didn’t even pray! Jesus simply asked her, “Do you believe this?” She answered in verse 27, “Yea, Lord, I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world.” Simple? Yes.
But, let’s look at the “easy” part. Would you be willing to say that to believe/place your faith in a man who claimed to be both God AND man, died for your sins on a cruel cross, rose again the third day so that YOU can have eternal life by believing in Him alone, is easy? Then why do so many people depend on something or someone else to get them to heaven? Why do so many depend on believing on Jesus and being baptized, or believing on Jesus and joining a particular church or denomination, or believing on Jesus and turning from ALL their sins? Here is something odd: when someone presents the gospel with those two conditions, “believing on Jesus and turning from ALL your sins”, they never mention to turn from the sins that you have not yet committed! Not to mention the ones that you can’t even remember that you committed!
Man by nature is very religious. That is, man by nature wants to DO something in order to have peace with God, or maintain peace with God. The prime example is Cain. Remember in Genesis 4 when Able brought an offering as God had commanded? Cain brought of the fruit of the ground – what he had grown as a result of his own efforts. The idea here is that he brought something good, something that God had given him the ability to do, but Cain’s error was that it was not what God required. Salvation is NOT in human ability. Ephesians 2.8,9 makes that very clear: “For by grace are ye saved through faith: and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” What God has required is faith in Christ and Christ alone for salvation (i.e. eternal life). He requires simple faith. However, just because it is simple, does NOT mean it is easy. It is against human nature and thinking to believe that there is NO human effort in salvation. In other words, we cannot do anything to be saved, or t0 stay saved. If we are counting on anything other than faith or in addition to faith, it is NOT what God requires.
Romans 5.1 “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” When one places his or her faith in Jesus Christ alone for salvation (eternal life), the result is we are “justified”. The word “justify” means that God declares the believing sinner righteous, even while we are still in a sinning state.
So basically, we could summarize this by realizing that the issue is not “easy believism”. The truth of the matter is, that “easy” is a relative term. Simple, now that is a definite term. A better term is quite simply, the simple gospel.
Barry D. Black is Pastor of Anchor Bible Church www.anchorbible.org
Barry’s e-mail address is: firstname.lastname@example.org