The Gospel

Published on Sep 21st, 2016 by Pastor Ed Hlad | 0
The Gospel

The Gospel

Sometimes it is not what we say but what we don’t say that is important. I have heard a tremendous amount about the love of God and his desire to protect us, to empower us, to guide us, to fill us, to bring us joy, to make us strong, and his desire to help us succeed in life. All of those are great truths about God and his work in the lives of his children but what is disturbing is that these truths are often spoken about as “sharing the gospel”. The truth that God loves us and is empowering us to do great things in the kingdom of God may make an encouraging song but it falls way short of being the gospel. When I was growing up the church faced a similar problem as people tried to make the gospel a little more appealing so they came up with the phrase, “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life”. It is such an appealing truth that draws so many people that the church then hesitates to bring the equally important truth that in our present state we are under the wrath of God due to our sinful natures. That truth is not as appealing to the masses so we tend to water that down the best we can. What is often shared is that God loves us and Jesus died for us, demonstrating that love, and when we accept that love, then we can love one another and the world will be a better place. Trying to love others is very difficult and so God will give us strength to overcome and continue to give to make a difference. There is truth in those statements but I fear that as we rejoice in those truths we miss the fact that those statements are not the gospel.

I am not saying that the gospel needs to be complicated. Paul summarized it beautifully in I Corinthians 15:3, “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.” There is no greater summary of the Gospel. Each element is so important. We must point people to the authority of the Scriptures. We must know Christ. Paul used the title Messiah. His readers would recognize the importance of the “anointed one” and who he was. That is why the resurrection is so important. Jesus was more than simply a man who came and died. He was God himself who conquered sin and death. But Jesus did not simply die as a martyr. He died for our sins. He took our place and appeased the wrath of God so that we could be reconciled to the Father. All of those truths, stated so simply, point to the purpose of the rest of the Scriptures that flesh these truths out for us. These truths are of first importance and we cannot then take more liberty and boil them down to anything less. Anything less is not the Gospel.

There is popular phrase that, if we are not careful, will also lead us away from the gospel: “Preach the gospel every day. If necessary use words.” I know the origin of this phrase is debated but think about it for just a minute. I know that it encourages us to live our lives in a manner that reflects that we have been changed by Jesus. That is a good thing. But can we preach the gospel without words? We can demonstrate the fruit of the gospel in our lives but the gospel is words. It must be expressed with words. Keep thinking about this. How do I demonstrate through my actions that I was under the wrath of God without hope? I may be able to demonstrate that God loves someone but is that really the gospel?

Think about this some more. I also know a number of Christians that talk about the Trinity, the providence of God, the immutability of God, the impeccability of Christ, etc. and believe that those theological ideas are the gospel. They too, have missed the mark.

Many people may think that I am a crusty old Baptist who thinks he is the only one going to heaven. I have been told that my views about the gospel are why I am not seeing more people come to Christ through my life. I know that the criticism has some merit. I cannot allow the fact that I believe the church is out of balance in shouting the love of God without the wrath of God cause me to shout the wrath of God without shouting the amazing love and grace of God. What we need to see is how much is at stake here. If we muddle up the gospel then we lose everything. Of all things, the gospel needs to be clear in our minds and hearts. It is not that we cannot speak of theological things or share the desire of God to empower our daily walk. We should speak of those things. We just shouldn’t confuse them with the gospel.

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