Did the Gospel Change From Samaria to Corinth?

March 16, 2011

Consider the following information about gospel preaching by the apostolic company:

  1. Philip preaches the gospel in Samaria: kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ (Acts 8:12) 
  2. Paul preaches the gospel in Corinth: death, burial, resurrection, and appearances of Christ (1 Cor. 15) 
  3. Paul preaches the gospel for three months in Ephesus: kingdom of God and the word of the Lord Jesus (Acts 19:8, 10)
  4. Paul preaches the gospel for a three-year period throughout Asia: kingdom of God and repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 20:21, 24, 25) 
  5. Paul preaches the gospel for two whole years in Rome: kingdom of God and Jesus (28:23); kingdom of God and the Lord Jesus Christ (28:31) 

Given this information about apostolic gospel preaching, did the gospel change from Samaria to Corinth from a message about the kingdom of God and Jesus Christ to a message just about Jesus? 

If so, did the gospel change again from Corinth to Ephesus, Asia, and Rome? 

Alternatively, has the gospel message always been the preaching of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, and 1 Corinthians 15:3-5 was never intended to be used the way that many use it to define the gospel as a message solely about Christ?

Rajesh

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10 responses to Did the Gospel Change From Samaria to Corinth?

  1. Here’s what I think. I’ll do this by a process of elimination. The preaching of the kingdom was done to Jews and Greeks, and to lost people in at least example 3 and 4. So the kingdom is preached to all groups with no respect to persons. However, in 1 Cor 15 things were much different.
    1. He was preaching to saved people
    2. He starts out by saying “I declare unto you the gospel……which also ye have received”. He is not here to win converts but to instruct believers.
    3. Starting in verse 12 and going through the end of the chapter, his focus is completely on the resurrection. He says things like “why do you say there is no resurrection” and “some have not the knowledge of God: I speak this to your shame”

    So 1 Cor 15 is instruction to saved people about the resurrection, and your other examples are soul winning messages to the lost.

    • You are on the right track. Paul is not exhaustively saying everything that he preached to the Corinthians when he evangelized them. He is broadly summarizing what he taught them, and his statements do not show that he did not preach the kingdom of God to them when he evangelized them. A biblical presentation of the crucifixion and resurrection of the Messiah “according to the Scriptures” includes preaching about the kingdom of God, as multiple references in Acts about his ministry for lengthy periods clearly show.

      In fact, Paul goes on in 1 Cor. 15 itself to talk about the kingdom of God without any previous explanation. He talks similarly in 1 Cor. about the kingdom without any explanation. He could only have done that if he had already explained that to them (or he knew that somebody else had done so).

      • I agree with you about preaching the kingdom. But he starts this chapter by calling them “brethren”. In other words they are saved (or at least claim Christ). So if by evangelism you mean teaching or conveying ideas, then I agree. But if you are refering to soul winning, i disagree. This chapter has nothing to do with soul winning. Here is an example. We have some who were church of Christ who still speak of baptisimal regeneration. They are not lost, just confused. So we come with scripture and teach them just as Paul did here. I will admit that saying there is no resurrection is a biggie, but not hell worthy. They were just repeating what they heard and Paul was setting them straight.

        • Actually, the first part of the chapter has everything to do with evangelism. Yes, he is teaching believers, so he is not evangelizing them when he is writing this chapter to them. He is, however, recounting in summary form what he did preach to them when he did evangelize them. He is making known (15:1) in summary form the message (15:3-5) by which they were saved (15:2). This is a very important passage for knowing how we are to evangelize people; it just does not tell us everything we are to say nor exactly necessarily how we are to say even what is summarized here.

          I’m not sure what you mean by people “who still speak of baptismal regeneration.” If you mean that they say that is how they were saved, they are wrong. Without actually talking to them, it is hard to say what their spiritual status may be, but someone who dogmatically says that they are saved because they have been baptized and it was the baptism that saved them has major spiritual needs and very well may not be saved.

          Saying that there is no resurrection (15:12) is actually the big point that Paul is opposing in 1 Cor. 15. If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen (15:15). If Christ is not risen, the whole faith is worthless (15:14-19). Paul goes on to argue from the fact that Christ is risen (15:20) that there certainly will be a resurrection of the dead and then expands greatly on that point in the rest of the chapter.

          If someone says that there is no resurrection, there is no basis for them to believe in Christ for salvation. The two are inseparable. People may be confused and need teaching to clarify their thinking, but anyone who persistently denies or even doubts a future resurrection of the dead has no basis to claim that he is a Christian. Such people are rejecting the plain testimony of the Bible and are in grave spiritual danger. That’s why Paul writes 58 verses in this his longest chapter to address that problem.

          • I agree that if someone does not believe in the resurrection they most likely are not saved, but to say there is no resurrection can be the product of confusion (or brainwashing). Back to my church of Christ example: if someone says “you must be baptized to be saved” that does not mean that they really believe in baptisimal regeneration. they say it because it has been pounded into there heads for years. And if there is no one that can teach them where they’re going wrong, it will continue (unless the Lord intervenes). So when Paul wrote to corinth he said” some say”. They were mixed up about a few things, but not lost. So then this chapter is about correcting a misunderstanding or if you like the term, “evangelizing them”. I agree with what you say about the gospel , but his motives for writing this chapter were instructional rather than soul winning.

          • You are right about the possibility of people being confused or brainwashed who may not really firmly believe what they have been told and say.

            Paul’s main point in the early part of 1 Cor. 15 is that if you do not believe in the resurrection, then Jesus is also not risen and so your faith is worthless. There may be confused people who are saved because they have believed that Jesus rose but somehow they still believe that there is no resurrection for themselves or for others. After being taught and having the truth explained clearly to him, anyone who firmly does not believe that there is a resurrection even though he says that he believes that Jesus rose from the dead is not just confused; he is unsaved.

            I agree that Paul’s primary motive for writing the chapter was instructional rather than soul winning. To the believers in Corinth to whom he wrote, he is providing a summary of the gospel that he had preached to them.

            Doing so, for the people among his first readers in Corinth who had been saying that there is no resurrection, Paul’s teaching here would have served to evangelize them when they read the book by calling them to reject their false views about the resurrection. If some of them had not truly been saved when he first gave them the gospel, they would have been saved if they then rightly believed what Paul wrote and explained to them in this chapter.

            He is also informing everyone ever since that time who reads this chapter about what he preached as the gospel so that people were saved and what true belief in that gospel involves. In that instructional sense, this chapter is crucial concerning understanding evangelism biblically.

            Although it was not Paul’s primary purpose in what he wrote, an unsaved person who would happen to read the chapter certainly could be saved by reading and accepting what Paul has written here. In that sense, the chapter could serve to evangelize lost people who would read it.

            The chapter may also be used by saved people to evangelize people; I have used it numerous times to evangelize people by explaining to them that this is a summary report of what Paul had given to people who were saved by hearing what he records here. When I do so, I fill out Paul’s statements in the way that I have talked about elsewhere.

            In the early part of 1 Corinthians 15, Paul is instructing believers about the gospel that he preached, especially about the importance of the resurrection in that message. Doing so, he is providing vital instruction to all believers concerning evangelism.

            I hope that this clarifies what I am saying. It seems to me that we pretty much agree basically on what we understand about the passage.

            Thanks.

  2. No! Paul said if any preaches another Gospel let he be cursed, this maybe different angles of the same Gospel

    • You are exactly right. A biblical preaching of the gospel certainly makes known how the kingdom of God has come through the events that Paul says in summary form that he preached to the Corinthians.

      The point I’m driving at is that gospel preaching does not just declare the bare facts of the death, burial, resurrection, and the appearances; it also biblically interprets the significance of those events for both God and the sinner. 1 Cor. 15:3-5 does not fully state what Paul preached to them in this sense.

  3. It explains your position and thanks. I don’t mean to be picky about things, but amongst the cults they will take a small thing and build a whole theology on it. Just ask the Jesus name only crowd.

    • I understand your concern. Discussing things helps me to refine my views and to see how I might need to state things more clearly. Thanks.