Did Paul Preach a Different Gospel?
Did Paul, Peter and Jesus preach the same gospel?
Read the New Testament and you might come away with the idea that there is more than one gospel.
The very first words of the New Testament in the King James Bible are, “The Gospel According to Matthew.” Read on and you will also find the gospels according to Mark, Luke, and John.
In the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, we find Jesus preaching the gospel of the kingdom, while Mark refers to the gospel of Jesus Christ and the gospel of God.
The word gospel does not appear in John’s Gospel, but in Acts and all the letters that follow, the gospel is mentioned plenty of times with different labels:
- the gospel of Jesus Christ (Mark 1:1)
- the gospel of Christ (Rom. 15:19, 1 Cor. 9:12, 2 Cor. 2:12, 9:13, 10:14, Gal. 1:7, Php. 1:27, 1 Th. 3:2)
- the gospel of God (Mark 1:14, Rom 1:1, 15:16, 2 Cor. 11:7, 1 Th. 2:2, 8, 9, 1 Pet. 4:17)
- the gospel of the blessed God (1 Tim. 1:11)
- the gospel of his Son (Rom 1:9)
- the gospel of the kingdom (Matt. 4:23, 9:35, 24:14, Luke 16:16)
- the gospel of the glory of Christ (2 Cor. 4:4)
- the gospel of your salvation (Eph. 1:13)
- the gospel of peace (Eph. 6:15)
- the glorious gospel of the blessed God (1 Tim 1:11)
- the eternal gospel (Rev. 14:6)
These are not different gospels but different labels for the one and only gospel, namely the gospel of grace.
When Paul refers to the gospel of grace in Acts 20:24, he means the same thing as when he and others refer to the gospel of God or the gospel of peace or the gospel of your salvation. All of these gospels reveal the One who is called Grace, who was given to us out of the fullness of the Father’s grace, and through whom we have received grace upon grace.
This is all pretty obvious, right? Only many don’t see it.
They see Jesus preaching one gospel and Paul preaching another. Or they see discord among the apostles. “Paul preached salvation by faith; James added works.” Or they see different gospels for different dispensations; a gospel for then, another one for now.
But if this were true, how would you know which gospel to believe? People would say things like, “I follow Paul.” “I follow Peter.” “Well I follow Jesus!”
Paul said if anyone preached a gospel different to the one he preached, let them be cursed (Gal. 1:9). So if Jesus preached a different gospel, Paul was cursing the Lord and the Bible can’t be trusted.
And if you believe there are different gospels, then you will have a divided heart. You will be forever wondering if you have picked the right one.
Did Jesus and Paul preach the same gospel?
Did Paul preach a different gospel? Jesus preached the gospel of the kingdom while Paul went around preaching the kingdom of God (Acts 20:25). Looks like the same gospel to me.
“But Jesus emphasized the kingdom, while Paul emphasized grace.” These are not different emphases but different ways of saying the same thing. When we preach the kingdom, we are revealing a King whose name is Grace. Grace is the language, the culture, and the economy of the kingdom.
When Jesus says seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, he is saying “seek me and my righteousness.” Where do we find his righteousness? In the gospel of grace!
For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed – a righteousness that is by faith from first to last. (Romans 1:17)
In many of his letters, Paul preached the gospel of Christ. On other occasions he preached the gospel of God. These are different labels for the gospel of grace because it is the grace of God revealed in Christ that makes the good news good news.
Did Paul and Peter preach the same gospel?
I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been entrusted with the gospel to the circumcised… (Galatians 2:7)
Paul and Peter preached the same gospel to different audiences. Peter preached to the Jews (but not always), while Paul preached to the Gentiles (but not always). But they both preached the same gospel.
Paul is known to us as the apostle of grace, but Peter was an apostle of grace too. Peter preached about the God of all grace revealing his grace through a Savior (1 Pet. 1:10, 5:10).
It was Peter who encouraged us to be good stewards of the manifold grace of God and stand firm in the true grace of God (1 Pet. 4:10, 5:12).
And it was Peter who prayed that grace would be multiplied to us as we grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus (2 Pet. 1:2, 3:18).
There is no question that Peter understood grace as well as Paul, but what about the odd man out? What about James?
Did Paul and James preach the same gospel?
Many dismiss James as unacquainted with grace. A young Martin Luther even referred to James’ letter as an epistle of straw.
But James was an apostle of grace who understood the grace message as well as Paul. Like Peter, James preached to the Jews. His letter was written to religious people who believed in God and were diligent in their observance of the law.
The religious Jews were doing plenty of works, but their works were dead works and their faith was a dead faith (Jas. 2:17). They believed in God, but their faith was not accompanied by the “work” of believing in the one he sent (Jas. 2:14).
The apostles and epistle writers did not preach different gospels. They all proclaimed the grace of God and justification by faith in his Son.
Don’t be misled by the different labels. There aren’t different gospels for different folks or different times.
Just as there is one Lord and one faith, there is only one gospel – the gospel of grace.
Did you know more than 400 questions are listed on E2R’s FAQs page?
Escape to Reality exists thanks to the support of our awesome readers:
Excellent. Thanks Paul.
Here is the gospel, 1 Corinthians 15:1-4. No more and no less.
Indeed. I call this Paul’s Gospel and unpack its significance in my article What is the Gospel of Grace? In today’s article, I am more interested in the different labels used to package the gospel.
Thank you for what you do to help us untangle the mess of man’s doctrine that has been mixed in and added to the simplicity of Christ.
Hi, I made a one-time donation but I didn’t get a confirming email. Does it take longer for the confirmation to be sent out? I love growing in God’s amazing grace through what He inspires you to share with us. Thank you Pastor Paul.
Hi Kathy. Confirmation emails are normally sent out automatically and instantaneously. Maybe check your spam folder. No email means your donation did not go through. Thanks for wanting to support E2R.
Oh really great.
Hey Paul, I agree there is only one gospel. But would you agree that Jesus didn’t preach the complete gospel and neither did Acts Peter? When I read their messages I think is clear that Jesus held back on some of the awesome truths of the gospel of grace and revealed it fully to Paul. Even Peter in his famous sermons in acts weren’t complete although you do see it completely in his epistles.
That depends on what you mean by the “complete gospel.” It’s certainly true that Paul wrote more words about grace than any other NT writer, and perhaps no one had a richer understanding of grace. But I do not think Jesus or Peter preached a partial gospel. If you heard Jesus say, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel,” you heard all you needed to hear to repent. Ditto for Peter in Acts.