Thursday, April 17, 2014

Is Your Gospel Exportable, Or Should It Be Quarantined?

One can't even begin to overstate the greatness of the gospel. One could, and I believe God's people will,  spend an eternity searching out the glory of Christ in the gospel, and find himself only on its precipice. The gospel is God's incomprehensible wisdom and marvelous, unmerited grace on full display.  It is, as 1 Timothy chapter 1 calls it, the glory of God. The gospel is the central theme of Christianity, the lifeblood of Christianity. It is our boast, our motivation, and our only hope. The gospel is our life.
The gospel, simply put, is the power of God to salvation; it is God's means of saving mankind. This is the simplest definition that Paul uses to describe the gospel in Romans chapter 1, verse 16. Here is a short synopsis of the gospel. There are three major issues addressed in the gospel: the nature of God, the nature of fallen man, and the atonement of Christ. The first two issues deal with the need for the gospel, and the third is God's provision for that need. God is holy, and just, and wrathful towards sin. Every man, after the fall of Adam, is born with a sinful nature. This creates a major dilemma for mankind. If God carries out perfect justice on humanity, all would be condemned without exception. But God, being rich in mercy, provided a means of salvation and atonement for sin - His Son, Jesus Christ. God put on flesh by becoming fully man, lived a perfect life, and then died on a cross to bear the sin of man and the wrath of God.
That is an extremely basic overview of the gospel. Now, in order to correct misunderstandings you may have of the gospel, I am going to list five things that the gospel is not. So, here we go.

  1. The gospel is not God's reaction to the fall (Adam's sin). The bible is unequivocal on this matter. The gospel wasn't an afterthought to sin, it was the eternal plan of God. God wasn't shocked by Adam's sin, nor was He befuddled about the course of action to take. He not only knew it was going to happen, but it also was a part of His glorious plan of redemption. It was designed, not accidental. Before God ever set into motion the creation of the universe, He decreed and predestined the gospel. Ephesians chapter 3, verse 11 calls the gospel, "the eternal purpose of God realized in Christ Jesus." 2 Timothy chapter 1, verse 9 says, "who (God) saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began." 
  2. The gospel is not merely the entry way into Christianity, after which you go on to deeper things. I'm shocked by how little the gospel is preached in contemporary evangelical churches in America, but I'm even more shocked by the trivial value ascribed to it. The gospel encompasses so much rich doctrine that is barely ever touched upon from the pulpit. We assume topics such as election, predestination, the atonement, original & imputed sin, and the attributes of God are too intellectually lofty for the people to grasp, and that the people are better off hearing more practical sermons about simpler themes such as financial wisdom or honesty. There is no doctrine more necessary or more practical than that which concerns the gospel. The pages of Scripture are filled with the glorious theme of Christ and His cross, and this theme ought to be preached. The moment Jesus Christ comes back you will understand all eschatology, but, as I iterated earlier, you will spend an eternity in wonder and awe of the glory of God in the gospel. 
  3. The gospel is not a remedy for self esteem issues, a promise for financial prosperity and success, or a guarantee for physical health while on earth. The gospel is about Christ redeeming sinful humanity, and reconciling them back to God the Father. It is not a social gospel that fixes social problems and fulfills social needs. God's gospel is designed to solve this universal problem: how can God be just, and simply forgive sinners without satisfying His justice? That is the colossal issue that the gospel is designed to fix. For in the gospel, God can be just, and justify the one who has faith in Jesus Christ because God satisfied his justice and wrath at the cross. Is there joy in God? Yes, fullness of joy. Is there peace given to God's children? Yes, peace that surpasses understanding. Is there comfort, security, hope, and love In Christ? Most assuredly. But those blessings are all found in God. God is the gospel; He is the great reward Jesus spoke of in Matthew five. Preach Christ and Him crucified. Don't make people promises of health now, or prosperity now, for no such promise is ever given in the gospel. Don't flatter people with your speech in order to avoid dealing with sin. The gospel offers redemption from sin through Christ, and reconciliation to God. Tell people that glorious truth.
  4. The gospel is not different for different people. Don't misunderstand me. I'm an advocate for being all things to all men so that they may be saved. That's biblical. I'm not, however, an advocate for reducing, or changing the gospel. How we act in certain situations with certain types of people may change, the way we present the gospel to different people may change, but the core message of the gospel cannot be changed. There are different cultures and different personality types, but people are still generally the same - sinful. That's what Romans chapter 3, verses 9-20, clearly teaches us. Preaching the gospel with a special focus on God's love is perfectly fine. Preaching the gospel with a special focus on the coming judgment of God is perfectly fine. Distorting the gospel in order to make it more palpable to unregenerate people is not fine. 
  5. The gospel is not primarily motivated by man. God's motivation to save man is found in Himself. The impetus in divine redemption is the nature of God. If it was not so, no one would be saved. The only thing we can evoke in God is wrath. The bible teaches that, "the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men" (Romans 1:18) and "no one is righteous, no, not one." (Romans 3:10) Therefore, there is no hope in our own abilities, righteousness, or efforts to be able to attract God. God's motivation to save you and I must come utterly from Himself. God's love must transcend all human action, will, and effort. It must be in spite of man, not because of Him. God loves us because God is love. The eternal fount of God's love flows from Himself, and is poured lavishly upon mankind. God must also be motivated by His own glory. In Ezekiel chapter 36, when prophesying about the salvation that would come through Christ, God makes it clear He is acting for the sake of His holy name - His glory. God saves us because He is devoted to His own glory, and because He is rich in mercy and great in love toward us.
Is the gospel you believe exportable, or should it be quarantined? I will end with this exhortation: know the true gospel of Christ. Muse upon it, study it, believe it. Fill your soul with these grand truths so that they may overflow to evangelism. There is no worthier cause than living for, and if need be, dying for Christ's great gospel.

     By: Chris Blaise

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