The Perils of Preaching an Implications-Free Gospel

Only, they asked us to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do. — Galatians 2:10 Jared Wilson: One of the strangest developments of late in the ongoing scrums over the orthodoxy or heterodoxy of “social justice” is the shifts in understanding by various evangelical tribes and movements of the distinctions and connections between law and gospel. “Just preach the gospel” has become a frequent rebuke heard from camps who are concerned about the muddling of gospel and works. To be clear and fair, not everyone concerned about emphases on social justice agrees with the alleged antidote of “just preaching the gospel,” but this imperative has been leveled enough — and from some places of influence — that it has gained a fair amount of traction. Also to be fair, the muddling of gospel and works is always a threat to real Christianity, and nobody is immune. We must take care not to confuse any works, be they works we call “social justice”

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How Do We Work for Justice and Not Undermine Evangelism?

D.A. Carson: (1) By doing evangelism. I know numerous groups that claim to be engaging in “holistic” ministry because they are helping the poor in Chicago or because they are digging wells in the Sahel, even though few if any of the workers have taken the time to explain to anyone who Jesus is and what he has done to reconcile us to God. Their ministry isn’t holistic; it’s halfistic, or quarteristic. (2) By being careful not to malign believers of an earlier generation. The popular buzz is that evangelicals before this generation focused all their energies on proclamation and little or nothing on deeds of mercy. Doubtless one can find sad examples of such reductionism, but the sweeping condescension toward our evangelical forbears is neither true nor kind. To take but one example: The mission SIM has emphasized evangelism, church planting, and building indigenous churches for a century—yet without talking volubly of holistic ministry it built, and still operates,

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Beware Theological Dangers on Both Left and Right

Tom Schreiner: Paul charges Timothy to “guard the good deposit” (2 Tim. 1:14), which is the gospel of Jesus Christ. We’re to remain vigilant in guarding the gospel because both the Scriptures and also church history remind us that many have swerved from the truth. Even a cursory reading of the New Testament reveals that upholding the truth and the purity of the gospel has been a challenge from the beginning. We aren’t facing anything new in our day, and we have the promise that the church of Jesus Christ will triumph over “the gates of Hades” (Matt. 16:18). In this article I want to briefly consider threats to the gospel—from the left and from the right. Dangers from the Left Paul’s speech to the Ephesian elders is the only speech in Acts addressed to Christians (Acts 20:17–35), and it’s significant that it’s addressed to leaders, to the elders and overseers in the church (Acts 20:17, 28). Paul warns them in

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Evangelism Starts With God

David Qaoud: One of the biggest mistakes I’ve made in evangelism is telling people the good news without telling them the bad news. No wonder I’m met with blank stares or “That’s nice for you, but not for me.” When we don’t tell unbelievers about sin and wrath, they often think grace is irrelevant. They don’t see their need for a Savior. I know I’m not alone. Myself, I suspect I don’t like sharing the bad news because of fear of man. I don’t want to offend people or bring up words like hell and wrath and sin because then the conversation may get weird. I don’t like awkward moments. I want to seem cool. I want to win people to Christ simply by telling people only about Christ and avoiding all the difficult parts. DEFINING EVANGELISM But true evangelism requires more. As it’s been said, evangelism is sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ with an unbeliever with the aim

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Two Reasons the Trinity Matters

Justin Dillehay: How much does the Trinity matter to you? If you found out tomorrow that God is actually only one person instead of three, would your relationship with God feel any different? Would it require a drastic overhaul in the way you think or witness or pray? How much does the Trinity matter to you personally? How much does the Trinity matter to your church? If you found out tomorrow that your beloved youth pastor had become a staunch modalist—he now insists the Father, Son, and Spirit are actually one person in three manifestations instead of three distinct persons—would your church excommunicate him? Or would that seem like splitting hairs? Is the Athanasian Creed really right to say, “Whoever wishes to be saved must think thus of the Trinity. And whoever rejects this faith will perish everlastingly”? Or is that the overstatement of the millennium? Judging by the church’s historic creeds, Christians used to think the Trinity is really important. Judging

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The Message of the Bible

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones: We are all aware of problems in this world. Everyone knows what it is to be weary, to be disappointed, and to struggle. And we have a feeling that we were not meant for this. We are all searching for some solution to the problems of life. The question is, why are you unhappy? Why do things go wrong? Why is there illness and sickness? Why should there be death? Those are the questions with which the Bible deals. The Bible talks to you about your unhappiness. Some insist that the Bible, far from being practical, is really very remote from life. But nothing in the world is as practical as the teaching of the Bible. In order to answer questions about you, the Bible starts in the most extraordinary way: “In the beginning God…” It starts with God. Before I begin to ask any questions about myself and my problems, I ought to ask questions like

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Springs of life will flow

Closing thoughts from John Piper’s recent address at T4G’18: New God, New Gospel, New Gladness: How Is Christian Joy Distinct? And on this side of the incarnation and the cross, this new gladness is described with striking relevance to our text like this: The god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. . . . [But] God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” [to remedy our blindness] has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. (2 Corinthians 4:4, 6) What was the psalmist crying out for in Psalm 4:6? “Lift up the light of your facr Springs of Life Will Flow And from this new heart of gladness, surpassing all the joys of the world, flow all springs of life (Proverbs 4:23). Out of

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The Gospel in Three Words

Russell Moore: Could you explain the gospel to an unbeliever using only three words? That was the challenge someone posted a couple of weeks ago on social media. “One can’t explain the whole gospel in only three words,” I mumbled to myself. “That’s why we have a canon of 66 books.” The more I thought about it, though, the more my mind changed, and I became open to taking up the challenge. I think I could explain the gospel in three words, so long as I would have follow-up time to explain all three words. And those words would be “Lord Jesus Christ.” 1. Lord The word “Lord” would mean pointing to the Godness of God, what it means to speak of God as sovereign king and as loving Father. This would entail a discussion of God as Creator, what it means for us to be his creatures. This would involve a discussion of what God has revealed to us

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The Gospel Is Not Just for Unbelievers, but Also for Believers

D.A. Carson: The gospel is not a minor theme that deals with the point of entry into the Christian way, to be followed by a lot of material that actually brings about the life transformation. Very large swaths of evangelicalism simply presuppose that this is the case. Preaching the gospel, it is argued, is announcing how to be saved from God’s condemnation; believing the gospel guarantees you won’t go to hell. But for actual transformation to take place, you need to take a lot of discipleship courses, spiritual enrichment courses, “Go deep” spiritual disciplines courses, and the like. You need to learn journaling, or asceticism, or the simple lifestyle, or Scripture memorization; you need to join a small group, an accountability group, or a women’s Bible study. Not for a moment would I speak against the potential for good of all of these steps; rather, I am speaking against the tendency to treat these as postgospel disciplines, disciplines divorced from

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What is the gospel?

    Justin Taylor: Don Carson’s lengthy chapter in For the Fame of God’s Name is entitled, “What Is the Gospel?—Revisited.” Below is a substantial section where he interacts with and builds upon Greg Gilbert’s analysis in What Is the Gospel?. All that the canonical Gospels say must be read in the light of the plotline of these books: they move inevitably toward Jesus’ cross and resurrection, which provides forgiveness and the remission of sins. That is why it is so hermeneutically backward to try to understand the teaching of Jesus in a manner cut off from what he accomplished; it is hermeneutically backward to divorce the sayings of Jesus in the Gospels from the plotline of the Gospels. A more helpful analysis of the problem of defining how broad or how focused the gospel is comes from a series of posts by Greg Gilbert on the 9Marks blog. He argues that some passages where “gospel” is used focus on the message a person must

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What is “the gospel of the kingdom”?

9Marks: It’s very popular these days to talk about “the gospel of the kingdom.” Many people claim that when Jesus came “preaching the gospel of the kingdom” (Matt. 4:23) he was preaching a message about the overthrow of evil government powers, the transformation of society, and the lifting up of the poor. All kinds of revolutionaries can get behind these ideas. But is that what the Bible means when it speaks about the gospel of the kingdom? Not exactly. When Philip the evangelist preached “the good news about the kingdom of God,” men and women believed and were baptized (Acts 8:12). This “gospel of the kingdom” called them to turn from their sin, trust in Jesus Christ and begin a new life, symbolized by baptism. On the other hand, when Jesus speaks about the kingdom of God coming near (Mk. 1:15), he is referring to something truly revolutionary. He means that with his own coming to earth, God’s saving rule and

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Moralism is Not the Gospel (But Many Christians Think It Is)

Al Mohler: One of the most amazing statements by the Apostle Paul is his indictment of the Galatian Christians for abandoning the Gospel. “I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel,” Paul declared. As he stated so emphatically, the Galatians had failed in the crucial test of discerning the authentic Gospel from its counterfeits. His words could not be more clear: “But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you have received, he is to be accursed!” [Gal. 1:6-7] This warning from the Apostle Paul, expressed in the language of the Apostle’s shock and grief, is addressed not only to the church in Galatia,

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What Is the Gospel?

W. Robert Godfrey: Many Christians, churches, and organizations regularly use the word gospel to describe their convictions. Theological controversies have occurred and do occur over the meaning of the gospel and who preaches it faithfully. What does that familiar word gospel mean? The best way to answer that question is to turn to the Bible. In the Greek New Testament, the noun euangelion (“gospel”) appears just over seventy times. Since, in one sense, the whole New Testament is about the gospel, we might have expected the word to have been used more frequently. Even more surprisingly, its use varies greatly among the authors of the New Testament books. Paul uses the word more than three times as often as all the other authors combined. Most of the other uses are found in Matthew and Mark, with very few, if any, in Luke, John, Peter, and James. The word gospel most simply means “good news.” The word is not unique to the Christian message, but it was also used in the

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The Gospel-Shaped Pastor

Jared Wilson: Pastors are a motley bunch of souls. We represent different personalities and tribes, different methodologies and styles, not to mention denominations, traditions, and theologies. But I’ve learned over the years that there is something many of us all have in common—a profound sense of insecurity for which the only antidote is the gospel. It’s easy to succumb to the temptation to compare one’s ministry to that of another pastor, or give in to the need to impress others and be liked. The only remedy for these ministry idolatries and all others is the gospel because it announces, among many things, we are justified, accepted, loved, and satisfied by God in Christ. Until pastors discover and embrace their identity in Christ—which is accomplished by Christ and received by faith, not works—they will keep trying to find their identity in their position, their preaching, their persona, and their programs. While every pastor would affirm the gospel’s centrality to their ministry,

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10 Things You Should Know about the Gospel

Sam Storms: As much as we hear about the gospel of Jesus Christ one would think that everyone is on the same page when it comes to defining this word. Sadly, that is not the case. So just what is the gospel? How might we define it? Here are ten things to keep in mind. (1) The “gospel” is the gloriously great good news of what our triune God has graciously done in the incarnation, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ to satisfy his own wrath against us and to secure the forgiveness of sins and perfect righteousness for all who trust in him by faith alone. Christ fulfilled, on our behalf, the perfectly obedient life under God’s law that we should have lived, but never could. He died, in our place, the death that we deserved to suffer but now never will. And by his rising from the dead he secures for those who believe the promise of

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Why the Gospel Requires Undivided Attention

Martyn Lloyd-Jones: Heed the Gospel The gospel of Jesus Christ, the message of the book of Hebrews, calls upon the world to give earnest heed to what it has to say. The world is not merely to give it a quick glance or read a casual article about it or have an occasional discussion about it or on special days or occasions listen to what the church has to say. Earnest heed means undivided attention. There is a very good illustration of this in the sixteenth chapter of the book of Acts where we read about the apostle Paul preaching the gospel for the first time in Europe. A woman named Lydia heard Paul’s witness, “whose heart the Lord opened, [so] that she attended unto [heeded] the things which were spoken of [by] Paul” (Acts 16:14). She paid attention or considered or studied; she did not just sit and listen and then go away and forget it all. She paid

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The One Genuine Cure for Legalism and Antinomianism

Sinclair Ferguson: Antinomianism takes various forms. People do not always fit neatly into our categorizations, nor do they necessarily hold all the logical implications of their presuppositions. Here we are using “antinomianism” in the theological sense: rejecting the obligatory (“binding on the conscience”) nature of the Decalogue for those who are in Christ. Antinomianism, it was widely assumed in the eighteenth century, is essentially a failure to understand and appreciate the place of the law of God in the Christian life. But just as there is more to legalism than first meets the eye, the same is true of antinomianism. Opposites Attract? Perhaps the greatest misstep in thinking about antinomianism is to think of it simpliciter as the opposite of legalism. It would be an interesting experiment for a budding doctoral student in psychology to create a word-association test for Christians. It might include: Old Testament: Anticipated answer → New Testament Sin: Anticipated answer → Grace David: Anticipated answer → Goliath Jerusalem: Anticipated answer → Babylon Antinomianism: Anticipated answer → ?

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The Mystery of the Gospel

Al Mohler: The essential content of Christian preaching, Paul says, is the mystery of the gospel. He writes that the preaching of the Word of God is seen in “the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations, but has now been manifested to His saints” (Col. 1:26). A mystery? All around Asia Minor and the ancient world at this time, there were mystery religions and mystery cults, and there were some who thought, especially from the Roman perspective, that Christianity was just another one of them. After all, it had its mystery. And Paul said, “Guilty as charged.” Yet this is not a mystery of esoteric knowledge. This is not a gnosticism of elitist intellectuals. No, this is a mystery that was hidden by God until it could be publicly revealed in the incarnation of Jesus Christ, in His death, burial, and resurrection. This is a mystery! There is something deeply mysterious about Christian preaching, both in

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The Aesthetic Beauty of the Gospel

Mark Mattes: To be human is to be captivated by someone or something, and this is no less true for Christians. We sing “Fairest Lord Jesus” because Jesus has captivated our hearts. We experience the gospel as beautiful—that God would reach out to rebels to forgive them, embrace them, and return them to his care. But seldom do we explore how this gospel is beautiful. Luther wouldn’t seem to be a go-to thinker for a theology of beauty. He’s known for his ferocious and desperate wrestling with God and conscience. Beauty, by contrast, conveys a sense of tranquility, delight, and pleasure. These words hardly seem compatible with the storms Luther faced. But there’s another side to Luther. He had a deep appreciation for music and the visual arts. He played the lute, sang tenor, composed hymns, and was good friends with the Wittenberg painter Lucas Cranach. (He also inspired Bach.) This appreciation was undergirded by his conviction that the gospel is intrinsically beautiful. Beautiful Cross Luther’s theology

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