Much as some would like to impress us with figures of how the Evangelical church is doubling in size and mega churches are springing up with exciting sermon series and drawing young people in droves, it is good to sit back and take stock. So, is the gospel being preached? You see…
Excite them with edgy or racy sermon series?
A regrettable development in current evangelicalism is that the term “gospel” is often used in a way that lacks the content of the gospel as preached by Christ and His apostles. Today we hear, “come to Jesus and have a better marriage,” or “come to Jesus and find purpose in life,” or “come to Jesus and He will solve your economic or emotional problems.” None of these statements is the gospel. First of all, do the hearers of this weak message know who Jesus is? Perhaps some are Mormons who claim to believe in Jesus, but have a different Jesus. Secondly, do those who hear this message know what Jesus did for them? Maybe they hear that Christ died on the cross; but why? If Jesus came to solve their marriage problems, give them a better job, or get them off of drugs, why did He need to die on the cross for these matters? This confuses people because it is confusing. Jesus could help people solve problems without dying on the cross. God has the power to give people better marriages and find them better jobs without having His only begotten Son killed by murderous rebels.
Paul told the Philippians of Christ’s pre-existence with God and as God (Philippians 2:6), His death on the cross (Philippians 2:8), and His subsequent exaltation (Philippians 2:9). This is the essence of the person and work of Christ. This work of Christ was not to help people have less stress in the workplace, but to deliver them from the wrath of God against sin!
The true gospel is about God reconciling sinners (enemies) to Himself through the blood atonement:
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. (Romans 5:8-10)
The false “gospel” being preached today says that Jesus came to save people from a lack of purpose, lack of happiness, or from living a stress filled and problem filled existence. The true gospel delivers sinners who are God’s enemies (whether they know it or not) from God’s wrath through the blood atonement. This is the gospel Paul preached and this is the “faith of the gospel” around which Paul told the Philippians they should strive to unify. Any church that does not clearly and publicly preach this message from the pulpit, yet talks about “unity,” is promoting a false and man-made unity that is unbiblical.
The true Biblical understanding of the gospel is shown by Paul’s address to the Ephesian elders (Acts 20:17-35). Paul reminded them of his previous preaching to them: “how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you publicly and from house to house, solemnly testifying to both Jews and Greeks of repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 20:20, 21). The gospel says, “repent and believe.” If repentance is not preached, then the apostolic pattern is not being followed and the Great Commission is not being obeyed (see Luke 24:47). After God established a church in Ephesus through the gospel, Paul nurtured them. Here is his account of how he did so: “Therefore I testify to you this day, that I am innocent of the blood of all men. For I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole purpose of God” (Acts 20:27). Whatever of God’s purpose is revealed is to be declared publicly. The implication is that the preacher who knows the whole counsel of God but fails to preach it is guilty before God.
Excerpted from True and false Unity.