How many Gospels are out there? You might think this is a redundant question. Perhaps I will ask you an easier one then. How many true Gospels are there?
The word Gospel basically means 'good news'. It comes from the Latin word 'evangelium' which, obviously is where we get our word for 'evangelism'. Evangelism is an activity in which the Gospel is told to other people.
If you have done any type of evangelism work, you probably have noticed that people have many different understandings of what they think the Gospel is. The Gospel is the good news, but it is only good news because of the bad news. Many in America today have no idea what the bad news is, and that is why there is vagueness concerning what the Gospel really is.
The bad news is that, because of God's holiness, He must punish sin. If He doesn't punish sin, He would not be God. One of His characteristics is that He is just. That's what makes the 'good news' good news. God has provided a just way for us to not have to be punished for our sins. See http://thegospelconversation.blogspot.com for more information on this.
Here is the 'gospel' that I find many believe in; Many believe that God is all-loving and all-forgiving. This is partly true, but many take this as another route to get to heaven by. They bypass the problem of sin and God's justice and believe that because God is 'all-loving' that means He skips over our sins automatically. Yes, God is love, and He provided a way of escape for us, but we have to take His way out. It doesn't automatically happen for us. We must respond.
Another one that I am seeing more recently, is that Jesus doesn't judge us for our sins (or for anything). It kind of ties in with the 'all-loving', 'all-forgiving' gospel. Here is an article I thought was interesting. It has to do with Mother Theresa and her understanding of the issue of forgiveness. She was known to be an advocate for prisoners who were facing the death penalty. She would talk to governors and other key people and convince them to let the prisoner not be executed, no matter how brutal the murder was. She would say things like, 'Do what Jesus would do if he were in your position.' Here is a summary of what she believes that Jesus would do in this position : "She did not need to add any explanation. It is all too clear what Jesus would do. He would not kill anyone. He would not kill, no matter what the crime, no matter what the cause. He would grant clemency, demand forgiveness and command nonviolent love." http://www.fatherjohndear.org/pdfs/mother_theresa.pdf My point isn't to put down Mother Theresa or make fun of her in any way. But this is a perfect example of a person believing things about Jesus that aren't in the Bible. What we do so many times, is to take a passage in the Bible, lets say one about God's love, and we build a doctrine on it. We don't bother to compare it with other Scriptures or passages in the Bible. Yes, Jesus came especially for us, to become the ultimate sacrifice for our sins, and to provide forgiveness for us, but we are taking this a step or two too far when we say that Jesus was opposed to the death penalty. If the death penalty was instituted in the Old Testament by God, and if Jesus is God, then it appears that there is a valid reason for it. If we let every prisoner go under the premise of forgiveness, there would be no order in society. Capital punishment is good because it teaches the people to fear the Lord and respect authority, as well as life, and the lives of other people. People would be more hesitant to commit crimes if there is punishment for criminal activity. This type of belief system leads people to be deceived into thinking that God will no longer judge people for their sins. In Matthew 25, Jesus explains the parable of the sheep and the goats. Once the sheep and the goats are separated, the sheep will enter heaven and the goats will be eternally punished. (Sheep and goats are symbolic of those who trust in Christ and those who don't).
One more 'gospel' I hear is this one; 'Just believe'. Or 'you have to have faith'. Sometimes, this is expanded upon. The person explaining this will say something like, 'You are strong.' They might say, 'Your faith will get you through'. The problem with this is it doesn't explain what the object of the faith is. Sometimes, it sounds like wishful thinking. God is the object of our faith. If faith is the object of our faith, then we are in real trouble! It sounds a little like wishing upon a star! Faith is a gift from God. God does not reward us because we have worked up enough faith to get what we want. The Lord is the One who works, although He uses our faith in Him. He is pleased when we trust Him in spite of everything else that opposes our faith. But faith in our faith (or how much faith we have) will not get us anywhere.
So here are a couple of the gospels that are out there. You can see that they don't line up with what the Bible teaches. There is a little bit of truth in each one of these 'gospels' but other things are added to make them not true. God is not all-forgiving except for the person who repents and turns from his or her sins and completely trusts in Jesus for their salvation. If Jesus were on earth today, He would not go into the prisons and let the prisoners out as an act of showing His forgiveness toward people, and no matter how much wishful thinking we have for something, God only honors faith and trust in Him. He will work out the details of our lives and He will give us faith for each day to live for His glory, not to get things that we want.
So there are many gospels out there. In Paul's day, there were many gospels out there. But there is only one true and correct Gospel. The one that tells us the 'Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures. And that He was buried and rose again the third day, according to the Scriptures.' and 'There is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.' Also, 'He who believes in the Son has eternal life. He who doesn't believe in the Son of God does not have eternal life, but the wrath of God abides on him.' These truths, and many more in the Scriptures, don't agree with the many gospels that are out there. Let's be like the Bereans and learn what the Scriptures say, so that when we encounter a false gospel, we will know. And we will be able to help others who are in darkness about the truth of the Gospel message.