Two Gospels

Dr. H.A. IronsideIn the early 1900s Christian pastor and author Harry A. Ironside met with two Mormon missionaries. In 1932 an account of this meeting was published under the title, “What Is the Gospel?” The whole report is quite fascinating, but I want to highlight one section of it here. We begin with Dr. Ironside speaking to one of the missionaries:

“And now, sir,” he was asked, “would you kindly favor us” (a number were present) “with a short statement of what the gospel really is?”

“Certainly,” he replied. “The gospel consists of four first principles. The first is repentance; the second, faith; the third, baptism for the remission of sins by one duly qualified; while the forth is the laying on of the hands of a man having authority, for the reception of the Holy Ghost.”

“Well, and supposing one has gone through all this, is he then saved?”

“Oh, of course, no one can know that, in this life. If one goes onto the end, he will be exalted in the kingdom.”

So we understand just how important the “first principles” of the gospel are in Mormonism, consider the relatively recent teaching of LDS Seventy Bruce D. Porter:

“…these principles and ordinances constitute the heart of the gospel of salvation, being the essential requirements for entry into the celestial kingdom.” (“The First Principles and Ordinances of the Gospel,” Ensign, Oct 2000)

“The heart of the gospel.” Please keep this in mind as you read more of Dr. Ironside’s story.

After hearing the LDS gospel presented, Dr. Ironside said:

“I asked you for a statement of the gospel. If these so-called ‘four principles’ be indeed the gospel, then you have a gospel without Christ; in other words, a gospel with the Gospel omitted. And if you are correct, then surely the apostle Paul, at least, labored under a most serious delusion, for he gives us a clear statement of his Gospel, and actually says nothing of either one or other of the various points upon which you have dwelt. No doubt you will recollect the passage?” (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).

Commencing at the first verse of this precious and wondrous portion of Scripture, we read: “Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, with also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; by which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures” (see Isaiah 53:5-6) “and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures.”

Dr. Ironside quickly arrived at the heart of the matter:

“I noticed, then, to begin with, that the Biblical Gospel is concerning a Person, and quite a different person than the person you brought before us. Paul’s Gospel message is ‘concerning the Son of God,’ as Romans 1:3 tells us. Your gospel did not have a word about Jesus in all its four points. The subject of Paul’s gospel has not a word about anyone or anything except Christ. Perhaps we might say it also could be divided into four points, though more properly three; but even divided into four (to go as far with you as we can), what marked differences do we find! Your four points are all concerning the poor sinner, and might be put this way:

1. The sinner repents;
2. The sinner has faith;
3. The sinner is baptized;
4. The sinner has hands laid on him.

“Now, in contrast to this, see how the true Gospel can be put:

1. Christ died;
2. Christ was buried;
3. Christ has been raised again;
4. Christ is the object for the hearts of His own.

Seeing the distinctions between the gospel messages communicated so clearly by Dr. Ironside, his conclusion can hardly be challenged:

“Surely the two gospels have nothing in common.”

About Sharon Lindbloom

Sharon surrendered her life to the Lord Jesus Christ in 1979. Deeply passionate about Truth, Sharon loves serving as a full-time volunteer research associate with Mormonism Research Ministry. Sharon and her husband live in Minnesota.

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22 Responses to Two Gospels

  1. falcon says:

    As I was reading the above posting, what popped into my mind was a funeral I attended some years ago in a denominational church. The way to salvation, as presented during the service, was a clearly articulated path based on the participation in the sacraments of that church. I really didn’t hear the Gospel message as I had come to understand it. Paul talks clearly in Phillipians about his religious life before Christ and after. Before, everything is based on certain “rites” and after everything is centered on “faith” in Christ. Paul says it best “….not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith…” (Phil. 3:9) I rejoice knowing that the Gospel is all about Jesus and not all about me.

  2. dj1989 says:

    (Laughing to myself) For those of you who don’t know, the missionary was quoting the 4th Article of Faith in answer to the question (the 1st Article of Faith is belief in God the Father, and in his son Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost)

    In my opinion, this story should have stayed in the past. To be fair, Dr Ironside’s conclusion is shallow at best, but intentionally misleading at worst. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and say that it’s a shallow conclusion.

    One can hardly sum up the gospel in a few lines. It is unfair to say that the missionary’s answer is “the gospel” according to Mormons. It would be equally unfair for me to say that Dr Ironside’s answer is “the gospel” according to EV Christians.

    If we are to judge Dr. Ironside’s definition of the gospel by using both his answer and his same rash method, then I might conclude that Dr Ironside does not include baptism or the receipt of the Holy Ghost as part of the gospel. His answer said nothing about those two things that are clearly a part of the gospel.

    They are 2 sides of the same coin. But his rash conclusion as well as publication of said rash conclusion hardly gives me confidence in him as a person to place my confidence in.

  3. dj1989 says:

    BUT, I’d like to add that the entire 4th Article of Faith (referred to in the previous post) says that “The first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are: first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, Repentance; third, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; fourth, Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.”

    Or in other words, AFTER you accept that Christ died, was buried, and was resurrected, the first things that follow your acceptance should be faith, repentance, baptism, and receiving the Holy Ghost (all in his name).

  4. Sharon Lindbloom says:

    Perhaps I should have quoted more extensively from the Ensign article. Here are a few additional statements from LDS Seventy Bruce D. Porter’s article that speak to concerns raised by dj1989:

    “The fourth article of faith sets forth the basics of the gospel plan by which we may obtain forgiveness of sin through Christ’s Atonement…”

    “The word first in ‘first principles and ordinances’ should not be interpreted as primarily chronological in meaning, as though these four steps were intended only for our initial entry into the kingdom. Rather, the term first is better understood as ‘basic’ or ‘fundamental,’ for these principles and ordinances constitute the heart of the gospel of salvation, being the essential requirements for entry into the celestial kingdom.”

    “The Lord often refers to the first principles and ordinances simply as ‘my gospel’ or ‘my doctrine.’ For example, in a revelation given to Joseph Smith, the Lord declares: ‘And this is my gospel—repentance and baptism by water, and then cometh the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost, even the Comforter’ (D&C 39:6).”

    “The term gospel can have multiple meanings. In the fullest sense, the gospel encompasses all truths of every kind and every degree of importance. Yet, as the Savior’s words show, it can also refer more narrowly to the first principles and ordinances of salvation.”

  5. falcon says:

    We are saved by faith. We are not saved by faith plus baptism. If a believer never gets baptized, he/she is still saved. Baptism is an outward sign of an inner grace. We do it out of obedience. We receive the Holy Spirit as a result of our faith in Jesus. Whether or not someone lays hands on a believer is immaterial. God makes salvation relatively simple, and man wants to keep complicating and adding to it. We want to add steps and earn merit badges along the way.

  6. dj1989 says:

    I cannot put words into Bruce D. Porter’s mouth. However, I am definitely more qualified to comment on what he said, so I will attempt to do so.

    What he said really doesn’t justify Dr Ironside’s comments. If you go to the last paragraph he mentions that “in the fullest sense” the gospel [according to Mormons] encompasses ALL truths of every kind and every degree of importance.

    He goes on to say that “it can also refer more narrowly to the first principles and ordinances of salvation”. (“more narrowly” being the key words)

    So, which is it? Well it depends on the context. (which is essentially what Bruce Porter is saying). In one context, these 4 principles can be referred to as “the gospel” because it is impossible for a person to claim that they follow the gospel without having followed these principles and ordinances first. But, in this context it is not all inclusive (as Dr Ironside leads us to believe).

    Bruce Porter has concurred with what I said previously, and not disqualified what I said.

    So…there’s my 3 posts for the day, so you have the last word.

  7. Megan says:

    dj1989, what do you mean that you are “definitely more qualified to comment”? Do you mean you are more qualified to comment on this subject because you are a Mormon and Sharon is not? Explain, please.

  8. Rick B says:

    Falcon, just like you said, it should be worded this way.

    It is Jesus.

    Not, It is Jesus and….
    Rick b

  9. Sharon Lindbloom says:

    Just to clarify —

    dj1989 previously wrote:

    ”One can hardly sum up the gospel in a few lines. It is unfair to say that the missionary’s answer is ‘the gospel’ according to Mormons.”

    Mr. Porter’s remarks (in the Ensign article) support the idea that the missionary’s response to Dr. Ironside was fair. A correct statement of “the gospel” according to Mormonism is “the first principles and ordinances” found in the 4th Article of Faith. There may be more to it, but the first principles and ordinances “constitute the heart of the gospel of salvation.”

  10. Ralph says:

    In the above article, the missionaries made one small mistake which was misquoting the 4th article of faith. If they had said FIRST is faith IN THE LORD, JESUS CHRIST, 2nd repentance… then Dr Ironside may not have made the comment about our gospel not containing Jesus. But our gospel does rest on faith in Jesus – without which we cannot be saved.
    As for baptism, it is essential for our salvation as Jesus taught it, and the apostles commanded it for believers –
    Matt 28:18-20 And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. GO YE THEREFORE, AND TEACH ALL NATIONS, BAPTISING THEM in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.
    Acts 2:37-38 Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? Then PETER SAID UNTO THEM, REPENT, AND BE BAPTISED EVERY ONE OF YOU in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
    Hebrews 6:1-2 Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, Of the DOCTRINE OF BAPTISMS, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.
    And we find in Acts 19 that the apostles rebaptised people who were not baptised in the name of Jesus, but were originally baptised in the name of John. If baptism was not important then why did they have to be rebaptised in the proper manner? Why didn’t Peter tell them to just believe in Jesus?

  11. falcon says:

    Ralph,
    We are not saved by baptism or any other “rite”. We are saved by faith. Should we get baptized? Yes! But it’s very clear that the process of baptism doesn’t “do” anything. It is a sign, a symbol of our faith. What you are describing is called sacramentilism. Some Christian missionaries used to get all hyper about baptising babies in the name of Jesus so they would be saved and go to heaven if they died. Doesn’t work that way. I am also at my 3 post limit so some of you other folks will have to carry-on. Maybe I’ll stay-up past midnight and post again. That’s a joke!

  12. ymmotrojam says:

    Maybe this is obvious, but I feel I should mention it. We must distinguish between the “good news” (gospel), and the way to partake in that “good news”.

    The “good news” itself is that Christ died for our sins and rose bodily from the grave. He died once for all, and we cannot do anything to earn that. THAT is the “good news” (gospel).

    NOW, the way to partake in that is complete faith/trust in Jesus Christ alone, as the only way to heaven and forgiveness for sins. No temple visits, marriages, or anything else will get one there.

    It seems that there is confusion in some of the comments between what is actually the “good news” and what it is that we actually do to get that. What we do to get something is not good news, it’s the fact that something has been done for us!!

    Let’s think of a simple example. Christmas is coming, and no doubt you will receive some gifts. Now is it your act of receiving the gift that is the “good news” (gospel), or the fact that the other person freely gave it to you?

  13. shelli says:

    Brigham Young said

    Baptism is an essential ordinance for our salvation.

    If this is true, then why do we not read any accounts of Jesus or the Apostles ever once saying, In order to be saved, you must be baptized. Then in the Bible I read accounts of Jesus not baptizing, and the apostle Paul claiming Jesus did not send him to baptize.

    John 4:1 When therefore the Lord knew how the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John,

    John 4:2 (Though Jesus himself baptized not, but his disciples,).

    1Cr 1:14 I thank God that I baptized none of you, but Crispus and Gaius;

    1Cr 1:15 Lest any should say that I had baptized in mine own name.

    1Cr 1:16 And I baptized also the household of Stephanas: besides, I know not whether I baptized any other.

    1Cr 1:17 For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect.

    1Cr 1:18 For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.

    Act 16:27 And the keeper of the prison awaking out of his sleep, and seeing the prison doors open, he drew out his sword, and would have killed himself, supposing that the prisoners had been fled.

    Act 16:28 But Paul cried with a loud voice, saying, Do thyself no harm: for we are all here.

    Act 16:29 Then he called for a light, and sprang in, and came trembling, and fell down before Paul and Silas,

    Act 16:30 And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved?

    Act 16:31 And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.

  14. Ralph says:

    I think I will believe more in Jesus than Paul. Jesus was baptised to fulfil all righteousness, and we are supposed to follow His life as He is our example. He also taught that we need to be born again of the water and the spirit. But the main thing Jesus said about baptism is what I have quoted –

    Matthew 28:18- 20 And JESUS CAME AND SPAKE UNTO THEM, SAYING, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. GO YE THEREFORE, AND TEACH ALL NATIONS, BAPTISING THEM in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

    Why did Jesus tell them to baptise everyone if it was non-essential and just an outward symbol of belief? Did Jesus teach us to do vain (ie things without meaning) things? Does God do vain things?

    We also find in Mark 16:16 HE THAT BELIEVETH AND IS BAPTISED SHALL BE SAVED; but he that believeth not shall be damned.

    I will also believe in Peter, who was tutored by Jesus, over Paul. Just go back over the scriptures I referred to in the last post. All of them have Peter actively teaching people to get baptised and him and the other apostles baptising people.

    Shelli, When you said that Paul did not baptise and listed some scriptures you listed this, so I believe you skipped it when you read it –
    1Cor 1:16 And I baptized also the household of Stephanas: besides, I know not whether I baptized any other.
    In other words Paul did baptise some people, but not many as his main calling was to teach (see 1 Cor 1:17)

    Now let’s see who can spot the incorrect scriptural referencing in this – Aaron, I know you can so lets see someone else first.

  15. rpavich says:

    Ralph,
    Are we playing “Jesus against Paul?”
    C’mon, your presuppostions are showing!

    If you’re going to site Paul, at least do it in context…Paul is arguing that he’s just as much and apostle as any other and because of that he should be allowed certain things; he goes on to say that although he did baptize some people, that’s not why he came at all…over and over he says why he came; to “preach Christ, and Him crucified”…

    this passage actually argues AGAINST the idea that baptism is somehow required for salvation!

    And by the way; no doctrine is built off of one passage. If you say that baptism is required for salvation, then tell the gentiles in Acts that were saved and weren’t baptized until afterwords!

  16. falcon says:

    Just a point as we are talking about Paul and the Gospel and what is necessary for salvation, in Galatians 1:11-12 Paul writes: “For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.” So I think Paul had some pretty good “street cred” as the slang goes. This topic really points up the fact that there are two different Gospels (as far as our discussion goes). There’s the one Mormons subscribe to and then there’s orthodox Christianity. They can’t both be right or even kind of right. Which of these Gospels has the true message of salvation? I’m not betting on Joseph Smith and his works oriented multilevel marketing plan of salvation approach.

  17. dj1989 says:

    It amazes me to read what I’ve been reading. How can Jesus’ instructions somehow be trumped by Paul’s apparent silence over the matter? Ralph has demonstrated some very direct teachings about the need for baptism. While those here that oppose baptism just say “Paul apparently didn’t do it, so we conclude that it is definitely not necessary”. For a group of people that strictly use the Bible as their guide, I would definitely say that if it is inconclusive, the scales should lean in favor of the teaching which is more apparent or direct. Baptism is taught more directly and it is more apparent.

    Besides that, Paul’s epistles ALL went to those who had already manifest their belief in Christ, so it’s highly probable that he’s not going to talk too much about baptism, rather what the Christians should do to stay on the straight and narrow path.

    While I’m on the subject of the Bible, it must be pointed out that the New Testament is, for the most part, separate epistles written to separate groups, addressing separate problems that those individual groups needed to hear. Though it is incredibly valuable to teach us about the gospel, the original intent was not to be a “Complete Guide to the Gospel”, and it is lacking in some respects. The question as to whether or not one must be baptized is just one of MANY examples of how it is lacking if used as a “Complete Guide to the Gospel”.

    In a previous thread Aaron pointed out to me that EVC’s believe in “the inerrancy and authority of the Bible over any human teacher here on earth. [They] believe in sola scriptura”. Well, this very notion is very UN-biblical. The ENTIRE New Testament teaches against it.

  18. Megan says:

    Ralph, just when I think I understand the rules of the game I realize I don’t. It makes sense from an LDS perspective to favor the BOM over the Bible. I am familiar with LDS using the claim “we believe the Bible as far as it is translated correctly” when confronted with a verse they don’t agree with. (Not you). But I had no idea Mormons would prefer some books of the Bible over others! Is this common among LDS or is this just your perspective? I’m not being sarcastic; I really want to know. This is another example of us viewing the Bible differently. To me, the Bible is made up of different books that God revealed to humankind. The whole Bible is internally consistent, and works in concert to explain different subjects and doctrines. That’s why, when thinking about the doctrine of salvation, one must look at every verse that covers this subject and see how the verses complement and relate to each other. Preferring the writings of the first apostles over Paul….that’s a new one for me.
    Anyway, I was intrigued by your reference to “being born of water and the spirit” in John 3:1-21. That passage has been on my mind for awhile. I found something on carm.org that I thought was interesting. Unfortunately I am pretty computer illiterate and I don’t know how to provide links! (Embarrassed). So, type in http://www.carm.org. Then in the box where it says “search carm” type in John 3:5. It will come up to a google page where you should click on the first or second choice (they go to the same page). The page explores five potential meanings of Jesus’ cryptic remark and uses a systematic approach covering baptism, works, salvation, etc.
    I know you are busy but I hope you will have a chance to go to that page. I am interested to hear your thoughts.

  19. Megan says:

    Oh, now I see that I did provide a link to the website, but not the specific page.

  20. Rick B says:

    DJ1989 Said

    How can Jesus’ instructions somehow be trumped by Paul’s apparent silence over the matter? Ralph has demonstrated some very direct teachings about the need for baptism.

    I wonder, are you a mormon? You seem to play both sides, and tend to defend the Mormon Doctrine.

    Anyway, as far as baptism goes, it is not required for salvation. Remember, Shelli pointed out,

    John 4:1 When therefore the Lord knew how the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John,

    John 4:2 (Though Jesus himself baptized not, but his disciples,).

    We know from Scripture Jesus did also Baptize, but if it was required to save us, then Jesus did not do it, we have a problem.

    Then as Shelli Pointed out, the Jailer said, WHAT MUST I DO TO BE SAVED, Paul said

    Act 16:31 And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.

    Funny how Paul did not say, Believe and be baptised. If baptism is required, then I guess lots of people are out of luck, because they might not be able to get baptised before they die. Look at the thief on the cross, what about the people who get murdered, like from suciced bombers, or soliders in war. their are people who might just have come to Christ, and want to get baptised, but die before, I guess they cannot be saved. Rick b

  21. dj1989 says:

    Rick-

    Actually, I am Mormon. I didn’t know that I EVER played both sides. As far as I know, everything I said has been in light of Mormon doctrine. However, I try to be fair in my judgments, and I consider myself a truth seeker that is capable of conceding to another person’s points that are clearly articulated and/or more persuasive.

    That being said, my issue with many of these discussions about “who said what”, and “this means that”, is that at the end of the day the debate is inconclusive. You say Paul says one thing, and then I turn just a few pages away to something else that Paul said which apparently contradicts it. It will happen almost 100% of the time. The Bible is simply inconclusive on many gospel points. It requires too many assumptions on the part of the reader.

    I believe the biggest assumption about the teachings of the Bible is the belief in, as Aaron says, the “inerrancy and authority of the Bible over any human teacher here on earth” as well as the concept of sola scriptura. This belief does not come from the Bible itself but from longstanding tradition. Now, I can see why people believe it, but it’s not because it’s something that they learned in the Bible. It appears to have been created sometime between the last writings of the apostles and our current time.

    Don’t get me wrong. I believe in the Bible. I’ve read probably 100 times more from the Bible this year then the BOM (mainly because the Bible is what we’re studying in church this year…but that’s besides the point) But, it is illogical to say that the Bible is conclusive on many gospel subjects, and the truth seeker in me has to concede that the Bible will not clear things up in certain cases.

  22. falcon says:

    The Bible “…is lacking in some respects”….”is inconclusive”…OUCH I say. That’s why orthodox Chrisitans have systematic theology and rules, guidelines, and principles for interpreting the Bible. Mormons go on continuous revelation from their leaders which I understand is the equivalent of the Bible (in their eyes). If there is a Christian denomination that teaches that you have to be baptized to be saved, I am unaware of it. This again points out the difference in the Mormon gospel and that of orthodox Christianity. It also speaks to a performance based religious system. From reading testimonies of former Mormons, this works orientation is one thing that drives them out. They just can’t get good enough no matter how hard they try. I’ll accept the traditional Christian view that God provides His gift of salvation based on what He did for us and not what we have to do to gain His approval. You don’t work for a gift. You receive it with gratitude.

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