Are there any lost gospels?

The archaeological efforts of the 19th and early 20th century resulted in the discovery of many ancient texts discussing the life of Jesus and the first century church. These texts have been called the “lost gospels.” Some of them were truly lost for hundreds of years and have only recently been rediscovered. Another set of books are mentioned in ancient writings but no copies of them exist today. These writings are truly lost. The big question is not if ancient writings about Jesus have been lost or recently rediscovered. The big question is if these writings are gospels.

What is meant by gospels are authoritative, Scriptural records of the life of Jesus. For something to be truly Scriptural it must be inspired by God. Those writings which are truly God’s Word bear certain marks. The Word of God is true, accurate and does not contradict any other portion of God’s Word. Do the lost gospels bear the evidences of being God’s Word?

Some of the rediscovered writings were written within one hundred years of the life of Jesus. Some possibly earlier. Their closeness to the life of Jesus makes them worth considering as credible witnesses of Him. Over a dozen known, early works claim to give additional information about the life of Jesus. Certainly the Bible does not tell everything about the life of Jesus. Scripture tells us it left things out. “And there also many other things that Jesus did.” (John 21:25) Most of Jesus’ life is not recorded in the Bible. Aside from His birth and a short episode when He was twelve, the Bible says nothing about the first 30 years of Jesus’ life. The other writings claim to fill in those gaps.

These “lost” writings may present new information about the life of Jesus, but they are not gospels. They were not treasured by the church or accepted as Scripture. They were rejected by the early church. These lost writings were rejected because they were not written by an apostle. In many cases the author is not known. One key standard for determining if a book is truly from God is if it was written under the direction of a prophet or an apostle. (Ephesians 2:20; 2 Peter 1:21)

The lost gospels were rejected because they contain information that contradicts the known Scriptures. Most of them teach a theology called gnosticism. Gnosticism was a heresy that crept into the church soon after the resurrection of Jesus. Gnosticism taught that the Christian makes spiritual progress by receiving sudden revelation of new truths directly into the person’s spirit. According to gnosticism salvation is gained as the person escapes the physical realm by the increase of knowledge. The gnostic gospels teach a view of the world and salvation that is directly opposed to the teachings of the Bible. In gnosticism, Jesus is not sufficient to save the person from sin. In gnosticism, Jesus is not the eternal God who created all things. The “lost” gospels were rejected because they teach false doctrine. As a result, they were never accepted by the church as truly the Word of God.

The gospels in the Bible are included because they are God’s Word. No other Scriptural gospels exist. God promised to protect and preserve His Word. (Psalm 119:89-91) The church rightly expects God’s Word to always be available to the church. No portion of it will be lost for a significant period of time. Four gospels are included in the New Testament. These same gospels have been recognized as Biblical since the earliest days of the church. The books in the Bible have been preserved by God as His true Word written by holy men of God who wrote as they were directed by the Holy Spirit. (2 Peter 1:21) No lost gospels exist. Only rejected gospels.


What does it mean “there is no more sacrifice for sins?”

The Bible says in Hebrews 10:26 that if we sin willfully after coming to the knowledge of the truth, then there is no more sacrifice for sin. Does this mean that those who knowingly commit sin cannot be saved? Does this mean that those who live in sin will lose their salvation? What sacrifice is it talking about? What does this verse mean?

The book of Hebrews was written at a time when Christian Jews were being persecuted for their confession of Jesus. As a result of the persecution, some of them were leaving Christianity to return to Judaism. They were leaving the church to go back to the sacrifices and temple worship. The recipients of Hebrews had known the truth of the gospel, seen God’s working in the church and professed to be Christians. When Hebrews 10 says, “If we sin willfully,” it is addressing the particular sin the entire book of Hebrews was written to address. The willful sin is that of turning back on Christ. The willful sin is that of abandoning Jesus, the church and Christianity to return to false religion, self-righteousness or unbelief. For those who knowingly refused Jesus there was no more sacrifice that could be made for their sin.

Those who left Christianity to return to Judaism were returning to make sacrifices and offerings in accord with the Old Testament. However, “it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sin.” (Hebrews 10:14) What sacrifice could an observant Jew offer for sin if they refused the sacrifice made by Jesus? If the great sacrifice provided by God is rejected, He is not going to accept a lesser sacrifice made by those who rejected His Son. Only the blood of Jesus “cleanses us from all sin.” (1 John 1:7) To reject Jesus is to reject the only means of forgiveness. If Jesus is refused as Savior, no other hope of salvation can be found. No other sacrifice for sin can be made.

The warning of Hebrews applies to American Christians today just as fully as it did to Jewish Christians in the first century. The willful sin of Hebrews 10 is the sin of apostasy and is the unpardonable sin. The sin of apostasy is unpardonable because the one who turn from Christ refuses the only means of pardon God provides. If any knows the truths of salvation and refuses to receive Christ or if any walks away from the Christianity they once professed, then no more sacrifice can be found for their sin. No one can give enough money, be authentic enough, change the world enough or do enough good works to make payment for their own sin. If Christ is rejected, nothing else can be done to take away their sin.

Profession of Christ and participation in Christianity are not proof a person is truly saved. A person may attend church, may profess to be a Christian, may appear to be a Christian, but not be a Christian. A person may know the truth of the Gospel and live for a time as a Christian without accepting Christ as Savior. Every year professed Christians, some famous and many unknown, abandon the faith. Those who do so turn away from the only sacrifice for their sin to something which offers no salvation, no forgiveness, no reconciliation to God and no eternal life.

Hebrews warns that those who knowingly reject Jesus as Savior have no sacrifice that can be offered for their sin. No goats, lambs or bulls can be offered to take away your sin. No hope for forgiveness is found except through the blood of Jesus shed on the cross. No salvation is available except through faith in Jesus. Any who turn to Jesus and trust Him will be pardoned of all their sin.

What is the gospel?

Name three words that are heard at church, but rarely heard anywhere else. Words like redeem, partake, communion, eucharist or disciple are rarely used by any one who is not a faithful churchgoer. One of the most important words in Christianity is also a word little used outside of Christianity. Despite it’s foundational nature, “gospel” is a term that is unfamiliar to many

Ask a group of Christians to give a simple definition of the gospel and each Christian will give a slightly different answer. The essential truths will be the same but how they communicate those truths is as individual as the Christian. Some define the gospel with the words of John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” Others define the gospel based on First Corinthians 15:3-4: Jesus died for our sins, He was buried and rose again the third day, according to the Scriptures.

The gospel is the good news of God’s promise to save. The gospel is the message from God to men of how they can be forgiven and have eternal life. The gospel can be defined with wonderful simplicity and yet it cannot be fully understood because of it’s great complexity. The gospel message contains four key facts. The sinfulness of people. The Deity of Jesus. The death and resurrection of Jesus for sin. The only way to be forgiven is through faith in Jesus.

Every person is a sinner and guilty before God. God is holy- free from all sin. He created all things perfect, including mankind. The first two people, Adam and Eve, disobeyed God. Their sin brought a curse on themselves and the entire world. Because Adam and Eve are the parents of all people, they passed their sinfulness to their children. As a result, all descendants of Adam and Eve are sinners under the curse of death. “By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.” (Romans 5:12)

Man is sinful, but God is gracious. On the same day man rebelled against God, He promised to send a Savior who would deliver men from the punishment of sin. The promised Savior was Jesus. Jesus is far more than a great teacher, a holy man, a beautiful example or an incredible sacrifice. Jesus is God. He is God the Son, the second person of the Trinity. Jesus is fully equal with God the Father. God in His grace gave His Son to be the Rescuer of man. “The Father sent the Son to be the Savior of the world.” (1 John 4:4)

Jesus became humanity’s Savior through His death on the cross. Because the punishment of sin is death, the only way sinners could be saved is for someone else to pay the punishment in their place. Jesus is the substitute provided and accepted by God. Jesus’ death on the cross was a death in place of sinners. He fully suffered the entire penalty of man’s sin. After His death Jesus was buried. The third day after Jesus’ death God raised Him to life again. Jesus rose from the dead in the same physical body that He had before His death. His resurrection is God’s testimony that Jesus is God and that His payment for sin was accepted by the Father. “Jesus our Lord . . . was delivered for our offenses and was raised again for our justification.” (Romans 4:24-25)

Jesus is the only way man can be forgiven. “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12) “Jesus said unto him, I am the way tthe truth and the lfie, no man cometh unto the Father but by me.” (John 14:6) No one can do anything to bring salvation to themselves. “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us.” (Titus 3:5) Salvation is entirely a gift of God, never a payment or reward. The only way to receive salvation is through faith in Jesus. Those will be saved who acknowledge they are sinners, believe Jesus is God who died for their sin and call out to Him for salvation. Those who attempt to gain salvation by their works are not saved and will not be saved until they repent of their works and rely on Jesus alone. Any attempt to work for salvation is a rejection of Jesus. “Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of yoru are justified by the law, ye are fallen from grace.” (Galatians 5:4)

The gospel is the good news that God gave His Son to save you from your sin. The gospel is the good news that salvation is offered freely to all people. The gospel is the good news that whoever believes and trusts Jesus will be saved. “If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.” (Romans 10:9)

Why is the resurrection so important?

Christianity stands unique among all the religions of the world. Only Christianity claims that it’s God became human, died and then returned to life. The claim that Jesus rose from the dead is one celebrated and remembered every Sunday of the year by Christian churches all across the world. The resurrection of Jesus is the most important event in all human history. The resurrection of Jesus is the seminal moment in Christianity. That event changed everything.

The New Testament is filled with declarations that Jesus died and then rose again. The resurrection is explained in all four gospels and the book of Acts. Jesus’ resurrection is expressly taught in many of the epistles and in the book of Revelation. The resurrection of Jesus is a crucial truth on which Biblical Christianity is built. Without the resurrection there is no Biblical Christianity. Without the resurrection there is no forgiveness of sin. Without the resurrection there is no salvation. Without the resurrection there is no eternal life. Without the resurrection, God is a liar, Jesus is a fraud and every gospel preacher is a charlatan.

The resurrection is important because without the resurrection the gospel is a lie. “And if Christ be not dead, your faith is vain; you are yet in your sins.” (1 Corinthians 15:17)

The resurrection is important because without the resurrection the Christian life is pointless and worthless. “What advantageth it me, if the dead rise not? let us eat and drink; for to morrow we die.” (1 Corinthians 15:32)

The resurrection is important because without the resurrection the Christian has no hope of eternal life. “And if Christ be not raised, then they which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished.” (1 Corinthians 15:17-18)

The resurrection is important because it is the ultimate display of the power of God that is now at work in the believer. “And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead.” (Ephesians 1:19-20)

The resurrection is important because it is the evidence that Jesus is the Savior He claimed to be and that the Bible declares Him to be. “Then answered the Jews and said unto him, What sign shewest thou unto us, seeing that thou doest these things? Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up. Then said the Jews, Forty and six years was this temple in building, and wilt thou rear it up in three days? But he spake of the temple of his body.” (John 2:18-22)

The resurrection is important because it is the powerful declaration that Jesus is God. “Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh; And declared to be the Son of God with power, by the resurrection from the dead:” (Romans 1:3-4)

The resurrection is important because if it is untrue, God’s Word is a lie. “We are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not.” (1 Corinthians 15:15)

The resurrection is the lynchpin on which all the gospel hangs, the certification that all the gospel promises are true and the certainty that God is true. Rejoice every Sunday because Jesus the Savior has risen.

What does it mean to “backslide”?

“Israel slides back like a backsliding heifer.” (Hosea 4:16)

Preachers often warn Christians and churches about backsliding. The term is familiar to some people, but others find it is confusing. Backsliding is used to describe a Christian who was once obedient to the Lord, growing in the Lord and serving Him faithfully. The once obedient Christian backslides by turning back to sin. The term comes from the Old Testament where God frequently rebukes Israel for its backsliding. The image is of a cow that plants its feet and pulls hard against the leading of its master. Israel was resisting the leading of God by turning away from Him to pursue idolatry and practice all manner of evil. A backsliding Christian is one who resists the leading of the Holy Spirit to pursue his own sinful way. Like the Israelites, the backsliding Christian turns his back on what he knows to be right to practice all forms of idolatry and wickedness.

The backslidden Christian lives in sin and does not grow in Christ. The backslider may maintain an outward appearance of religion while also pursuing sinful habits. He slides back spiritually, abandoning the progress he has made in obedience, ignoring the spiritual disciplines and forsaking the imitation of Jesus. The backslidden Christian takes off the Christlikeness he had once put on.

A serious warning needs to be given to the backslider. Backsliding is a serious problem because it is indistinguishable from false Christianity. The backslider may actually be an unsaved person who has deceived himself and others into thinking he is saved. The Christian who is in sin will not have assurance of salvation because their own heart will condemn them. (1 John 3:20) The backslider dare not attempt to comfort himself with the knowledge that because he is a Christian he can contiue in willful sin and still go to heaven. Willingness to live in sin is not a characteristic of a Christian, but of an unsaved person. “Whoever abides in Christ does not live in sin. Who ever lives in sin has not seen Him nor known Him.” (1 John 3:6) Those who refuse to repent give the lie to their profession of faith. A genuine Christian will eventually repent of sin, fall under the chastening of God (Hebrews 12:6) or die an untimely death (1 John 5:16).

The proper response to backsliding is repentance. Hosea 14 teaches backsliders to confess their sin to God and ask for His forgiveness. Backsliders must turn away from the sin they once loved to turn back to God. God promises the repentant He will hear and heal them. God promises the backslider that if he will confess his sin then God will not fail to cleanse him from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)

What is the essence of Christianity?

What makes a Christian truly a Christian? What makes a Christian church genuinely Christian? In this age of self-identification there is value in considering if a person is a Christian by identifying as one or is something more required to truly be a Christian? If so, what is it? Is there a single doctrine, creed or statement that comprises the core elements of Christianity? The World Council of Churches once declared the way to distinguish false Christianity from possibly true Christianity is through the affirmation of the statement, “Jesus Christ is God is Savior.” Does this simple statement encompass all that is essential to true Christianity? Are all those Christians who affirm the Deity and salvation of Jesus?

Surveying the scope of Christendom today does not provide an easy answer to these question. Not all churches which call themselves Christians would affirm this statement. Many Christian churches would not consider an affirmation of that basic statement evidence of Christianity. However, the question is not what churches today believe, or what churches in history have believed. The question is what does the Bible teach is the essence of Christianity.

The book of Acts shows what the apostles taught as the essence of salvation and the essence of Christianity. Acts 11 introduces the term Christian when it says that believers were first called Christians in Antioch. Those called Christians in Acts 11:26 are referred to as “the disciples.” Who were these disciples? What was required to be a disciple? Disciples in Acts are those who followed the footstesp of the twelve disciples by following the teachings of Jesus.

Acts 11:26 also indicates that the disciples assembled as a church. In Acts 2 the church is introduced and we learn what was necessary to be a part of the church. In short, those who were saved became part of the church. (Acts 2:47) These ones added to the church were also added to the number of disciples (Acts 2:41; 6:1) The substance of Peter’s sermon in Acts 2 defines what is essential to be a disciple of Christ and to be a Christian.

Peter says that what is necessary for a person to be a Christian is to believe Jesus was a man sent from God and is the God of David (Acts 2:22, 25), to believe Jesus was crucified and died (Acts 2:23) and to believe Jesus was restored to life again. (Acts 2:32) To be saved a person must cease rejecting Jesus and receive Him for forgiveness of sin. (Acts 2:39, 41, 44) These same essentials of Christianity are found in Paul’s first recorded sermon in Acts 13 and are the same essentials found in the definition of the gospel in 1 Corinthians 15:2-4.

The essence of Christianity is belief that Jesus is God who became a man, died on the cross and was restored to life again. This belief turns in faith to Jesus and trusts Him to forgive sin. Other things can be added to give a proper definition of saving faith, such as, saving faith does not attempt to earn any portion of salvation. (Ephesians 2:8-9; Galatians 5:4) Additions are necessary for clarifying the Biblical truths of salvation, but the basic essence of Christianity- those things which must be believed to be a disciple of Christ- is the gospel message of faith in Jesus who is God and man that died and rose to life again to give forgiveness of sin.