On the gospel…

I was talking about the gospel with a couple of young pastors the other day. Here’s some rough thoughts.

If the spreading the gospel were merely handing out meals at a soup kitchen or merely providing shelter for the homeless and afflicted, if the gospel were merely about clothing the naked, if the gospel were simply about freeing the financially oppressed, then what would necessitate Paul’s words in Romans 1:16?

 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believes; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.

If the gospel were merely all about relieving societal and financial pressures for people, then Paul and all believers of all times would have nothing whereof to be ashamed. Furthermore, it wouldn’t be foolishness to the Greeks (1 Cor. 1) — unregenerate Gentiles have no problems giving to charities and setting up foundations, etc. Also, it would by all means not be a stumblingblock to the Jews (1 Cor. 1); they were already required to give to the poor!

Paul addresses this issue because the gospel is first and foremost a powerful, life-changing message — one of good news. It is the message of Christ crucified and risen again from the dead — the message that Jesus Christ became sin for us, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God. It’s a message of God’s love for the world — that whosoever believes in him, should not perish but have everlasting life. It’s the message of the cross that is offensive___

try to see it clearly

  1. #1 by phil on July 15, 2007 - 11:58 am

    Hey Dave,
    I understand what you’re getting at, but I kind of think you’re reacting against a straw man to some extent. I can’t say I’ve really heard anyone say that the gospel is “merely handing out meals at a soup kitchen or merely providing shelter for the homeless and afflicted..etc” I have heard people say or imply that those things are part of the gospel, but not the whole.

    I would say that both proclamation and demonstration need to be part of a presentation of the Gospel. If it just proclamation, it is just words. If it is just demonstration, it becomes a social project with no real power behind it. I would also say that demonstration could include things you don’t list there like healings or other miracles. It seems like demonstration is one thing that the Holy Spirit could contextualize (I know that word has all sorts of baggage, but I’m not meaning it in a postmodern sense) how this happens.

    I think we would do well to focus on the Gospel by saying it how Jesus said it, “the Kingdom of God is at hand”. Jesus’ death and resurrection opened the gates to the Kingdom for all. Certainly the message of the cross still contains an element of offense, and I think it always will.

  2. #2 by clearly on July 15, 2007 - 2:31 pm

    Hey Phil,

    It would be hard to disagree with most of what you said — I don’t really see what you said as being in opposition to what I posted.

    We probably have different ideas of the kingdom to some extent, but I don’t believe that there can be a kingdom without a cross (Col. 1:13-14) — the cross comes before the kingdodm — Christ’s suffering precedes his glorification.

  3. #3 by clearly on July 15, 2007 - 2:33 pm

    Also, I don’t think that social aid is part of the gospel. I think it validates it (or at least miracles did for Christ) and I think that good works, in general, flow from the gospel. I don’t think we will agree on this_

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