The Two Gospels
by Glenn Conjurske
From the time that man was created on the earth, two gospels have been preached to him. One is the gospel of God. The other is the gospel of the devil.
Now the gospel is good news. It is “glad tidings of great joy.” Of what does that glad tidings consist? The gospel is a promise of life. This is its essence. There is no “glad tidings” like this, for above all things man loves life. God came to man in the garden of Eden with a promise of life. The promise was only implied, coming as it did on the back of a threat of death, for man then had life, and he needed no gospel by which to obtain life, but only the terms by which to retain it. That gospel came to him in the solemn declaration and commandment of God,
“Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it, for in the day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die.” In this declaration we have the unchanging and unchangeable doctrine of the gospel of God. Observe that this gospel is conditional. God has never preached an unconditional gospel. If he seems at times to do so, this is only seeming, for he himself in the most solemn terms disclaims any unconditional promise of life. “When I shall say to the righteous,” he says, “that he shall surely live, if he trust to his own righteousness, and commit iniquity, all his righteousnesses shall not be remembered; but for his iniquity that he hath committed, he shall die for it.” (Ezekiel 33:13). The promise appears to be unconditional, but God never made an unconditional promise of life, and he explicitly disclaims it in the most unmistakable language.
Now observe God’s condition of life. To Adam he says, “in the day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die.” That is, as he states the same principle elsewhere, “The soul that sinneth, it shall die.” “The wages of sin is death.” This God plainly states to Adam, and in so doing implies that the condition of life is obedience. These are the unchanging principles of the gospel of God
—-sin and death, righteousness and life.
But God has no sooner preached his gospel to Adam, than the devil begins to preach another gospel. The promise of life which God only implied on the back of a threat of death, the devil preached boldly and explicitly, saying, “Ye shall not surely die.” And observe that while God’s promise of life was conditional, the devil’s promise of life was unconditional. God set obedience as the condition of life. The devil set no condition at all. God threatened death as the wages of sin. The devil threatened no death at all. Boil down these two gospels to their root essence, and we shall have the following:
Now it ought to be an axiom with us, not to be questioned, that what God preached to Adam was the truth, while what the devil preached to Eve was a lie. Yet if we examine their declarations in the light of the common gospel of modern Evangelicalism, we must come to exactly the opposite conclusion. According to the modern gospel, God preached the lie, and the devil preached the truth. I refer to the gospel of modern Evangelicalism, Fundamentalism, and Plymouth Brethrenism. These all, in general, have put their stamp of approval on the devil’s gospel, and repudiated the gospel of God as some sinister error. Thus they think to uphold the grace of God, but while they seek to uphold the grace of God, they confuse the conditional grace of God with the unconditional grace of the devil, calling the grace of God law, and the grace of the devil gospel.
Our modern preachers would not maintain that the devil preached the truth, while God preached a lie. No, but practically they do preach “Ye shall not surely die” as surely as the devil did. Practically they do maintain that what God preached, and preaches still, was law, while what the devil preached was grace. No one will pretend that when the devil preached “Ye shall not surely die,” he meant to imply that if they but trusted in him, he would deliver them from the hand of God. No such thing. They would not have believed such a message. What the devil was actually preaching when he said “Ye shall not surely die” was faith in God. True, he was preaching unbelief at the same time, but in this he was preaching nothing different from what is preached in pulpits all over Fundamentalism at the present day. He was preaching faith in the grace and mercy of God, though in order to do so he preached actual unbelief in his holiness, and of course unbelief in his word. God had said, “Thou shalt surely die.” In preaching “Ye shall not surely die,” the devil contradicted the word of God, and in this he was in fact the prototype of most of the gospel preaching of the present day, which preaches the grace of God, while it contradicts his solemn word at every turn of the path.
God says that he “will render to every man according to his deeds: to them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life; but unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, … but glory, honour, and peace to every man that worketh good.” (Rom. 2:6-10). The modern gospel contradicts this, saying that this is law, not grace, or that the case is hypothetical
—-while in fact none shall receive eternal life because they seek it in well doing, and none shall be damned, though they work evil, if they but believe.
God says, “If ye live after the flesh, ye shall die.” (Rom. 8:13). The modern gospel contradicts this, affirming that ye may live after the flesh if ye please, and that whatever reward ye may lose for it, “Ye shall not surely die” for it. This is exactly what the devil preached to Eve.
God says, “The wages of sin is death.” (Rom. 6:23). The modern gospel contradicts this, holding that sin has no such wages at all, provided we have faith
—-though it be nothing but faith in the devil’s lie, and the rankest presumption in the sight of God.
God says, “The unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God.” (I Cor. 6:9). The modern gospel contradicts this, and not by implication only, but explicitly, forcefully, and continually.
God says, “The end of those things is death.” (Rom. 6:21). The modern gospel contradicts this, affirming that we may live in all those things, and yet find life at the end of them.
God says, “This ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.” (Eph. 5:5). The modern gospel contradicts this, affirming that all these, and habitual and impenitent Sodomites besides, may have as much inheritance in the kingdom of God as the purest man on earth, provided they believe in Christ.
God says, “All that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth: they that have done the things which are good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done the things which are evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.” (John 5:28-29, Greek). The modern gospel contradicts this, affirming that those who do evil are in as fair a way to life as those who do good, provided only they have faith. The life which they live, whether good or evil, is no issue.
God says, “He that loveth not his brother abideth in death. Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer, and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him.” (I John 3:14-15). The modern gospel contradicts this, affirming that if Cain had but offered a blood sacrifice, he would have been as saved as Abel.
God says, “Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life.” (Rev. 22:14). The modern gospel contradicts this, maintaining that we may have right to the tree of life, whether we do his commandments or not.
In short, the modern gospel contradicts every solemn declaration of God to the effect that “The wages of sin is death,” affirming in the most categorical fashion that our state cannot affect our standing, and explicitly denying the moral difference between the saved and the lost. The modern gospel contradicts the whole Bible from Genesis to Revelation, affirming every day and every way that we may have life without obedience, and sin without death. It sets aside entirely God’s condition of life, and puts a false and presumptuous faith in its place, denying that God’s condition has anything to do with the matter. This is nothing other than the devil’s promise of life. “Ye shall not surely die,” though ye live in all manner of sin from the cradle to the grave. If the modern promise of life is founded upon a supposed faith in God, so was the devil’s. If the modern gospel thinks to stand upon faith in Christ, so much the worse. This is but to make Christ the minister of sin. Any gospel which confirms the devil’s lie, “Ye shall not surely die,” is in fact the devil’s gospel, and all its talk of faith in Christ but adds to the deception.
We know right well that “without faith it is impossible to please him,” but we know also that it is impossible to please him with an unholy, God-tempting, devil-believing, disobedient faith, which does nothing to restore the image of God to the soul of man, nor to reconcile the heart of man to the ways of God. This is the faith of devils, and it is worse than worthless. Our first parents fell by the disobedience of unbelief, and now God makes known the gospel “to all nations for the obedience of faith.” Those who preach faith without obedience know nothing at all of the ways of God, nor of the way of salvation. Have they never read, “Repent ye, and believe the gospel”? Have they never read “that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations”? Have they never read of “repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ”? Indeed, have they never read that Paul spent his whole life preaching “that they should repent, and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance”? Their theology consists only of a few proof texts, misunderstood and misapplied, and divorced from the message of the whole Bible. They have actually substituted the devil’s gospel in the place of God’s. They preach nothing but faith, while they know nothing of what faith is. The devil preached faith to Christ, but it was the faith which tempts God.
We believe in salvation by faith, but the faith in which we believe is that which actually believes the word of God, and actually trusts in God himself
—-actually trusts that the ways of God are better than the ways of the devil, and so chooses and walks in those ways. We believe in “faith and a good conscience” (I Tim. 1:19). Any other faith but mocks God and tempts him. We quite agree with John Wesley, who wrote, “If we duly join faith and works in all our preaching, we shall not fail of a blessing. But of all preaching, what is usually called Gospel preaching is the most useless, if not the most mischievous: a dull, yea, or lively, harangue on the sufferings of Christ, or salvation by faith, without strongly inculcating holiness. I see, more and more, that this naturally tends to drive holiness out of the world.” That this is the very truth ought to be obvious to all who see the awful carnality which prevails in evangelical churches today, and it ought to go without saying that any gospel which drives holiness out of the world cannot be the gospel of God. It is precisely the devil’s gospel.
But to return to Adam, we will freely grant that Adam in Paradise was under law. We think the fact quite irrelevant to the present discussion, but we readily grant the fact. Not only do we readily grant it, but gladly call attention to it, for it is the very point over which modern orthodoxy never fails to stumble. A very pernicious form of dispensationalism prevails in Fundamentalism, exerting an almost universal sway even over those who disclaim its influence. That dispensationalism proceeds on the assumption that the law requires obedience, while grace requires none. This is the assumption which lies at the root of all modern antinomian orthodoxy, and this assumption is as false as the lie of the devil. It stands directly against all those solemn declarations of Scripture which we have just quoted. The fact is, grace requires obedience, as the condition of life, as much as ever the law did, and obedience is as essential under the gospel as it is under the law. The difference between law and grace does not lie here at all. If it does, then all those solemn asseverations of Scripture which we have just quoted from the pens of John and Paul are lies, and the devil’s declaration, “Ye shall not surely die,” though ye sin with a high hand, is the very truth of the gospel. Let him believe it who can.
The difference between law and grace lies elsewhere. Both of them certainly require obedience. Under both of them “the wages of sin is death.” Under both of them, sin is the way to death, righteousness the way to life, and holiness the way to heaven. The difference between them lies just here, that where the law requires perfect righteousness, the gospel requires but sincere and habitual righteousness. One sin under law, and all is lost, for there is no possibility of forgiveness under the law, where if a man falls under grace, he may be forgiven and restored. He may not, however, live careless and impenitent in habitual sin. This is the certain way to death, whether under law or grace. All this is so clear in the Bible that it is really a great wonder that anyone could miss it. “He that doeth righteousness is righteous. He that doeth sin is of the devil.” (I Jn. 3:7-8).
Yet men will have life without obedience, and sin without death, and if dispensationalism helps them to it, then they will be sound dispensationalists. If Calvinism helps them to it, they will be sound Calvinists. If modern orthodoxy helps them to it, they will be as orthodox as any, though at the same time they are as ungodly as any. Years ago I spoke with a young convert, who had found a spiritual home under the ministry of one of the most antinomian preachers I have ever known. He was practically ungodly
—-continuing, for example, to smoke, and not troubling himself about it. I endeavored to preach the true gospel to him, saying none other things than those which were preached by Christ and his apostles, but he soon told me, “If I believed what you say, this would destroy all my peace.” Precisely so, but the real fact is, if he had believed what God said, it would have destroyed all his peace, for that peace stood upon no other foundation than the devil’s lie, “Ye shall not surely die,” though ye sin to your heart’s content. This is that unconditional promise of life, which the devil preached to Eve in the garden, and which is preached today from a thousand of the pulpits of Fundamentalism.
But it will be said that the modern promise of life is not unconditional as the devil’s was, for it is always conditioned upon faith. I answer, so was the devil’s, but it was unconditional in the sense that it set aside the condition imposed by God, and put a condition in its place which was practically no condition at all. Only a little presumption, falsely called faith. Many of the leaders of Fundamentalism explicitly define the faith which they preach to be no condition. It is not doing at all, but precisely ceasing to do anything
—-though the testimony of the Bible is as clear as a sunbeam that that faith which does nothing is dead, and cannot save.
What an awful state the church is come to, when what is commonly preached as trusting Christ for salvation is in reality nothing other than trusting in the devil’s lie. If we are to trust Christ, it must be upon his own terms, and in submission to his own claims. Those who “repent and believe the gospel” trust Christ on his own terms, and will surely be saved. Those who “believe the gospel” while they cling to their sins believe nothing but the devil’s lie, and to trust Christ on the devil’s terms can be of no possible worth to the soul. It is a grand deception, and nothing more. The devil cares not a whit how much you believe, so long as you continue in sin. He will preach faith to you himself, as he did to Eve, if by that means he can but secure your soul for sin, for if he can but secure your continuance in sin, he has secured all. “The wages of sin is death,” and all who continue in sin will find it so, whatever their faith may be.
Richard Baxter sets all this forth in that most excellent of theological treatises, A Call to the Unconverted to Turn and Live. Says he, ‘You see by this time that we are commanded to offer Life to you all, and to tell you from God, that if you will Turn you may Live.
“Here you may safely trust your souls: for the Love of God is the Fountain of this offer, John 3.16, and the blood of the Son of God hath purchased it: … So that the truth of it is past controversy, that the worst of you all, and every one of you, if you will but be Converted, may be Saved.
“Indeed if you will needs believe that you shall be saved without Conversion, then you believe a falsehood: and if I should preach that to you, I should preach a lie: this were not to believe God, but the Devil and your own deceitful hearts. God hath his promise of Life, and the Devil hath his promise of Life. God’s promise is, ‘Return and Live.’ The Devil’s promise is, ‘you shall live whether you turn or not.’ The word of God is as I have shewed you. ‘Except ye be converted and become as little children, ye cannot enter into the Kingdom of heaven,‘ Matth. 18.3. Except a man be born again, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God, John 3.3,5. ‘Without holiness none shall see God.’ Hebrews 12.14. The Devil’s word is, ‘You may be saved without being born again and Converted: you may do well enough without being holy; God doth but frighten you; he is more merciful than to do as he saith: he will be better to you than his word.’ And alas, the greatest part of the world believe this word of the Devil, before the word of God; just as our first sin and misery came into the world. God said to our first parents, ‘If ye eat ye shall Die.’ And the Devil contradicteth him, and saith, ‘Ye shall not Die,’ and the woman believed the Devil before God. So now the Lord saith, ‘Turn or Die.’ And the Devil saith, ‘You shall not die, if you do but cry God mercy at last, and give over the acts of sin when you can practise it no longer.’ And this is the word that the world believes. O heinous wickedness to believe the Devil before God!
“And yet that is not the worst: but blasphemously they call this a Believing and Trusting God, when they put him in the shape of Satan, who was a liar from the beginning, and when they believe that the word of God is a lie, they call this a Trusting God, and say they Believe in him, and Trust on him for Salvation: Where did ever God say, that the unregenerate, unconverted, unsanctified shall be saved? Shew such a word in Scripture. I challenge you, if you can. Why this is the Devil’s word; and to believe it is to believe the Devil, and the sin that is commonly called Presumption: and do you call this a believing and trusting God? There is enough in the Word of God to comfort and strengthen the hearts of the sanctified; but not a word to strengthen the hands of wickedness, nor to give men the least hope of being saved, though they be never sanctified.”
“Ye shall not surely die” is the devil’s gospel, and it may be supposed that this is his pet doctrine. Whatever a man may believe besides, the devil will surely have him to believe this. Neither will he much concern himself with what else a man believes, so long as he believes this. It may be supposed, then, that all the devil’s cunning will be exercised to secure men’s belief on this point. He will mix this point with every truth in the Bible, and with every error for which he can find any shadow of countenance in the Bible. He will mix this with the blood of Christ, with the promises of God, with divine sovereignty, with human inability, with law, with grace, with sacraments, with dispensationalism, with the mercy of God, with the forbearance of God, with the gospel of Christ, so by any and all means to give some countenance to this grand lie.
And indeed, his work is an easy one. What pill could ever go down so easily as this one? What truth, what lie, what theory, what philosophy, what sophistry, could ever find so ready a response in the heart of man as ‘Ye shall not surely die”? Of all the things which a man may love, by all means he loves life, and on all accounts he loves sin, and here is a pleasing gospel which gives him both, while it requires nothing of him. What wonder is it that this gospel is the most popular message on the earth? What wonder is it if the gospel of God, which requires men to choose between sin and life, can never hold its own against this pleasing gospel of the devil?
But if the devil is to palm off his unholy gospel upon the preachers of Fundamentalism, he must surely do it on some other basis than the love of sin, for many of those preachers are certainly holy men, who love holiness. If he cannot gain them to practice sin, he will at any rate gain them to preach it. How is he to do this? Simply enough, indeed. God’s conditional gospel he labels as law, and teaches good men to fear it as heresy. His own unconditional gospel of “Ye shall not surely die” he labels as grace, and teaches with the utmost vehemence of his nature that to deny this is to frustrate the grace of God, and so destroy the souls of men. Oh! cunning devil! who can solemnly teach that holiness will destroy the souls of men, by standing in the way of their faith in Christ, while sin alone can save the grace of God, which alone can save the souls of men. Oh! cunning craftiness! which gains a myriad of adherents to this unholy theology in the very pulpits of Fundamentalism! But the grace of God needs no such supports as this, and all these are but unholy hands upon the ark of God. The intentions may be as pure as Uzzah’s were, but the hands are as presumptuous. So is every tongue, and every doctrine, which infuses the devil’s promise of life into the gospel of God, or which lends one iota of support to a sinning religion, which stands upon “Ye shall not surely die.” This is the devil’s gospel. The gospel of Christ and of God is at the opposite pole from this.