The Gospel Is Jesus Plus Nothing



Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you. 

Jesus, I belong to you.

I lift up my heart to you.
I set my mind on you.
I fix my eyes on you.
I offer my body to you as a living sacrifice.

Jesus, we belong to you. 

Praying in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, amen. 

Acts 15:1–11

Certain people came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the believers: “Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.” This brought Paul and Barnabas into sharp dispute and debate with them. So Paul and Barnabas were appointed, along with some other believers, to go up to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders about this question. The church sent them on their way, and as they traveled through Phoenicia and Samaria, they told how the Gentiles had been converted. This news made all the believers very glad. When they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and elders, to whom they reported everything God had done through them.

Then some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees stood up and said, “The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to keep the law of Moses.”

The apostles and elders met to consider this question. After much discussion, Peter got up and addressed them: “Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe. God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. He did not discriminate between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith. Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear? No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.”


I was with someone the other day and he said something riveting to me. I don’t remember the context of the conversation, and I can’t even remember exactly who it was. What he said captivated my attention, and I can’t stop thinking about it. It was one of the simplest and truest things I have heard in a long time. You want to know what it is, don’t you? 

The gospel is Jesus plus nothing. 

At the halfway point, the gospel of Jesus Christ faces its first real doctrinal battle. That’s what’s going on in Antioch. 

Certain people came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the believers: “Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.”

Beware of “certain people.” They usually carry the authority of some institution or organization, often with a position or title. They are often super confident and emphatic about what they are saying. They like pairing words like “unless” and “cannot” in the same sentence. There’s another name for “certain people.” Yes, the text will go on to tell us they are Pharisees, but that’s not the name I was reaching for. I would call them doctrine cops. And, to be sure, they are not the bad guys. Doctrine is a good thing until it’s not; which is when it gets added to “the grace of our Lord Jesus” as a further requirement for salvation.

The gospel is Jesus plus nothing.

“No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.”

The reason we have such a fractured church is because everybody wants to add their own little something to Jesus; their unique insight, or special sauce, or corrective teaching. And nobody means to do it. The problem is how it shifts the emphasis away from Jesus and onto a little nuance (i.e., circumcision). The Baptists are about their baptisms. The Methodists are about their methods. The Pentecostals are about recreating the day of Pentecost. The Reformed Church is about its reformations.  And the Catholics are about . . . well, I’ll stop there before somebody throws something. Sure, I am oversimplifying to make my point, but you understand the point by now: 

The gospel is Jesus plus nothing.

Doctrine will have its place. Distinctions will proliferate like flavors of ice cream. Discipline will become important. But when doctrine and distinctions and discipline get added to Jesus like the small print on a contract, we are on our way to a church Jesus is not building. I take it you know the law of contracts—the big print giveth, and the little print taketh away. 

Only fifteen chapters into the story of the church, they are sorting it out for us. We must get the big print right. And the big print is as follows:

The gospel is Jesus plus nothing

That feels like a good place from which to dive into season 2 of the Acts of the Apostles, doesn’t it? 


Spirit of the Living God, fall afresh on me. Spirit of the Living God, fall afresh on me. Melt me. Mold me. Fill me. Use me. Spirit of the Living God, fall afresh on me. Amen. 


Why do we want to add our own little (and big) nuances, twists, and features to the simple gospel of Jesus Christ? 

Is it easy for you to accept the comprehensive simplicity of the gospel of Jesus Christ or do you tend to want to add your own sense of qualifications? 


Today we will sing “My Hope Is Built” (hymn 102) from our Seedbed hymnal, Our Great Redeemer’s Praise. Get your copy here. New shipments arriving now. Use Code: WAKEUPCALL for free shipping through the end of May (does not apply to bulk orders). 

For the Awakening,
J. D. Walt

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WHAT IS THIS? Wake-Up Call is a daily encouragement to shake off the slumber of our busy lives and turn our eyes toward Jesus. Each morning our community gathers around a Scripture, a reflection, a prayer, and a few short questions, inviting us to reorient our lives around the love of Jesus that transforms our hearts, homes, churches, and cities.

Comments and Discussion

2 Responses

  1. Today’s Wake-up Call reminds me that even when the Church that Jesus said that He will build seemed to be in its purest state, we see Satan coming in and attempting to fracture it into multiple denominations. His tactics have always worked, because he knows how well to exploit our fallen inclinations. Yes, it’s always some form of “divide and conquer “, whether it be from one another, or from Christ himself.

  2. Just Jesus!
    He alone
    Is the way.
    Treasure Him,
    Follow Him,
    Obey Him,
    Worship Him,
    Night and day.
    Set aside
    Faith isn’t
    About them.
    Keep your heart
    Always filled
    To the brim,
    With Him!

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