04 March 2012

The Gospel is Not Something We Do

It was reported in the article, The Justice Conference Seeks God's Heart for Justice, but Which God? that  the Justice Conference, which took place from February 24-25, 2012, sought to "speak to the broad idea of God's heart for justice." That article sought to demonstrate the irony behind the inclusion of many of the speakers for this event, as the definition of "God" seems to vary greatly between many of them.

It was also noted that the Justice Conference website declared the following:
Is the conference a Christian Conference? 
While the organizing organizations and many of the conference team are Christians, the conference seeks to be a blend of about 70% faith based and 30% non-faith based in speakers and organizations represented. (Online Source).
To which the aforementioned article on this blog replied,
If only 70% of the speakers are "faith based," and even those individuals differ widely in their profession of the Christian faith, then how can this event ever hope to speak to the "broad idea of God's heart for justice?" How can this conference ever hope to address "God's heart for justice" if those engaging in the conversations are ultimately not seeking after the same God? (Online Source)
Now, an article from the Christian Post dated February 28, 2012, reads:
Justice Conference: Social Action Essential Part of Gospel
Getting involved in solving social ills should be an essential part of the Christian community, not an optional extra. That was the resounding message heard by 4,000 people at the Justice Conference this past weekend. 
Don Golden, who works at World Relief, which was a co-sponsor of the Justice Conference, told The Christian Post the event was about more than just bringing about awareness to today's problems. 
"It's a deepening of the foundations of social action especially from a solid evangelical and Christ-following perspective," he said. "There are many practical things [presented at the conference], but there was one idea that kept coming through and it was this whole idea of really bringing the Gospel to bear to the Church; that following Jesus necessitates putting things right, right relationships particularly among the most vulnerable, the forgotten, the voiceless. 
"That the essence of Christ's practical ministry, the way he lived is essential to the way of Jesus and that the followers of Jesus can't look at service to the weak and vulnerable as optional extra, but rather as an essential part of the Christian Gospel.
"You could hear that (message) coming from every speaker," he said. (Online Source)
First of all, it is difficult to imagine that "every speaker" relayed the message that "the essence of Christ's practical ministry, the way he lived is essential to the way of Jesus and that the followers of Jesus can't look at service to the weak and vulnerable as [an] optional extra, but rather as an essential part of the Christian Gospel." The organizers of the Justice Conference themselves already admitted that not all speakers were Christians. And, as this article and this article demonstrate, even those speakers who profess Christ seem to do so with differing definitions.

Secondly, let us make it perfectly clear that this blog is in no way against Christians performing good works and good deeds, so long as it is expressly understood that such action does not save. Rather, we do good works because we have been saved. Similarly, then, the question ought to be asked: is social action "an essential part of the Christian Gospel?" A related question might be: is the Gospel something we do?

In October 2011, Al Mohler answered a similar question in a debate with Jim Wallis. Mohler's answer to the question, "Is Social Justice an Essential Part of the Mission of the Church?" was a well-argued and biblical "no." (The video of that debate may be accessed here). To simplify Mohler's accurate and well-stated position, his argument was, in essence, that while Christians ought to do good works, and while good works should be an expected and necessary fruit of salvation, "social justice" in and of itself is not an "essential" part of the Church's mission. What is the Church's ultimate mission? To call all men everywhere to repent and turn to Jesus Christ (Acts 17:30-31).
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)
Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself. (Acts 2:37-39)
Now it seems that those involved with the Justice Conference have strived through this event to teach that social action is "an essential part of the Christian Gospel." So, is it? Or can someone be saved apart from witnessing the good deeds of a Christian? Or, as asked above, is the Gospel something we do?

There is a quote that is often erroneously attributed to Francis of Assisi that reads, "Preach the Gospel, if necessary use words." What a sad and detrimental statement! To look in any dictionary, one will notice that the word "gospel" is listed as a noun, not a verb. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is just that - the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Gospel is not your testimony or mine, nor is it comprised of our philanthropic efforts. Rather, the Gospel is the good news that Jesus Christ, the God-man, humbled Himself to come to earth, lived the sinless life that we never could, was beaten and crucified as an atoning sacrifice for our sins, and was raised three days later, overcoming sin, death and Satan for all time. If we repent of our sin and place our trust solely in the person and work of Christ for salvation, then we are saved from the just condemnation that we deserve.

Nowhere does Scripture indicate that visible good works are an essential part of sharing the Gospel with others. We may feed the poor, but what good does it really do if we do not declare the truth of the Gospel? Where is the justice in sending that person away physically nourished while they are yet spiritually starving? The Gospel is comprised of the person and work of Jesus, not of you or I. When we relegate the Gospel to a point where it consists of anything we do, we perform a grave disservice. How dare we think that any work performed by our sinful hands could bring someone to salvation! How dare we think that we must add our works to the story of Christ!

You and I cannot "do" the Gospel. Only One could truly "do" it and that is Christ. So let us declare that truth boldly and loudly with words to all who will hear.

4 comments:

  1. More old heresy of pelagianism at work...

    "The Pelagian Captivity of the Church"
    RC Sproul
    Link: http://www.bible-researcher.com/sproul1.html

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  2. 2Cr 6:14 Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?

    Amos 3:3 Can two walk together, except they be agreed?

    Jesus Christ did not come to feed everyone, to clothe everyone, to heal everyone, he came to do the WILL OF THE FATHER. He came to die on the cross and give us way more than satisfy our physical needs. Our GREATEST NEED is to be saved from the wrath of God and forgiven of all our sins so that we can have eternal life.

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  3. Great, great article, Chris. I just completed, along with my small group, a study on Richard Stearns' book, "A Hole in the Gospel". Which gave a little lip service to sharing the gospel, but mostly was a great big guilt trip. To paraphrase, "We can't feed and clothe and heal everyone, but you should do what you can, and whatever you're doing, it's not enough." Little room for grace, I thought.

    I can't imagine not giving generously to those suffering around me, because it breaks my heart to learn about it, not because I'm so narcissistic I think that will somehow ease my way into heaven, get in good with the boss, so to speak. And yes, that was a post-salvation development.

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  4. Thanks for the kind words, Kelly. More and more I hear Christians speaking of "doing" the Gospel, and I finally decided to address it!

    I can imagine that Stearns' book was nothing more than a primer on the social gospel. It's terrifying, really, to think how many professing Christians have been deceived into believing that their good works comprise the Gospel, rather than understanding the glorious work of Jesus Christ on our behalf!

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