Wednesday, 5 April 2017

An Abbreviated Gospel is a False Gospel

     The doctor prescribes 500 mg of calcium chloride to save a patient’s life. The nurse doesn’t read the doctor’s instructions thoroughly enough and gives only 50 mg of the life-saving drug. The patient, who trusted the doctor, dies because of a negligent intermediary.
     At a business I stopped at while traveling, I found a small laminated card someone had left as an attempt to evangelize. It was entitled, “How to Make Peace with God to Have the Peace of God.” On the front the following scriptures are cited: John 3:16; Romans 5:1; Luke 9:56; Romans 3:23; 6:23; 10:9, 10, 13. The reverse side begins with the following statement: “If after reading these scriptures from God’s word (the Bible) you are ready to accept Jesus Christ as Lord of your life, here is …” Then under the heading, “What You Must Do,” the following points are made: “1. Admit your need (I am a sinner). 2. Be willing to turn from sin (repent). 3. Believe that Jesus Christ died for you (on the Cross). 4. Through prayer, invite Jesus Christ to come in and control your life. (Receive Him as Savior and Lord.)”
     Next, under the heading, “What To Pray,” the following is written: “Dear Father, I know that I am a sinner and need forgiveness. I believe that Christ died for my sin. I am willing to turn from sin. I now invite Jesus Christ to come into my heart and life as my personal Savior. I am willing by God’s grace to follow and obey Christ as the Lord of my life.”
     The next statement reads, “This is just the beginning of a wonderful new life with Christ.” The final heading is “Now,” followed by these concluding points: “1. Read your Bible every day to get to know Christ better. 2. Talk to God in prayer every day. 3. Tell others about Christ. 4. Be baptized, worship, fellowship, and serve with other Christians in a church where Christ is preached.”

Initial Observations …

     I appreciate the fact that someone has enough convictions about his or her faith to want to share it. What concerns me, however, is the idea that the entire gospel plan of salvation, that took sixteen centuries to record in a collection of sixty-six documents, can be boiled down to a tiny handful of unconnected Bible verses and a few simplistic instructions on a 3x2 card. The danger is that essential information is left out, the divine will is misconstrued, and the uninformed are misinformed.

A Critique …

     The selected scripture references on the front side of the card give the misleading appearance of a biblical basis for what is actually a preconceived and overly-simplified version of the divine plan of redemption. Since no consideration has been given to the surrounding contexts, the intended message of each passage is missed or distorted.
     The John 3:16 citation ignores the full conversation and the rest of the chapter, which qualifies and expands the twenty-five-word statement.1 Citing Luke 9:56 demonstrates ignorance of a textual variant among Greek manuscripts missing the words about the Lord’s desire to save (cf. ASV, CSB, ESV, ISV, NIV).2 Apparently consideration has not been given to readers who may only have access to a Bible version that simply reads, “they went to another village.” And the cherry-picked citations from Romans give a false impression to those unaware that the epistle was written to people already saved (1:7), having been baptized into Christ according to the obedience of faith (1:5, 16; 6:1-5, 16-18; 16:26).

Filling in the Gaps …

     The gospel plan of salvation is our gracious God seeking to reconcile sinners to himself through the life, death, burial, and resurrection of his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, in a unified body of forgiven disciples. Our response to this divine plan can be summarized as follows (see Acts 1:1–28:31).
     Hear (listen to, understand, heed) the gospel message (Acts 2:22, 37; 3:22) – and keep on hearing, receptively and responsively (Rom. 10:17; Eph. 4:21, 29; Phil. 4:9). Believe the gospel message (Acts 4:4; 18:8; 9:42) – and continue believing while increasing in faith (Rom. 3:22; 4:11, 24; 10:4; 2 Pet. 1:5-7). Repent of (turn away from) sinful attitudes and behaviors (Acts 2:38; 3:19) – and don’t stop repenting (Acts 8:22; Rom. 6:1-18; 2 Cor. 7:9-10). Confess faith in the Lord Jesus Christ (Matt. 10:32; 1 Tim. 6:12) – and keep on confessing (Rom. 10:9-10; 2 Cor. 9:13; Heb. 4:14; 10:23). Be immersed in water for forgiveness of past sins by Christ’s blood (Acts 2:38; 8:36-39; 22:16), entering (“into”) Christ and his emblematic body, the church, the community of the saved (Acts 2:41-47; 1 Cor. 12:13; Gal. 3:26-27), raised to live a new life (Rom. 6:3-5; Col. 2:11-13; 3:1-3). Then remain faithful (Acts 2:42; 14:22) as an active and devoted member of Christ’s body – universally (Eph. 3:6; 5:23; 1 Pet. 2:17) and locally (Rom. 12:3-13; 1 Cor. 12:12-27); a loyal citizen of his spiritual kingdom (Eph. 2:19; Col. 1:9-18).
      Simply finding “a church where Christ is preached,” in today’s religiously diluted and deluded environment, is a directive that almost certainly invites the proverbial “wild goose chase.” To narrow down the search, here is a general overview <Link>, with a more focused search here <Link>. On the essential role of the church in the divine scheme of redemption, here is a helpful study <Link>.

Conclusion

     There can be no legitimate shortcuts when it comes to such eternally consequential matters as learning, obeying, and sharing the revealed will of God. Leaving religious literature in a public place is not a bad idea, as long as those who might read it are not led astray and are given enough directions to reasonably access the whole counsel of God.
--Kevin L. Moore

Endnotes:
     2 See The Text of the NT Part 1, and Part 2.



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