25 November 2012

Today's Christianity Has Emasculated the Message of Salvation

Photo: GTY
Twentieth-century Christianity has tended to take a minimalist approach to the gospel. Unfortunately, the legitimate desire to express the heart of the gospel clearly has given way to a less wholesome endeavor. It is a campaign to distill the essentials of the message to the barest possible terms. The glorious gospel of Christ—which Paul called "the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes" (Rom. 1:16)—includes all the truth about Christ. But American evangelicalism tends to regard the gospel as a "plan of salvation." We have reduced the message to a list of facts stated in the fewest possible words—and getting fewer all the time. You've probably seen these prepackaged "plans of salvation": "Six Steps to Peace with God"; "Five Things God Wants You to Know"; "Four Spiritual Laws"; "Three Truths You Can't Live Without"; "Two Issues You Must Settle"; or "One Way to Heaven."

Christians today are often cautioned not to say too much to the lost. Certain spiritual issues are labeled taboo when speaking to the unconverted: God's law, Christ's lordship, turning from sin, surrender, obedience, judgment, and hell. Such things are not to be mentioned, lest we "add something to the offer of God's free gift." Proponents of no-lordship evangelism take the reductionist trend to its furthest extreme. Wrongly applying the Reformed doctrine of sola fide ("faith alone"), they make faith the only permissible topic when speaking to non-Christians about their duty before God. Then they render faith utterly meaningless by stripping it of everything but its notional aspects.

This, some believe, preserves the purity of the gospel.

What it actually has done is emasculate the message of salvation. It has also populated the church with "converts" whose faith is counterfeit and whose hope hangs on a bogus promise. Numbly saying they "accept Christ as Savior," they brazenly reject His rightful claim as Lord. Paying Him glib lip service, they utterly scorn Him with their hearts (Mark 7:6). Casually affirming Him with their mouths, they deliberately deny Him with their deeds (Titus 1:16). Addressing Him superficially as "Lord, Lord," they stubbornly decline to do His bidding (Luke 6:46). Such people fit the tragic description of the "many" in Matthew 7 who will one day be stunned to hear Him say, "I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness" (v. 23, emphasis added).

The gospel is not primarily news about a "plan," but a call to trust in a Person. It is not a formula that must be prescribed to sinners in a series of steps. It does not call for a mere decision of the mind, but a surrender of the heart, mind, and will—the whole person—to Christ. It is not a message that can be capsulized, abridged, and shrink-wrapped, then offered as a generic remedy for every kind of sinner. Ignorant sinners need to be instructed about who He is and why He has the right to demand their obedience. Self-righteous sinners need to have their sin exposed by the demands of God's law. Careless sinners need to be confronted with the reality of God's impending judgment. Fearful sinners need to hear that God in His mercy has provided a way of deliverance. All sinners must understand how utterly holy God is. They must comprehend the basic truths of Christ's sacrificial death and the triumph of His resurrection. They need to be confronted with God's demand that they turn from their sin to embrace Christ as Lord and Savior.

The form of the message will vary in each case. But the content must always drive home the reality of God's holiness and the sinner's helpless condition. Then it points sinners to Christ as a sovereign but merciful Lord who has purchased full atonement for all who will turn to Him in faith.

— John MacArthur, The Gospel According to the Apostles, (Thomas Nelson: 2000), 172—174.

Further Reading
Church-Going Gimmicks
The World's Propitiation
The Alpha Course Receives Praise from Moody Radio's Janet Parshall


  1. Yes. We need to talk about the sin, death, judgement, hell, God's law, obedience, and Christ's supremacy as Lord of Lords because they are all connected to genuine salvation. God's law is especially necessary, because it is the schoolmaster that points us to Christ (Gal 3:24). The faith alone that saves bears real fruit.

    Also, it bothers me that salvation is sometimes sold as simply "having a home in heaven" when we die, which is true, but with no mention of the goal of salvation is us being holy as He is holy. That is also an incomplete message.


    1. yes carolyn you're right about faith alone.

      the problem I find is that many, many people think that they can have their "faith" their many paths-that it originates from them and believe in Christ-a Christ of their own fashion as they choose and it saves them.

      There's only "One faith"-Ephesians 4:5 and this one faith is "(by GRACE). This grace is a GIFT, this faith is a GIFT-Ephesians 2:8. This glorious FAITH comes from GOD not from "human decision"-John 1:12. It's the One faith that says I have nothing to lose and comes to the end of SELF, and says I can give God myself

      Rom 11:32 For God has bound all men over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all.

      Rom 9:18 Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden.

      A.W. Pink-“with many it is because they are willing for Christ to save them from hell, but are not willing for Him to save them from self."

    2. Opps correction: John 1:12 should be John 1:13~


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