What is the Fourfold Gospel?

What is the Fourfold Gospel?
What is the Fourfold Gospel?

The Fourfold Gospel, also known as the Full Gospel, is a central doctrine within certain evangelical and Pentecostal Christian traditions. It outlines four key aspects of the ministry and person of Jesus Christ – Savior, Sanctifier, Healer, and Coming King. This theological framework has shaped the beliefs and mission of various denominations and movements over the past century.

The origins of the Fourfold Gospel can be traced back to the late 19th century teachings of Canadian pastor and evangelist A.B. Simpson, the founder of the Christian and Missionary Alliance (C&MA) denomination. Through dramatic spiritual encounters, Simpson came to firmly believe that Christ was not only his Savior, but also his Sanctifier, Healer, and the imminent Coming King. These four themes became the foundation of the C&MA’s theological identity and missionary focus.

Over the decades, the Fourfold Gospel has been embraced and expanded upon by other Pentecostal and charismatic Christian groups. While the specific terminology may vary, the core themes remain consistent – highlighting the multifaceted ministry of Jesus as Savior, Sanctifier, Healer, and Coming King. Understanding these four interconnected aspects of Christology is crucial for grasping the worldview and practices of those who adhere to the Fourfold Gospel.

Components of the Fourfold Gospel

Jesus Christ is the Savor

The first and most foundational component of the Fourfold Gospel is the belief that Jesus Christ is the universal and exclusive Savior of humanity. This reflects the historic Christian doctrine of salvation, whereby Jesus’ death on the cross and resurrection provide the means for individuals to be forgiven of their sins and reconciled to God.

At the heart of this belief is the conviction that “there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Jesus’ name and work on the cross are seen as the sole pathway to eternal life and right standing with the divine. This stands in contrast to the notion of multiple paths to God, which is rejected by Fourfold Gospel adherents.

The gospel accounts document Jesus’ own declarations of his unique salvific role, such as when he states, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). Fourfold Gospel believers interpret these statements as validating the exclusive claims of Christianity – that faith in Christ alone can deliver one from the penalty and power of sin.

This emphasis on Jesus as the exclusive Savior is not merely a theological abstraction, but has profound practical implications. Fourfold Gospel Christians are often compelled by a deep sense of urgency to share the good news of salvation through Christ with those who have not yet heard or accepted it. Fulfilling the Great Commission to “make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19-20) becomes a central driving force.

Jesus Christ is the Sanctifier

The second key aspect of the Fourfold Gospel is the belief that Jesus Christ is the Sanctifier – the one who cleanses, purifies, and sets apart believers through the power of the Holy Spirit. This aligns with the biblical teaching of progressive sanctification, whereby followers of Christ are progressively transformed into the likeness of Christ.

For Fourfold Gospel adherents, sanctification is not merely a legal declaration of righteousness, but an ongoing work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer. Just as the Israelite priests were required to regularly cleanse themselves at the laver in the tabernacle, so too must Christians continually return to Christ, the ultimate source of holiness and purity.

This Christological emphasis on sanctification is often contrasted with a perceived tendency among some Christians to focus solely on the initial experience of salvation, neglecting the vital role of the Holy Spirit in shaping one’s character and conduct. Fourfold Gospel teachers stress the importance of allowing Christ, through the Spirit, to exert comprehensive control over every area of life.

The sanctifying power of Christ is understood to manifest in various ways – the mortification of sinful desires, the cultivation of spiritual fruit such as love, joy, and self-control, and the empowerment for effective service and witness. Ultimately, the goal of this ongoing sanctifying work is to present believers “holy and blameless” before God (Colossians 1:22).

Jesus Christ is the Healer

The third component of the Fourfold Gospel is the belief that Jesus Christ is the Healer – the one who has the power to restore physical, emotional, and spiritual wholeness to those who are afflicted. This perspective is grounded in the gospel accounts, which document numerous instances of Jesus healing a diverse array of maladies.

Fourfold Gospel Christians point to Jesus’ own declaration that “the Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free” (Luke 4:18-19) as a mandate for divine healing. They believe that Christ’s healing ministry was not merely a historical phenomenon, but an ongoing reality to be experienced by believers today.

This belief in Christ as Healer is often manifested through practices such as anointing with oil, the laying on of hands, and prayer for physical and emotional restoration. Fourfold Gospel churches and ministries frequently feature testimonies of miraculous healings, which are interpreted as tangible evidence of Christ’s continued healing power.

At the same time, Fourfold Gospel adherents recognize that not all prayers for healing result in immediate, observable restoration. They may attribute this to a variety of factors, such as lack of faith, unconfessed sin, or the sovereignty of God. Nonetheless, the promise of divine healing remains a central tenet of the Fourfold Gospel.

Jesus Christ is the Coming King

The fourth and final component of the Fourfold Gospel is the belief that Jesus Christ is the Coming King – the one who will physically return to Earth to establish his eternal, righteous kingdom. This eschatological dimension is rooted in the New Testament accounts of Jesus’ ascension and the promises of his future return.

Fourfold Gospel Christians eagerly await the imminent return of Christ, which they believe will usher in a new era of divine rule and the restoration of all things. They often point to Jesus’ own words, such as “you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him” (Matthew 24:44), as validation of this belief.

This focus on Christ’s second coming serves as a powerful motivator for Fourfold Gospel adherents to complete the Great Commission by taking the gospel to the ends of the earth. The sense of urgency stems from the conviction that Jesus’ return is drawing near, and that there is still much work to be done in fulfilling his mandate to “make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19).

At the same time, the specifics of end-times theology can vary among Fourfold Gospel groups. Some may hold to a premillennial view, believing that Christ will return before establishing his thousand-year reign, while others may lean towards a postmillennial or amillennial perspective. Nonetheless, the central belief in Christ’s imminent return as King remains a unifying theme.

The Interconnected Fourfold Gospel

While the Fourfold Gospel can be broken down into its four distinct components, it is important to recognize that these aspects are deeply interconnected and interdependent. They form a cohesive Christological framework that shapes the worldview, theology, and praxis of those who adhere to this perspective.

For Fourfold Gospel believers, Jesus Christ is not merely a Savior, Sanctifier, Healer, or Coming King in isolation, but the fulfillment of all these roles in a comprehensive manner. The saving work of the cross, the sanctifying power of the Spirit, the healing ministry, and the promise of Christ’s return are all seen as vital and inseparable elements of the gospel message.

This integrated understanding of Christology is often visually represented through symbolic imagery, such as the cross (representing the Savior), the laver (symbolizing the Sanctifier), the pitcher of oil (depicting the Healer), and the crown (signifying the Coming King). These visual motifs help to convey the holistic nature of the Fourfold Gospel.

Furthermore, the four aspects of the Fourfold Gospel are understood to be mutually reinforcing. The believer’s experience of salvation, for example, is seen as the gateway to the ongoing work of sanctification, which in turn empowers them for effective ministry and witness, including the expectation of divine healing. All of this is undergirded by the hope of Christ’s imminent return as King.

This comprehensive Christological framework has profoundly shaped the theology, spirituality, and missional impulse of those who embrace the Fourfold Gospel. It provides a cohesive theological foundation for understanding the person and work of Jesus Christ, with practical implications for how one lives out the Christian life.

Historical Development and Expansion of the Fourfold Gospel

The origins of the Fourfold Gospel can be traced back to the late 19th century teachings of Canadian pastor and evangelist A.B. Simpson, the founder of the Christian and Missionary Alliance (C&MA) denomination. Through dramatic spiritual encounters, Simpson came to firmly believe that Christ was not only his Savior, but also his Sanctifier, Healer, and the imminent Coming King.

In 1887, Simpson delivered a series of sermons titled “The Fourfold Gospel,” which outlined these four interconnected aspects of Christology. This theological framework became the foundation of the C&MA’s identity and mission, as the denomination sought to proclaim the “full gospel” to the world.

Simpson’s articulation of the Fourfold Gospel was influenced by various theological currents of his time, including Keswickian holiness teaching, Pentecostal spirituality, and premillennial eschatology. By synthesizing these elements into a cohesive Christological paradigm, Simpson provided a distinctive contribution to evangelical theology.

Over the subsequent decades, the Fourfold Gospel concept gained traction within other Pentecostal and charismatic Christian movements. In 1922, Canadian evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson, the founder of the Foursquare Church, began using the term “Foursquare Gospel” to refer to a similar four-fold emphasis on Christ as Savior, Baptizer with the Holy Spirit, Healer, and Coming King.

Various other Pentecostal and neo-charismatic denominations, such as the Assemblies of God and the Church of God (Cleveland, Tennessee), have also been influenced by the Fourfold Gospel framework, even if they may express it in slightly different terminology or emphases.

Beyond the Pentecostal and charismatic spheres, the Fourfold Gospel has also found resonance within certain Anabaptist and Baptist traditions. The Missionary Church, for instance, an Anabaptist denomination with Radical Pietist and Wesleyan influences, holds to “A.B. Simpson’s fourfold emphasis on Jesus Christ as Savior, Sanctifier, Healer and Coming King.”

This widespread adoption and adaptation of the Fourfold Gospel across different Christian traditions underscores its enduring significance and appeal as a comprehensive Christological paradigm. While the specific terminology and nuances may vary, the core themes of Christ as Savior, Sanctifier, Healer, and Coming King remain a unifying feature of those who identify with this theological framework.

Conclusion

The Fourfold Gospel, with its four interconnected aspects of Christ as Savior, Sanctifier, Healer, and Coming King, represents a significant and influential theological framework within certain evangelical and Pentecostal Christian traditions. Originating in the late 19th century teachings of A.B. Simpson, this Christological paradigm has left an indelible mark on the beliefs, practices, and missional priorities of those who adhere to it.

By emphasizing the multifaceted ministry of Jesus Christ, the Fourfold Gospel offers a holistic understanding of the gospel message and its practical implications for the lives of believers. This theological framework shapes the devotional life, ministry endeavors, and eschatological outlook of its adherents, as they seek to experience the transformative power of Christ and participate in the fulfillment of his Great Commission.

As the Fourfold Gospel continues to be embraced and adapted by various Christian denominations and movements, it stands as a testament to the enduring significance of a comprehensive Christology that captures the breadth and depth of the good news. Through this lens, believers are empowered to engage with the world in a manner that reflects the saving, sanctifying, healing, and reigning work of Jesus Christ.

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