The Core Gospel - Gospel or Doctrine

Does the CORE Gospel include Doctrine? The CORE means different things to different people. When we hear about the "core gospel" we could think of a circle with Jesus at the center or "locus" and "doctrine" out beyond the center of the circle. But, then, a circle doesn't have a core and a "center" without an inclusive circle. That which is under attack may be the "core" for the moment:

If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the truth of God except precisely that point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, then I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Him. Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is proved; and to be steady on all the battlefront besides is merely flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point. (Martin Luther)

Click to see a short table of various forms of the Core Gospel. In short, it means that nothing is left of the Bible but a few facts about Jesus and even then it is a different Jesus. For instance:

J.H.Garrison: "There is God and Jesus: all the rest is opinion."

Rubel Shelly: "There are seven facts about Jesus: all the rest is muddled apostolic opinion." Eyes are closed and we are forced to go to the bookstore.

While the Gospel is larger than some people believe, there is a core gospel. Gospel just means "good news." There is a world-wide natural hunger and thirst for knowledge about the "unknown god." And people do some pretty silly things trying to find Him experentially -- i.e through a new form of gnosticism where "knowedge" is not revealed but experienced. Spiritually minded people know that they need this knowledge and will respond to it when they hear it. This is why evangelists with Christ's credentials forget their own lives and literally "explode" out into the world telling the story. When people accept that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, they seek after the Spirit which is the Mind of Christ. There is little ritual attached to the true gospel -- that is one way we can detect it.

We might think of a nuclear reactor which has a core of radioactive material. But if you have the core without controlling material it might melt down or blow up in your face. The "core" or gospel of power needs doctrine in order to make the core have practical meaning. Peter's first "gospel" sermon shows that the "core" must have a past, present and future context. It is based totally upon the once-preached message of Christ.

Or, the "stripped to the bare bones" Core gospel is The Gospel of Core (Korah). A "Kore" gospel has its hair all plucked out and the core is bald. Core also tried to minimize the authority of God and had the urge to be the performing clergy for the nation. They got all swallowed up in grounds of their doctrine.

However, when I hear the word Core connected to the gospel I first, like Webster, just naturally think of an apple. This makes more sense when those preaching a core gospel literally strip away the right to hold and defend Biblical teachings with some certainty.

God saw fit to wrap apple around the core and I don't know how you decide which is the most important part.

If you want to "plant new apple trees" then the core includes only the seed. If all of the seed drop under the "umbrella" of the "tree" there is no growth.

However, if you want to keep believers from starving you might want to feed them with apple. Paul called the core "milk" but you need "meat" to keep from being a helpless babe.

There is no place for "chicken soup for the soul" in either role.

Jesus bound both the "core" and the "apple" together and who is man to take them apart?

There are at least two types of Core being peddled in the world:

First: when people preach the liberal CORE gospel they are certainly not trying to be tolerant of others but are excluding everyone who refuses to be inclusive. For instance, refusing to include mechanical music as acceptable brands one as:

"fratricidal, traditionalist, legalists, attitude of superiority, unChristian posture, schismatic, Satanic, sectarian, idolatrous, irrelevant, just pushing junk." Then add "deliterious and decadent" and "Pharisaical and racist."

We can easily recognize that this is not the "core" Jesus preached. Rather, it is a core stripped of the teachings of Jesus to which has been added rituals which enable the "retailing" of the free words of Christ's doctrine. "Seeing Godliness as a means of financial gain is evil."

Second: if they mean the Biblical "core Gospel" they make it into a laughing stock and mock Jesus when professional "evangelists" refuse to go into all the world where preaching is valid, but gain applause selling "chicken soup for sick souls." In our analogy, they keep planting the seed over and over and refuse to feed the people with the apple or "meat."

It is not "apple worship" or Applidolatry to follow the rules like a spiritual "Johnny Applesee" by going into all the nation and planting fruit trees.

A Sample Core

"In larger Evangelical circles, the distinction between a conservative and a liberal is typically made in relation to five issues: the inspiration, by which is meant the infallibility of the Bible; the deity of Christ; the substitutionary atonement of Christ; Christ's bodily resurrection; and his bodily return, second coming. Conservatives affirm all five, while liberals deny one or more of them." To this is added baptism as a symbolic act.

One would have to skip a lot of the Old and New Testament to arrive at a "list of five" which is "down from seven" in the original formulation.

Now, if we are deciding who goes to heaven we should be careful about the size of the core. However, we may choose (for now at least) or not choose to attend where:

..brothers differ on the millennium, the work of the Holy Spirit, church organization, instrumental music, having a glass of wine, the role of women in church leadership, and a dozen, dozen other issues does not change the fact that they're all children of God." and "that we must acknowledge one another."

What if I do not choose to hang around with those who:

Believe in the milleniel theories which teach the "now but not yet kingdom" meaning an earthly reign? If this makes Jesus into a helpless murder victim who failed the first time, what kind of gospel is that?

Or believe that they have a Holy Spirit "person" living inside their carnal bodies while the "tricked into the cross" Son "person' hangs around headquarters because we are Post-Modern and have moved beyond the written Word phase?

Or don't hang around with wine drinkers in church?

Or believe Paul about non-sedantary roles for women?

Or try to "move the worshipers into the presence of God with music"?

Or a dozen, dozen (144) other doctrinal differences?

Isn't that the meaning of "free in Christ" and "freedom of association." When the first "Liberty Bell" rang it sounded warfare and then cracked.

Now, I don't personally have the inclination or mandate to decide who is or is not a believer. Paul, as an evangelist, didn't seem to even ask the question: he just went out preaching the "core gospel" which included baptism because people responded by being baptized. Peter and Stephen preached the history of the failures of Judaism or else the "good news" would make no earthly sense. "Death, burial and resurrection of Christ, atonement" and all the rest would be totally lost on the world unless the "good news" is one of the final chapters to a bad story of oppression by ceremonial religionists.

We have noted that the CORE gospel of the liberal is to pick out the "nut fragments" smashed together with all of the "hulls" of people disappointed by a failing Jesus (that is premillenialism or the "now but not yet kingsom?). Liberal in theology means "not restricted to the literal meaning of Scripture." The other "five ones" or "seven ones" restriction comes from rejecting the Word.

Excuse us if we say, "Phooey" to the psychological violence trying to intimidate everyone from preaching "the whole counsel of God."

We also noted that there is a true CORE gospel which is the work of the evangelist and which can get accomplished by a Peter in one easy sermon to one group of people.

Therefore, if this is the CORE gospel being promoted, fair enough. However, the gospel will come crashing down on the heads of those who use the core as a crutch but then refuse to honor its command: Go, Preach, Baptize, teach" and go. The "Lamb" of the gospel will turn out to have a rod of iron against such people.

Now, look at:

The Core Gospel of the liberal

"Dodd [C.H. denied inspiration] maintained that the original disciples who heard Jesus speak and who later became disciples did so with the anticipation of an immediate return of Jesus while they lived. When Jesus did not immediately return, they began to memorize the sayings of Jesus and formed a primitive catechism to preserve these sayings (he did not believe in plenary inspiration). Later disciples, including Luke, Paul and Peter, incorporated these catechisms into their writings as they attempted to explain within doctrinal and moral instructions why Jesus delayed His coming. To Dodd, these original sayings of Jesus (which had salvation as their theme) were buried in the volume of New Testament writings but he has determined which they are and these form an original 'kerygma' or evangel (the original gospel that has salvation as its theme). One should not try to teach this gospel but kerusssein (proclaim, preach it). The doctrinal and moral instruction (law, if you will) should be taught (didaskein), not preached. From this, one can see clearly the distinction that Dodd has made between gospel and doctrine" (Tom Roberts, Neo-Calvinsim in the Church of Christ, p. 48).

However, once this "core" has been "discovered" within the "uninspired" Word, there is an absolute demand

That the "evangelist" get out of his seat and "go into all the world."

He should accomplish his task in a few days, or locate in a city and instruct the whole province.

He should depend on the benevolence of churches to feed and house him and "send" him on his way. He should not take a preacher course on "how to negotiate the top salary."

The terms "Post Modern" and "Post Denominational" proves that this is the predominant liberal "core" being marketed. Those not trying to construct either an inclusive or exclusive circle are free to teach the total Bible and allow it to feed the people just the way God delivered it without spending scarce resources trying to construct a 7-principle or 5-principle test of correctness.

A Restoration Movement Core Gospel

While it is clear that Paul would have a broader understanding of the word "gospel" than the liberals, Carl Ketcherside would give a heart burn to "located evangelists" still preaching "the core gospel" to one large church for decades:

Our English word "gospel" is from the Anglo-Saxon "gode spel," good news, and was chosen as the best equivalent of the Greek euangelion. This was formed by adding the prefix "eu," good, to a root meaning "message, tidings, or news." The gospel is an evangel and one who proclaims it evangelizes.

One cannot evangelize saved persons, for the evangel is an announcement to the lost. Its purpose is to lead men to a state of salvation or righteousness.

One who believes the gospel and is baptized will be saved from his past sins, his unregenerate state or lost condition.

The gospel precedes faith and produces it. It is not a fruit of faith but the seed of it. The gospel is addressed to unbelievers and not to believers.

The difference between the gospel and the apostolic doctrine is readily seen by application of simple logic. Jesus said, "Go into the world and preach the gospel unto every creature." The gospel is to be taken to the world. It is to be proclaimed unto every unsaved person.

But the apostolic doctrine was addressed to churches composed of the saved, or to individual believers.

Not a single epistle was addressed to the unsaved in the community, although the obligation to take the gospel to them was referred to in one instance (Romans). The apostolic doctrine was to "the church of God" (1 Cor. 1:2), "to all the saints in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 1:1), and "to the faithful in Christ Jesus" (Eph. 1:1). The apostolic doctrine was not to lead men to believe and be baptized but to tell them "how to behave themselves in the house of God" (2 Tim. 3:15).

Whence Comes the Core Without the "Go into all the world"

The core of the gospel is "the seed of the kingdom." Those who are infatuated with the core but who do not grasp that Jesus put wheels under it are not seriously interested in either the core or the apple.

Either core, when accepted by the hiring church, permits a huge "staff" with obscene wages to sit around in big-city churches and plot their next move, meeting or book while the faithful evangelist is out preaching the gospel and helping to firm up churches by "preaching the whole counsel of God." At the same time, those "preaching doctrine" in the local church are accused of being destructive.

Or he is forced to leave Russia because he cannot find support.

This is the guilty passing on the penalties to the innocent through the guilt clause.

That, too, is a principle of the gospel.

J. D. Tant saw it coming

"I notice that my old time friend and brother, J. W. Chism, is making some complaint that the located minister does not go out and build up as he and I did, but are exchanging meetings all the time with other located ministers, and knocking the evangelist out.

"A leading evangelist of Missouri who stands up in the class with Busby and Hardeman tells me he is not being supported to cover expenses, as only the poor churches call him.

Not only did the evangelist have their second incarnation as "preachers," they decided to freeze out the true, biblical evangelists. It made more sense to "trade pulpits" in so-called "gospel" meetings. According to Tant you accomplished two things: you fulfilled the demand to be a "located" evangelist (like "located travelling salesman") but within an established church, and you began to plant roots for your next, mandatory move:

"All the churches who are able have their located ministers and they exchange with other located ministers. In this arrangement I see much wisdom in the located ministers,

for we now have about four preachers for each located job and most all located ministers wear out at one place and by exchanging with another located minister as each church gets tired of their located minister he can exchange with some other located minister and keep the work going.

I am sure all these preachers are doing a fine work, and judging from their reports (bulletins) we should enlarge five hundred house in Texas this year for I notice each Sunday their crowds are larger than ever before. I am confident from a worldly standpoint the work of the evangelist is a thing of the past.

The Bible says, "Go," but the modern demand says "stay," and I fear another warning like Chism has given will put him in the bad like J. D. Tant. Even the Firm Foundation has been instructed that they will do better if they will not let J. D. write in it, "For," the brother says, "He opposes us in all we do."

Alexander Campbell wrote:

There was teaching, there was singing, there was praying, there was exhortation in the Christian church,

but preaching in the church, or to the church is not once mentioned in the Christian scriptures!

Paul once, in his first letter to the church in Corinth, said he would declare to the Corinthians that gospel which he had preached to them, which also they had received and wherein they stood. We preach, or report, or proclaim news.

But who teaches news? Who exhorts news?

We preach the gospel to unbelievers, to aliens, but never to Christians, or those who have received it (Millennial Harbinger, April, 1862).

Like Paul, the CORE task of the sent evangelist fulfilled the CORE commandment. If there are qualified people to continue to "plant and water" then the evangelist has the ethical demand to move on and preach the core to those who have not yet heard the "good news." That still includes the overwhelming majority of the people of the world -- even the state of Tennessee or Texas.

Core Gospel Evangelists Have No Office

Therefore, one cannot preach the CORE gospel without the moral integrity which is an integral part of that gospel. Jesus gave the minimim qualifications without which no one is evangelizing the core gospel:

And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world,

and preach the gospel to every creature. Mark 16:15

It is highly likely that every man, woman and child in the core churches have heard the gospel as it is defined for others. Even "seekers" called in by music and theatrics have probably heard the gospel. Therefore, Jesus, Paul and Tant knew that the "go" is the feet for the core gospel to spread into all the world.

If there are no qualified preachers then he, like Paul, might remain and teach daily for two years so that "all which dwell in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus Christ, both Jews and Greeks." Acts 19:10. Even in a semi-located position the goal was to reach beyond the " school house" and out into the surrounding "county" or even "state."

The evangelist who preaches the "core" which is not the Word (logos) or what Jesus Christ personally taught would be defined by Paul in Second Corinthians as a false teacher -- a peddler of the word.

Also, like Paul, the legitimate evangelist does not have the authority to restructure the core gospel or to try to sell it with human wisdom and entertainment. An evangelist or "herald" was sent as an ambassador. He was in mortal danger if he opened the message and changed it or tried to collect on the receiving end for a "postage paid" message. (Isaiah 55).

The gospel has been delivered and:

He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. Mark 16:16

Denying the Power of the Gospel

We are astonished at the "scholarship" of men with advanced degrees in Bible. Jesus warned about doctors of the law -- they will take away the key to knowledge because it has been taken away from them. This is a supernatural sign that failure to "go" while defending just the "core" has blinded the eyes and plugged the ears of those whom Paul said "see Godliness as a means of financial gain."

While we need to add grace to the "core gospel" there is no grace which is "not in motion" especially for the evangelist. In the fourth century Aphrahat wrote about sharing the Word:

1. I have received thy letter, my beloved, and when I read it, it greatly gladdened me that thou hast turned thy thoughts to these investigations.

For this thing that thou hast asked of me shall be freely granted, (Matt x. 8) for freely it was received.

And whosoever has, and desires to withhold from him that seeks,

whatsoever he withholds shall be taken away from him. Whoever of free grace receives, of free grace also does it behove him to give (as a gift). Aphrahat Persian Christian theologian, (4th century)

And in the Didache, the Teaching of the Twelve Apostles, as it is aware that for every true evangelist there is a "great cloud" of people taking advantage of poor people:

Give to every one that asketh of thee and ask not again; for the Father wishes that from his own gifts there should be given to all.

Blessed is he who giveth according to the commandment, for he is free from guilt;

but woe unto him that receiveth.

For if a man receive being in need, he shall be free from guilt; but he who receiveth when not in need,

shall pay a penalty as to why he received and for what purpose; and when he is in tribulation he shall be examined concerning the things that he has done, and shall not depart thence until he has paid the last farthing. Didache 1:5

Agreeing with Paul to the Corinthians:

Didache 1:6 For of a truth it has been said on these matters, let thy almsgiving abide in thy hands until thou knowest to whom thou hast given

Those who spend their wealth on a huge located staff to do their own work and make them feel good and attract the seekers seeking something for the human senses are GUILTY PARTIES to the failure of the core evangelist to preach the core gospel because they are sent by those who have been given the task to SEND.

The word "apostle and prophet" continued to be applied to evangelists sent out to preach the core gospel or teach. They were not sent to replace the local people. Nor did the churches look for entertainment as the sign of these "apostles."

The Didache gave the secret to "testing the spirits" because an evangelist of the CORE GOSPEL could get his mission completed in a day or two and then have the common decency to move on and not live off the wages of laborers and widows and wellfare recipients:

But concerning the apostles and prophets, thus do ye according to the doctrine of the Gospel. Didache 1:3

Let every apostle who cometh unto you be received as the Lord. Didache 11:4

He will remain one day, and if it be necessary, a second; but if he remain three days, he is a false prophet. Didache 11:5

And let the apostle when departing take nothing but bread until he arrive at his resting-place; but if he ask for money, he is a false prophet. Didache 11:6

And ye shall not tempt or dispute with any prophet who speaketh in the spirit;

for every sin shall be forgiven,
but this sin shall not be forgiven. Didache 11:7

But not every one who speaketh in the spirit is a prophet, but he is so who hath the disposition of the Lord; by their dispositions they therefore shall be known, the false prophet and the prophet. Didache 11:8

And every prophet who ordereth in the spirit that a table shall be laid, shall not eat of it himself, but if he do otherwise, he is a false prophet; Didache 11:9

The Didache is much like Paul speaking of spiritual gifts to the Corinthians: his description of how they are to be exercised is a form of ridicule because he knows that they don't have any spiritual gifts.

In an established church with the Scriptures the "apostles" knew no more than the locals and often less. Therefore, there was no role for "Worship Facilitators" (manipulators). Thomas Campbell defined worship as personal and not performed.

Long term tasks as pastor-teacher was in the hands of local leaders who might be supported if they gave themselves totally to teaching the Word. Hard-core cases of conversion of a husband was in the hands of a wife who preached the gospel by her life. That "gospel" means self-sacrifice and not self-promotion.

The Program Driven Church

The surest sign that Tant's prophecy has come true and the core commandment of Jesus has been lost is the program-driven church where much of the resources, the skill of the evangelist and the creative energy of the body of Christ is consumed or emasculated under the heavy blanketed pall of programs attempting, like Nimrod, "To regenerate people through external means."


The core gospel was commanded to introduce Lord Jesus Christ to the entire world. Without believing in predestination, it seems true that long before people hear the gospel they have made choices based upon traditional teachings and the witness of God's creation about whether they will respond to spiritual truth, or things which appeal to the human senses. Those who feel the need for salvation will respond.

But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: 2 Cor 4:3

In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them. 2 Cor 4:4

For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus sake. 2 Cor 4:5

This is why Jesus gave as a spiritual gift the evangelist who can go into all the world and have a compelling burden to go and just "preach Jesus." When those who have been "added to the church" as spiritual infants respond and have the Scriptures available people around the world seem able to work out a fellowship of believers to meet the needs of their own community.

Core gospel? Yes. But only Core Evangelists have the gift and the moral integrity to lay claim to it. Those who "locate" have the responsibility to preach the entire Word of God and not have the God-like urge to make decisions outside of their own congregation.

The rest of us? We still believe that the core gospel introduces Lord Jesus Christ and people obey the operative command of that gospel: believe, repent and confess in baptism. After feeding on "the milk of the Word" the ongoing task is to eat the "meat of the Word" which is included within the revealed Mind of Christ, the Spirit of God (1 Cor. 2).

The core gospel will produce infants but, according to Amos and Isaiah, they will hunger and thirst for the Word, wander from sea to see looking for it but, in the end, go into captivity and destruction.

No one who has stripped the CORE of its APPLE has a right to be a located, dominant pastor.

Until the 19th century outhatching of the liberal mind it has been almost universal that faith and practice should be based upon the Scriptures. While making the Bible into an idol is possible most of us are so self-centered that this is almost precluded. A far greater danger is to make ourselves into an idol, a "Christ and if a Christ then a God" by presuming to get secret messages from God which allows us to minimize the Words of Christ while pretending to honor Christ.

Kenneth Sublett Comments Welcome.

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