“The truth of the gospel” (ἀλήθεια τοῦ εὐαγγελίου). Paul uses this expression twice in his short letter to the Galatian churches (2:5, 14).

First, he tells them that he earnestly resisted false teachers so that the “truth of the gospel” could be preserved within them, the believers (2:5). Then, he shockingly tells them that he confronted a group of Jewish Christians, led by Peter and Barnabas no less, because they too had been caught up in the deception of legalism and “were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel.” (2:14).

The truth of the gospel is that God has done for humankind what we could not do for ourselves: God has supernaturally and sufficiently dealt with our sin problem. According to the New Testament, both aspects of the message (i.e., it is supernatural and it is sufficient) must be present or it is not “the truth of the gospel.” Let’s look at this more closely.

First, God took upon himself human flesh. Then God, in the person of his only begotten Son, suffered and died in order to remedy the problems caused by human sin. In other words, the gospel is supernatural in its origin. To deny that is to deny “the truth of the gospel.”

Second, Jesus Christ and him crucified has sufficiently handled the problem of human sin. When it comes to the elimination of sin, there is nothing left to do. Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection has accomplished it all. In other words, the gospel is sufficient in its scope. To deny that is to deny “the truth of the gospel.”

But we, gasping within the throes of sin and being drastically distorted by sin, often refuse to accept God’s straight-forward solution to our sin problem. Attacks on God’s plan come in many forms and from many sources; however, according to the New Testament, all false teaching and all false teachers can be classified into one of two categories. While both groups directly attack God’s plan of salvation and try to modify it in some way, the difference between the two groups is seen in the angle of the attack.

  • Gnosticism, Liberalism. The first group attacks the gospel from a philosophical perspective. God could not and would not ever take on human flesh. His interaction with this creation is extremely limited (as proven by the empirical study of our world) and, therefore, any allusion to the supernatural is a figment of an overactive imagination. This category includes ancient Gnosticism as well as modern liberalism.
  • Legalism. The second group attacks the gospel from a religious perspective. God could not and would not ever offer to merely forgive human sins. His justice requires so much more than that (as proven by our own deep-seated need for vengeance) and, therefore, any dependence upon God’s grace is the result of a lack of self-discipline. This is legalism.

Notice that Gnosticism/Liberalism attacks the supernatural nature of the gospel whereas legalism attacks its sufficiency. The truth of the gospel is that God’s plan (the incarnation, suffering, death, and resurrection of Christ) is both supernatural and sufficient to deal completely and finally with the human sin problem.

“The truth of the gospel” (ἀλήθεια τοῦ εὐαγγελίου). Humankind cannot accomplish it, must not detract from it, and must not add to it. According to the Bible, those who accept it by faith will be saved; those who deny it must be opposed.