The Certified Gospel
"But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man" (Galatians 1:11).
In this statement, Paul placed the gospel he preached in contrast to the perverted gospel which some had brought to the churches of Galatia (Galatians 1:7). He further showed that perverted gospels were appeals to men rather than to God and that those who preached such perversions negated their claim to bathe servants of Christ (Galatians 1:10). In these declarations, Paul gave his assurance that his gospel was genuine. He had received it by divine revelations. The further context of Galatians 1 shows that he did not confer with those chosen to be apostles before him in order to determine what he ought to believe and preach. After his conversion he went away into Arabia. Even when he did meet with the apostles later in his service to Christ, they "added nothing" to him. He received his gospel by divine revelation even as the others.
We long for certainty in a world darkened by doubt. We do not want to eat meat or drink milk unless we know it has met the standards of purity set by those who regulate such matters. When I get on a jet plane I want to have someone at the controls who has been "certified." When I go to the office of a Doctor whom I have not seen before, I always read his diplomas and certificates displayed on the wall. You see, I want certified meat, milk, pilots and Doctors.
Is it not strange that in a world where so many demand certification about so many things, there are so few who want certification when it comes to the realm of the spirit? Some do not even think there are recognizable standards by which spiritual truth can be verified. Luke wanted Theophilus to "know the certainty of those things, wherein thou hast been instructed" (Luke 1:4). It was that certainty which prompted him to speak of "those things which are most surely believed among us" (Luke 1:1). But how can we know the certainty of the gospel claims? Have we been gullible? Are we without sufficient evidence to certify it? Consider now the following three lines of evidence by which gospel truth is verified.
Certified by Miracles
The whole gospel system rests on the truth or falsity of the claims of Jesus that he was divine. Were these claims empty boastings, or were there mighty powers performed by him which could only be attributed to Deity?
Consider first the reported miracles of Christ. There were three words which were often used together to discuss both the miracles of Christ and, later, those of his apostles. These were "miracles," "wonders," and” signs" (Acts 2:22; Hebrews 2:4; II Corinthians 12:12). The word "miracles" referred to mighty deeds and indicated the source of what was done. The might, or power, which stood behind the deed, was not human but divine. The second word, "wonders," described the effect such deeds had on the witnesses. They were filled with awe and amazement. The third word, "signs," established the purpose of that which was done. These deeds were divine portents, or evidences of Deity acting in the presence of humanity to convince humanity of the factor divine intervention.
In the four gospel records there are some 38 miracles of Jesus reported. In the gospel of John there are only seven of these reported, each falling into a different category and demonstrating mighty power in each of these areas. John summarized his purpose in this selection when he said "And many other signs truly did Jesus in this book: but these are written, that eight believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God" (John 20:30-31). How do you explain turning water into wine, feeding multitudes with a few loaves and fishes, walking on water, healing the sick, casting out demons, calming a storm by speaking to it, or raising the dead? These were "miracles," mighty deeds which could not be attributed to human resources. Peter said that it was by these that Jesus of Nazareth was "a man approved of God among you" (Acts 2:22).
Then we must consider the mighty deeds wrought by the apostles of Christ. They were his chosen ambassadors (II Corinthians 5:20). Not only were they officially sent, commissioned by the power sending them, but their testimony was certified by "miracles," "wonders," and "signs." These were their credentials or badges of authority. Jesus promised them that as they went abroad to baptize believers, that "these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover" (Mark 16:15-18). What he promised them, he fulfilled. "So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God. And they went forth, and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following, Amen" (Mark 16:19-20). The Hebrew writer said "God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will" (Hebrews 2:4). Paul identified such performances as "the signs of an apostle" and says they were wrought at Corinth "in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds" (II Corinthians 12:12). Paul's gospel (the certified gospel) at Thessalonica came "not. . . . in word only, but also in power" (I Thessalonians 1:5). His gospel came in word, for the gospel cannot be preached without word. But is was not the word devoid of the necessary divine credentials
to undergird the certainty of what was said. There can be no doubt that the same "signs of an apostle" which were wrought later at Corinth, were in evidence here in Thessalonica as well.
Paul and Barnabas appealed to the same line of evidence at Jerusalem to argue that their work of gospel preaching among Gentiles was approved by God for they were "declaring what miracles and wonders God had wrought among the Gentiles by them" (Acts 15:12). By such astounding evidences both the ministry of Jesus and that of his apostles were certified.
Certified by Eyewitnesses
The preceding claims do not rest upon the folk tales and legends handed down from mouth neither to ear nor upon the shifting sand of human credulity. They were "eyewitnesses of his majesty." Peter declared, "For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received from God the Father honor and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount" (II Peter 1:16-18). Peter, James and John were all present and were eye and ear witnesses to the things reported.
To this we add the words of another witness, John. "That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life. . . . That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you" (I John 1:1-3).
Every alleged fact of history rests upon four criteria:
- That reported was done in the past;
- It was visible so that witnesses could attest to it;
- There was some marker, record or monument left to memorialize it; and
- That marker, record or monument must have continued from the time of the reported event until the present.
If there is any alleged fact of history which does not rely upon these evidences, I do not know what it would be. Yet, by the same criteria we certify the claims of Christ upon which the gospel rests. We are called upon to believe the certainty of events long past. These events were visible so that they could be reported by witnesses. When Paul stood before Agrippa to speak of "these things" he appealed to the fact that Agrippa himself was not ignorant of these events, for said he "this thing was not done in a corner" (Acts 26:26). Touching the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, Paul recounted the list of witnesses and said "he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep" (I Corinthians 15:6). There are at least three markers, records or monuments which keep alive the memory of that done in the past which was seen of witnesses. There is the testimony of the indestructible word of God. It survives every attack
With a tenacity which cannot be explained short of divine providence. Then there is the monument of the Lord’s Supper. This simple memorial observance takes place every first day of the week the world around and shows forth his death (I Corinthians 11:26). It is a living marker. Then there is the act of baptism which, when performed, memorializes the fact that Jesus died, was buried and arose the third day. The sinner who submits in faithful obedience to this command of God passes through the form or mold of the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. It is a living marker. Until the skeptic is willing to discard these criteria upon which he accepts the facts of history, then he would do well not to expose his arrogance and inconsistency in discarding the claims of Jesus and the gospel which rest upon the same kind of evidence.
Certified by Fulfilled Prophecy
After stating that he and others were eyewitnesses of his majesty, Peter said "We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts; Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man; but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost" (II Peter1:19-21). Prophecy was that ray of light which illuminated the Old Testament period (the dark place of this passage) until such time as the day should dawn, the time of the fulfillment of that prophesied, and the day star should appear in the person of Christ to be the ruler of this era of divine light and truth. How could the prophets foretell events in minute detail which were to come to pass far beyond the reach of their own time and ability to influence the outcome? There are 332 prophesies in the Old Testament which had to do with the Messiah and his kingdom. With the appearance of the "day star" these began to unfold with exactness and precision. Were they unusually perceptive psychics able to accurately foretell events hundreds of years after their own time? No, my friends, they were "moved" (impelled, borne along, driven) by the Holy Spirit. "This is that" spoken by Joel, Amos, Isaiah or whichever of the prophets, came with a certainty that challenged every other explanation while, at the same time, guaranteeing the certainty of those things most surely believed among us.
In this age of theological guess work and blatant attacks upon the faith once delivered to the saints by moral reprobates and cynical skeptics which question every major premise of the gospel system, it is high time that we stand on the promises and with assurance state our case for the certified gospel. No other spiritual nourishment is acceptable. Any other has the anathema of God upon it and terminates in everlasting ruin. There is also a warning here for those who cling tithe certified gospel to be sure what we teach and practice can be located in that gospel which was certified by miracles, eyewitnesses and fulfilled prophecy.