The 1689 Baptist Confession for the 21st Century

Chapter 8 – Christ the Mediator

1. God was pleased, in his eternal purpose, to choose and ordain the Lord Jesus, his only begotten Son, according to the covenant made between them, to be the mediator between God and humanity.1  God chose him to be prophet,2 priest,3and king,4 and to be head and savior of the church,5 the heir of all things,6 and judge of the world.7  From all eternity, God gave to the Son a people to be his offspring. In time these people would be redeemed, called, justified, sanctified, and glorified by him.8

1Isaiah 42:1; 1 Peter 1:19, 20. 2Acts 3:22. 3Hebrews 5:5, 6. 4Psalms 2:6; Luke 1:33. 5Ephesians 1:22, 23. 6Hebrews 1:2. 7Acts 17:31. 8Isaiah 53:10; John 17:6; Romans 8:30.

 

2. The Son of God, the second person of the Holy Trinity, is truly and eternally God. He is the brightness of the Father’s glory, the same in substance and equal with him. He made the world and sustains and governs everything he has made. When the fullness of time came, he took upon himself human nature, with all the essential properties and common weaknesses of it9 but without sin.10  He was conceived by the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mary. The Holy Spirit came down upon her, and the power of the Most High overshadowed her. Thus, he was born of a woman from the tribe of Judah, a descendant of Abraham and David in fulfillment of the Scriptures.11  Two whole, perfect, and distinct natures were inseparably joined together in one person, without converting one into the other or mixing them together to produce a different or blended nature. This person is truly God and truly man, yet one Christ, the only mediator between God and humanity.12

9John 1:14; Galatians 4;4. 10Romans 8:3; Hebrews 2:14, 16, 17; Hebrews 4:15. 11Matthew 1:22, 23; Luke 1:27, 31, 35. 12Romans 9:5; 1 Timothy 2:5.

 

3. The Lord Jesus, in his human nature united in this way to the divine in the person of the Son, was sanctified and anointed with the Holy Spirit beyond measure.13  He had in himself all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.14  The Father was pleased to make all fullness dwell in him15 so that—being holy, harmless, undefiled,16 and full of grace and truth17—he was thoroughly qualified to carry out the office of mediator and guarantor.18  He did not take this office upon himself but was called to it by his Father,19 who put all power and judgment in his hand and commanded him to carry them out.20

13Psalms 45:7; Acts 10:38; John 3:34. 14Colossians 2:3. 15Colossians 1:19. 16Hebrews 7:26. 17John 1:14. 18Hebrews 7:22. 19Hebrews 5:5. 20John 5:22, 27; Matthew 28:18; Acts 2:36.

 

4. The Lord Jesus most willingly undertook this office.21  To discharge it, he was born under the law22 and perfectly fulfilled it. He also experienced the punishment that we deserved and that we should have endured and suffered.23  He was made sin and a curse for us.24  He  endured extremely heavy sorrows in his soul and extremely painful sufferings in his body.25  He was crucified and died and remained in a state of death, yet his body did not decay.26  On the third day he arose from the dead27 with the same body in which he suffered.28  In this body he also ascended into heaven,29 where he sits at the right hand of his Father, interceding.30  He will return to judge men and angels at the end of the age.31

21Psalms 40:7, 8; Hebrews 10:5–10; John 10:18. 22Gal 4:4; Matthew 3:15. 23Galatians 3:13; Isaiah 53:6; 1 Peter 3:18. 242 Corinthians 5:21. 25Matthew 26:37, 38; Luke 22:44; Matthew 27:46. 26Acts 13:37. 271 Corinthians 15:3, 4. 28John 20:25, 27. 29Mark 16:19; Acts 1:9–11. 30Romans 8:34; Hebrews 9:24. 31Acts 10:42; Romans 14:9, 10; Acts 1:11; 2 Peter 2:4.

 

5. The Lord Jesus has fully satisfied the justice of God, obtained reconciliation, and purchased an everlasting inheritance in the kingdom of heaven for all those given to him by the Father.32  He has accomplished these things by his perfect obedience and sacrifice of himself, which he once for all offered up to God through the eternal Spirit.33

32John 17:2; Hebrews 9:15. 33Hebrews 9:14; Hebrews 10:14; Romans 3:25, 26.

 

6. The price of redemption was not actually paid by Christ till after his incarnation. Yet the virtue, efficacy, and benefit of it was imparted to the elect in every age since the beginning of the world, in and by those promises, types, and sacrifices that revealed him and pointed to him as the seed that would bruise the serpent’s head34 and the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.35  He is the same yesterday and today and forever.36

341 Corinthians 4:10; Hebrews 4:2; 1 Peter 1:10, 11. 35Revelation 13:8. 36Hebrews 13:8.

 

7. In his work of mediation, Christ acts according to both natures, by each nature doing what is appropriate to itself. Even so, because of the unity of the person, that which is appropriate to one nature is sometimes in Scripture attributed to the person under the designation of the other nature.37

37John 3:13; Acts 20:28

 

8. To all those for whom Christ has obtained eternal redemption, he certainly and effectually applies and imparts it. He intercedes for them,38 unites them to himself by his Spirit, and reveals to them in and by his Word the mystery of salvation. He persuades them to believe and obey39 and governs their hearts by his Word and Spirit.40  He overcomes all their enemies by his almighty power and wisdom,41 using methods and ways that are perfectly consistent with his wonderful and unsearchable governance. All these things are by free and absolute grace, apart from any condition for obtaining it that is foreseen in them.42

38John 6:37; John 10:15, 16; John 17:9; Romans 5:10. 39John 17:6; Ephesians 1:9; 1 John 5:20. 40Romans 8:9, 14. 41Psalms 110:1; 1 Corinthians 15:25, 26. 42John 3:8; Ephesians 1:8.

 

9. This office of mediator between God and humanity is appropriate for Christ alone, who is the prophet, priest, and king of the church of God. This office may not be transferred from him to anyone else, either in whole or in part.43

431 Timothy 2:5.

 

10. The number and character of these offices is essential. Because we are ignorant, we need his prophetic office.44  Because we are alienated from God and imperfect in the best of our service, we need his priestly office to reconcile us and present us to God as acceptable.45  Because we are hostile and utterly unable to return to God, and so that we can be rescued and made secure from our spiritual enemies, we need his kingly office to convince, subdue, draw, sustain, deliver, and preserve us for his heavenly kingdom.46

44John 1:18. 45Colossians 1:21; Galatians 5:17. 46John 16:8; Psalms 110:3; Luke 1:74, 75.

Confession The Faith–The 1689 Baptist Confession for the 21st Century

Chapter 7 – God’s Covenant

1. Though rational creatures are responsible to obey God as their Creator, the distance between God and these creatures is so great that they could never have attained the reward of life except by God’s voluntary condescension. He has been pleased to express this through a covenant framework.1

1Luke 17:10; Job 35:7, 8.

2. Since humanity brought itself under the curse of the law by its fall, it pleased the Lord to make a covenant of grace.2  In this covenant he freely offers to sinners life and salvation through Jesus Christ. On their part he requires faith in him, that they may be saved,3 and promises to give his Holy Spirit to all who are ordained to eternal life, to make them willing and able to believe.4

2Genesis 2:17; Galatians 3:10; Romans 3:20, 21. 3Romans 8:3; Mark 16:15, 16; John 3:16. 4Ezekiel 36:26, 27; John 6:44, 45; Psalms 110:3.

 

3. This covenant is revealed in the gospel. It was revealed first of all to Adam in the promise of salvation through the seed of the woman.5  After that, it was revealed step by step until the full revelation of it was completed in the New Testament.6  This covenant is based on the eternal covenant transaction between the Father and the Son concerning the redemption of the elect.7  Only through the grace of this covenant have those saved from among the descendants of fallen Adam obtained life and blessed immortality. Humanity is now utterly incapable of being accepted by God on the same terms on which Adam was accepted in his state of innocence.8

5Genesis 3:15. 6Hebrews 1:1. 72 Timothy 1:9; Titus 1:2; 8Hebrews 11:6, 13; Romans 4:1, 2ff.; Acts 4:12; John 8:56.

 

Additional:  Covenant of Works

 

6.1 God created humanity upright and perfect. He gave them a righteous law that would have led to life if they had kept it but threatened death if they broke it.1  Yet they did not remain for long in this position of honor. Satan used the craftiness of the serpent to seduce Eve, who then seduced Adam.

19.1 1 God gave Adam a law of comprehensive obedience written in his heart and a specific precept not to eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.1  By these God obligated him and all his descendants to personal, total, exact, and perpetual obedience.2  God promised life if Adam fulfilled it and threatened death if he broke it, and he gave Adam the power and ability to keep it.3

1Genesis 1:27; Ecclesiastes 7:29. 2Romans 10:5. 3Galatians 3:10, 12.

20.1 Because the covenant of works was broken by sin and was unable to confer life, God was pleased to proclaim the promise of Christ, the seed of the woman, as the means of calling the elect and producing in them faith and repentance.1  In this promise the gospel in its substance was revealed and made effectual for the conversion and salvation of sinners.2

1Genesis 3:15. 2Revelation 13:8.

The Fall of Mankind, and Sin and Its Punishment

Confession The Faith–The 1689 Baptist Confession for the 21st Century

Chapter 6 – The Fall of Mankind, and Sin and Its Punishment

1. God created humanity upright and perfect. He gave them a righteous law that would have led to life if they had kept it but threatened death if they broke it.1  Yet they did not remain for long in this position of honor. Satan used the craftiness of the serpent to seduce Eve, who then seduced Adam. Adam acted without any outside compulsion and deliberately transgressed the law of their creation and the command given to them by eating the forbidden fruit.2 God was pleased, in keeping with his wise and holy counsel, to permit this act, because he had purposed to direct it for his own glory.

1Genesis 2:16, 17. 2Genesis 3:12, 13; 2 Corinthians 11:3.

 

2. By this sin our first parents fell from their original righteousness and communion with God. We fell in them, and through this, death came upon all.3  All became dead in sin4 and completely defiled in all the capabilities and parts of soul and body.5

3Romans 3:23. 4Romans 5:12ff. 5Titus 1:15; Genesis 6:5; Jeremiah 17:9; Romans 3:10–19.

 

3. By God’s appointment, they were the root and the representatives of the whole human race. Because of this, the guilt of their sin was accounted, and their corrupt nature passed on, to all their offspring who descended from them by ordinary procreation.6  Their descendants are now conceived in sin7 and are by nature children of wrath,8 the servants of sin, and partakers of death9 and all other miseries—spiritual, temporal, and eternal—unless the Lord Jesus sets them free.10

6Romans 5:12–19; 1 Corinthians 15:21, 22, 45, 49. 7Psalms 51:5; Job 14:4. 8Ephesians 2:3. 9Romans 6:20; 5:12. 10Hebrews 2:14, 15; 1 Thessalonians 1:10.

 

4. All actual transgressions arise from this first corruption.11  By it we are thoroughly biased against, and disabled and antagonistic toward all that is good, and we are completely inclined toward all that is evil.12

11James 1:14, 15; Matthew 15:19. 12Romans 8:7; Colossians 1:21.

 

5. During this life, this corruption of nature remains in those who are regenerated.13  Even though it is pardoned and put to death through Christ, yet both this corruption of nature and all actions arising from it are truly and actually sin.14

13Romans 7:18,23; Ecclesiastes 7:20; 1 John 1:8. 14Romans 7:23–25; Galatians 5:17.

A Brief Introduction to the Common Slaves:

We are Slaves:

Of Jesus: “…am I now trying to win the favor of people, or God? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a slave of Christ.” Gal. 1:10 HCSB

Of the Church: “…we are not proclaiming ourselves but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your slaves because of Jesus.” 2Cor 4:5 HCSB

 

We are Common:

A Common Confession – The Common Slaves share a commitment to the supremacy of the Bible as our ultimate authority of faith and practice. And we share a common understanding of the Bible’s teaching and doctrine with those men known to church history as “the Reformers,” and are in agreement with the great confessions and creeds they produced articulating the Protestant (as opposed to Roman) understanding of the Gospel.

 

A Common Calling – The individual members of the Common Slaves are those called to serve the Church as Pastors and Elders. 

 

A Common Field – The pastors/elders and churches involved in Common Slaves are located in rural Minnesota. As such, we face common cultural realities, many of which are unknown and overlooked by the evangelical “culture makers.” We find particularly useful help, encouragement, and wisdom from each other as we serve in the same corner of God’s Kingdom.

 

It is the purpose of the Common Slaves to foster a brotherhood and network of mutual encouragement and edification among brothers who are united doctrinally, yet diverse denominationally. Furthermore, we wish to encourage and foster a sense of community and fellowship between the churches we are privileged to serve by providing regular events at which multiple congregations may gather and worship together, with a focus on the ministry of preaching. It is our hope that the lifting up and strengthening of pastor and congregation, of shepherd and sheep, will strengthen the entire rural church in our corner of Minnesota so she may be more bold in her witness and striking in her resemblance of her Savior, for the good of the little communities in which we live, which so desperately need the gospel.

The Gospel’s Hope for Fallen Minds

God created this world and all that is in it. He rules and reigns still. He declared his creation “good.”

Since Adam and Eve rebelled against God and came to know by experience the fruits of sin, life in this world has been fallen and cursed by God. From the moment we are born we are dying. Our physical death may lie in our future, but in respect to favor and life before God, we are already dead. This is true of each and every one of the 7-8 billion people on this planet bearing the image of God. Nothing works as it should. Plans fail, interpersonal conflicts arise, nations rage, and even the best inventions are often weaponized to cause pain and destruction.

Even our minds are enslaved to the corruption of a sin-filled world. 
The world attempts to answer and counter our human fallen-ness. Our adversary, Satan, deludes us into believing the lie that we are not spiritually dead, merely sick, and there is some natural cure, or creative program, which can help free the inner-mind to act upon goodness. His message is simple: You don’t need God!

On top of this, the biggest problem lies within each one of us because of our own sinful hearts. We look to find hope in things we can see, ideas we can fixate upon, solutions we can ingest, pridefully and thanklessly insisting on finding meaning and hope on our own…

The Bible’s prognosis of our health long-term, especially that of our minds is not good. We call this Total Depravity.

It is therefore, no wonder that even in an advanced technological age, the frustration and anger over humanity’s failed attempt to overcome its sin and fallenness has left us depressed, bitter and hopeless.

Blaise Pascal insightfully wrote,

It is in vain, O men, that you seek within yourselves the cure of all your miseries. All your insight only leads you to the knowledge that it is not in yourselves that you will discover the true and the good. The philosophers promised them to you, and have not been able to keep their promise…Your principal maladies are pride, which cuts you off from God; sensuality, which binds you to the earth; and they have done nothing but foster at least one of these maladies. If they have given you God for your object, it has only been to pander to your pride; they mad you think that you were like Him and resembled Him by your nature. And those who have grasped the vanity of such a pretension have cast you down into the other abyss by making you believe that your nature was like that of the beasts of the field, and have led you to seek your good in lust, which is the lot of animals.

Pascal was simply expanding on Paul’s statement in Romans 3:10, “No one is righteous, no not one; no one understands, no one seeks for God.”

In describing the human condition, Paul was echoing the words of the great prophet Jeremiah, who wrote six centuries earlier, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?”

The Gospel is Good News from the Holy One that reaches our ears beginning with the words: But God…

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.(Ephesians 2:4-9)

God, who is rich in mercy, withholding that which we deserve or even what we, in our corrupted desires seek, entered our World as a human being, one of us. Jesus Christ, born of a virgin, did not inherit the fallen-ness of this sin-cursed human condition. He faithfully obeyed God’s command not to eat from the forbidden tree.

It was God’s will to put Him to death at the hands of wicked people in order to save His enemies through this one and only perfect atoning sacrifice.

The Lord Jesus was raised to life, conquering death, the world and the devil. He gives new life through the Holy Spirit’s work in renewing hearts and minds, through whom we grow increasingly Christlike as we mature in the faith, being prepared for the weight of glory to be ours in the new heavens and new earth.

God’s revealed Word, the Bible, is the source of true wisdom and godliness (2 Tim. 3:16-17). It is where we find critical distinctions for navigating the many challenges and pitfalls we face as sinful creatures living amongst eight billion other sinners.

As we think particularly about the life of the mind and the challenges of mental health, we are thankful for both medical doctors and psychologists, because we share in their desire to alleviate human misery. Yet we also know that solutions rooted in this world offer help that is both temporary and limited. They can offer nothing to bring a person one step closer to the righteousness that can only come by faith, or true Christian maturity (Colossians 2:8). Only the Gospel can give life and only solutions rooted in Holy Scripture can offer genuine, eternal help in healing the human condition.

The purpose of our Fall 2018 Conference is to offer hope and healing for the human condition rooted in Scripture and its application exercised in Church History.

Please consider joining us.

In Christ,

The Common Slaves
Eric and Joe, (mostly) benevolent co-monarchs

Common Slaves Fall Conference @Lifespring Church

Common Slaves Fall Conference: Friday, October 26, 2018

Sounds Minds and Soul Care : Person-hood and problems (Mental Health) through the lens of Scripture

Location:  Lifespring Church, Crosby, MN (www.visitlifespring.com

Date:  Friday, October 26, 2018 (8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.)

Who:  Pastors, Elders and laymen, all men and women who love Christ and His church.

To Register:  www.eventbrite.com  search and register (Please Register in advance)

Cost:  None (free-will donations will be received for the meal)

Questions  www.commonslaves.com or Pastor Eric (ericanderson@brainerd.net)  (218)820-7532

Why this Conference?  We hope to address, in a culture steeped in sin-rooted confusion about Personhood and our problems, a culture given over to the language of addictions, mental health, Self-diagnosis and psychological assessments; how our forefathers in the faith handled personal problems through God’s Reveled World, in the local church; and How we are to we receive and give Gospel-help to hurting and confused people. We will not provide every answer to every question, but we will point everyone to the one who has all the answers as He graciously invites to come to him through Faith.

Speakers:  We invite seasoned pastors and ministers to speak at our conferences. These men have been around long enough to have preached and counseled from the Word both in seasons and out of seasons, and we will all benefit from their wisdom.

8:30—Greetings, Welcome and Singing

9:00—Session 1:  Dr. Ivan Fiske: Play the Man: Living as a Godly Man in a Toxic Culture (Psalm 1:1-6)

9:45—Break

10:15—Session 2: (with Q/A following) Pastor Mark Snider:   The Normal Means of God’s wondrous Grace: Soul Care through worship, preaching and member care. (Acts 20:17-36)

11:30—Lunch

1:00—Session 3:  Pastor Bob DeYoung: Helping the church walk through seasons of grief and suffering

2:00—Break

2:30—Session 4: (with Q/A following) 

4:15—Closing Pastor Brent Nelson: The Soul Care of John Newton to William Cowper 

 

We believe that we will all benefit, not only from the content presented, but also from the fellowship time together as brothers-and-sisters who share a common faith and master in northern rural Minnesota.

Presented by the Common Slaves Network:  A Minnesota fellowship of Rural Reformed  (and reforming) pastors, elders and churches

 

Overarching Purposes:

God Created this World and all that is in it.  He rules and Reigns still.  He declared his creation “good.”

Since Adam and Eve rebelled against God ate the forbidden Fruit and knew sin from experience, Life in this World has been Fallen and Cursed by God.  This means that from the moment we are born we are dying.  We will die physically, but are already dead in Respect to Favor with God.  This is the description of each and every one of the 7-8 Billion Image bearers of God on this planet.  Nothing works as it should. Plans Fail, People are in conflict, Nations Rage, even good inventions are used to destroy another human.  Even our Minds are enslaved to this fallen world.  

According to the Scripture, There are enemies of God in Union together: he World and all it’s attempts to answer and counter our human fallen-ness, which our adversary, Satan uses deludes us into the lie that we are not dead, merely sick inside, and there is some natural cure, or creative program, which can help free the inner-mind to act upon Goodness, declaring: You don’t need God!

On top of this, the biggest problem is each one of us…our own Sinful hearts, finding hope in things we can see, ideas we can fixate upon, solutions we can ingest, pridefully and thank-lessly insisting in finding meaning and hope on our own…

The Bible’s prognosis of our health long-term, especially our minds is not Good..We call this Total Depravity.   

It is therefore, is no Wonder that even in an advanced technological age, the frustration and anger over humanities failed attempted to overcome sin and fallen-ess has left us depressed, bitter and hopeless.  

Blaise Pascal wrote It is in vain, O men, that you seek within yourselves the cure of all your miseries. All your insight only leads you to the knowledge that it is not in yourselves that you will discover the true and the good. The philosophers promised them to you, and have not been able to keep their promise…Your principal maladies are pride, which cuts you off from God; sensuality, which binds you to the earth; and they have done nothing but foster at least one of these maladies. If they have given you God for your object, it has only been to pander to your pride; they mad you think that you were like Him and resembled Him by your nature. And those who have grasped the vanity of such a pretension have cast you down into the other abyss by making you believe that your nature was like that of the beasts of the field, and have led you to seek your good in lust, which is the lot of animals.

He summarized Paul in Romans 3:10, No one is righteous, no not one, no one understands, no one seeks for God.

Paul was describing the human condition and echoing the words of the great prophet who proceeded him centuries before: Jeremiah, who said The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?

The Gospel is Good News that reaches our ears beginning with the Words…But God…!  

God who is rich in Mercy–not giving us what we deserve and what we seek, Entered our World from outside…His Son Jesus, Christ, born of a Virgin…did not inherit the Falleness of this sin-cursed human condition.  He also Faithfully obeyed God’s command not to eat from the forbidden tree.  

Ephesians 2 But[c] God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

But the World hated the Lord Jesus Christ.  Why, He told them no. No. It is not in you to reach God, live forever.  You cannot find the cures from the world.  You need a New heart…You need to accept responsibility for your own contributions…you own Sin.  You hate God and must Repent.  Come to your Senses.  Duh!

It was God’s Will to put him to death through rebellious people; in order to saved His enemies through a perfect atoneing sacrifice.  

The Lord Jesus was raised to Life, conquering death, the World and the Devil.

He gives New life through His Spirit–a Renewed hearts and Minds…one which grows increasingly Christ-like as we mature, preparing us for the weight of Glory in the New Heavens and New Earth.

For Contained in His Revealed Word is all the source of wisdom and godliness…truth about him and distinctives for navigating the many challenges and pitfalls of one fallen human living among-st 8 bill other fallen.   

Our Mission Statement for Lifespring Church is stated: It is our Purpose to proclaim the Supremacy and Sufficiency of Jesus Christ, in order to present everyone complete in Him.  

II Timothy 3:16-17 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,  that the man of God[a] may be complete, equipped for every good work.

Proverbs 1:7 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge;

To this end We are thankful for Doctors and psychologists, for we desire to alleviate human misery, but we know that in God’s sight and for eternal joy, anything from the world can, at best, prop a person up, help with navigate the fallen world, but can do nothing to bring a person on step closer to Eternity or Christian maturity: Only the Gospel can give Life and the  Holy Scripture help in healing the human condition.

Colossians 2:8 See to it that no one takes you captive by nphilosophy and oempty deceit, according to phuman tradition, according to the qelemental spirits1 of the world, and not according to Christ.

II Peter 1:19 And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts,  knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation.  For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

The Purpose of our Conference is to show from Scripture and Church History, Hope and Healing for the Human condition; the Gospel and the Means God provides for our maturity and growth: Counseling from the Counsel of His Holy Word….that the Sufficiency of Scripture is for life and godliness. 

A Gospel Issue?

 

A Gospel Issue?

PHIL JOHNSON • SEPTEMBER 07 , 2018

When the morning worship service ended last Sunday, a woman whom I had never met before made a beeline for me and stood between me and the aisle. I was trapped in a row of seats. She said she was a guest from out of town, but she seemed to recognize me, and she said she wanted to help me understand the “social justice” issue.

“Despite what you think,” she said, “it is a gospel issue.” “Injustice is everywhere in the world. I am fighting it full time. Right now I have several lawsuits pending against injustice in the health-care industry. Don’t tell me that’s not gospel work. You’re not being a faithful witness unless you’re fighting for social justice. It’s built right into the gospel message: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”

I tried to sound as agreeable as possible under the circumstances: “That’s surely one of the most important tenets of God’s moral law, and it does distill the idea of human justice into a single commandment,” I said. “But be careful how you state it. That’s not the gospel. That’s the Second Great Commandment.”

“Oh, right,” she said. “I meant to say the gospel is ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind.’”

“Well, that’s the First Great Commandment,” I said. “That’s still law, not gospel.”

“What do you mean?” she said. “I can show you those verses in the Bible.”

“Yes, ma’am, I know,” I said. “It’s Matthew 22:37-40. But that’s a summary of the law. It’s not the gospel.”

“But it’s in the Bible,” she repeated. “So it’s a gospel issue.”

I tried to explain: “Gospel and law aren’t the same thing. The law is a prelude to the gospel, not really part of the gospel. The law tells us what God requires of us. But then it condemns us, because it requires perfect obedience and curses anyone who doesn’t obey its every jot and tittle. But none of us obeys so thoroughly. And ‘whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.’ That’s James 2:10. Jesus said in Matthew 5:48 that the standard the law sets for us is God’s own absolute perfection. We can’t live up to that. The law therefore brings wrath (Romans 4:15), not salvation. The law can only condemn us, because we are guilty. All of us.

“Furthermore, suffering oppression doesn’t absolve anyone of wrongdoing. And being privileged doesn’t make a person any more sinful. We all deserve the wages of sin: death. That’s what the law says. Once we understand that, the last thing we need is more law. What we need is salvation from the penalty and power of the law. That’s where the gospel comes in.

“The gospel is the good news about Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection. Its themes are atonement for sin, forgiveness, reconciliation, and the justification of sinners. It’s the answer to the dilemma of the law.”

She interrupted at that point. “But you can’t preach forgiveness to people who treat other people unjustly,” she said. “That would just compound the injustice.”

“Scripture says the opposite,” I told her. “Christ died for the ungodly. If we confess our sins, he is faithful andjust to forgive us our sins. Christ, who never committed a single act of injustice, gave his life as a ransom for other people’s sin—the just for the unjust. He paid sin’s price and thus satisfied both the wrath and the justice of God on behalf of sinners, so God can be just and still justify sinners who turn to Christ in faith.

“That’s the gospel. And God’s Word emphatically condemns anyone who proclaims the law instead of the gospel, or mingles the law with the gospel.

“Yes, the law condemns oppression, and it puts evildoers under a curse. But it cannot change hearts, and therefore it can neither free oppressed people from the bondage of their own sin nor transform their oppressors into good Samaritans.”

She cut me short again. “You can say that all you want, but I’m telling you that if you’re not fighting against injustice, you’re not doing gospel work,” she repeated. “Trust me; I know. I deal with corporate injustice all the time. I’ve even got these lawsuits pending . . .”

And we were right back where we started.

I didn’t make up that story. That was the real response of a self-styled full-time evangelical social justice advocate who is incorrigibly convinced that the gospel of Jesus Christ alone doesn’t sufficiently address the problem of injustice. That brief conversation perfectly illustrates why alarms go off in my head whenever I hear some progressive evangelical insist that social justice is “a gospel issue.” It is worse yet when that claim is confidently made by bloggers and other representatives from various organizations whose raison d’être is supposed to be the defense and proclamation of the gospel.

Blending the gospel with social activism has been tried many times. (Google “Walter Rauschenbusch” or “social gospel.”) It has always turned out to be a shortcut to Socinianism, carnal humanism, or some more sinister form of spiritual barrenness. The social message inevitably overwhelms and replaces the gospel message, no matter how well-intentioned proponents of the method may have been at the start.

No wonder. “Social justice” (as that expression is used in the secular world or defined by practically any honest dictionary) isn’t really even a biblical theme. Nothing borrowed from worldly discourse should ever become a major theme in the message we proclaim to the world—not philosophy, politics, pop culture, or anything similar. Make any such topic a major theme alongside the simple gospel message and you are going against the strategy of the apostle Paul, who wrote, “I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2).

Preaching on “social justice” in the manner now being modeled by certain leading evangelicals subverts the duty set forth in Colossians 3:2: “Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.” It encourages people to see themselves as victims, not sinners. It fosters resentment rather than repentance. It is a man-centered, not Christ-centered, message. It begets blame rather than forgiveness. And it points people to the law, not the gospel.

To insist that social justice activism is an essential tenet of gospel truth is a form of theological legalism not fundamentally different from the teaching of those in the early church who insisted circumcision was a gospel issue.

Evangelicals who are being inveigled into making social justice a central theme in their preaching need to consider these things very carefully, ponder the crucial distinction between law and gospel, and recover our confidence in the simple truths about Christ’s death and resurrection. Scripture says those are matters “of first importance.” These truths constitute the heart and the very essence of all true gospel issues: “That Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).

After all, that simple message is what turned the world upside down in the first century.

If the contemporary evangelical movement would get serious about God’s Word; abandon all the silly efforts to exegete popular culture; stop chasing “relevance” in all the wrong ways; eschew the wisdom of this world; and rise up and proclaim the gospel in earnest, with deep conviction, and with confident clarity, that simple message still has the power to conquer the world, vanquish ethnic strife, and heal all the other ills of our culture, even in these postmodern times.