Whole Counsel Theology

Sunday, April 27, 2008

What Is The Gospel?

I know, I know, it has been a long while since I've posted anything. In fact, some have postulated that I'd forgotten my blogger password. :D Thankfully, I remembered it when I wanted to log in just now, and I thank the brother who made that comment for his prodding to get back into posting...even though it's been a few weeks since he made it. :D

I haven't been keeping up with blogs like I used to, but do find time to keep up with James White's blog and Tom Ascol's blog for the most part. Today I read this post on Dr. Ascol's blog which referred me to this post over on Dr. Nathan Finn's blog. I found the article, like I think all of the commenters there, very insightful, and I think quite discerning with regard to the current state of the SBC and a lot of what people are truly thinking about it today. I, for one, saw myself in much of his description of the relevance of the SBC.

The SBC exists as a large, varied conglomeration of a lot of different kinds of people and certain theological perspectives. For those interested in labels, I'm a Reformed Baptist (Soteriologically Calvinistic, Baptist-style Covenant Theology [1689 LBCF]), and Amillenial in my eschatological views, putting me in a bit of a minority in the SBC. Yet, that being the case, there has always been something that has united Southern Baptists (and someone stop me if I am wrong please), and that has been Missions. Central to missions, of course, is the Gospel.

It has been said for some time now by eloquent, well-reasoned (and I might add, I think accurate) voices such as those of Dr. Ascol that the SBC has lost the Gospel by and large. We are therefore in grave danger, not just by losing the precious treasure of the Gospel, but also by producing many a false convert in our churches, people who think they are saved. We also endanger our very means of unification; if we don't understand or agree on the Gospel, then we have no basis for banding together in the first place.

In the article I linked to above, there was a very short exchange between Dr. Finn and Nathan White. What Nathan (White) commented I thought to be a decent question, though perhaps it could have been worded differently to have avoided offense and to have communicated what I think was his intention more clearly. Indeed, his comment I think begs the question I have asked as the title of this post.

What exactly is the Gospel? What critical elements would you present as part of a presentation of the Gospel to someone who you believe is lost, and therefore that you would hope would repent of sin and believe in Christ for salvation?

I do believe I know what the Gospel is, and I present it to people when I have the opportunity; surely, I need to notice more opportunities than I do. At the same time, I have to wonder if a more semi-pelagian or Arminian brother or sister would think my presentation of the Gospel to be too "Calvinistic." I, however, am not willing to change my presentation, given my understanding of Scripture.

I invite you all to comment; I would love feedback. What is the Gospel? What are critical elements of a Gospel presentation, and how would you word them?

I hope people from differing theological perspectives will answer; I see this as a serious issue.



  • David,

    Glad to see you back around.

    Interesting questions. I have been struggling with how to present the gospel since I have come to my new understanding of theology.

    By Anonymous Tom, at Sunday, April 27, 2008 4:16:00 PM  

  • I think it is important for those who minister to quickly come to the truths below during the process of sanctification, but all of it is not necessary during every presentation of the Gospel. I only post it because it is what I put up on Profiles in social networks and I believe it is a fair presentation of the Gospel. The last paragraph is crucial, and is what I would present/explain to the average unbeliever on the street. By the way, I am Southern Baptist as well. God bless!

    Scripture alone is the authority for the things I believe. (Psalm 119:18; Psalm 138:2; II Tim. 3:14-17) God’s revelation to people is clear and undeniable, and also necessary for any sort of intelligibility. Everyone knows God and knows that He has revealed Himself. Rejecting this results in futile, vain, and foolish thinking. (Psalm 14.1; Proverbs 1.7; Romans 1.18-23; 1 Corinthians 1.20) God’s glory alone is at the center of everything. (1Colossians 10:31; 1Peter 4:11; Revelation 1:6; 2 Peter 3:1; Ephesians 3:21; Revelation 7:12; Romans 11:36) According to Scripture, the work of Christ alone (1 Titus 2:5-6; Colossians 1:13-18) through grace alone (Ephesians 1:3-8) resulting in faith alone (Galatians 3:6-11) brings about salvation to the glory of God…nothing else.

    Humans are totally incapable of doing any saving good apart from God working in them through regeneration by the Holy Spirit. (Romans 8.7-8; Ephesians 2.1, 5) No one is able to come to Christ on his or her own. (John 6.44) Regeneration, or being born again, comes prior to and apart from our repentance and faith. We are totally passive when God gives us a new birth, hence the language of “being born” (we did not choose to be born). (1 John 5.1; John 1.12-13; Ephesians 2.8) This is not only why we thank God for our salvation rather than boasting about our own “decision”, but it is also why we pray for God to save others and believe that He can do so regardless of how hardened they may be to the Gospel. While many resist the Gospel call and the ever-present work of the Holy Spirit, no one can resist God’s saving grace if He chooses to save that person. (Acts 6.14; 1 Corinthians 1.23-24; John 6.65; Matthew 16.17; Luke 10.21) Jesus Christ died on the cross to save all of those who will repent and trust in Him alone for salvation, not each and every individual of the entire world, for there are many who must still pay for their sins in hell and God does not ask for double payment. Unbelief, which even Christians have been and often are guilty of, was atoned for along with all other sins. The atonement of Christ Jesus is thus limited in scope, not in power, for it saves completely all of those whom it was intended for. (Ephesians 5.25; Hebrews 10.14; John 3.16; John 10.15) Those for whom Christ shed His blood are regenerated by the Holy Spirit and kept in Christ. (Romans 8.30; John 10.27-29; Philippians 1.6; 1 Corinthians 1.8; 1 Thessalonians 5.23) This is all carried out in accordance with the plan of the Father, who elected (chose) individuals to salvation before the world ever began. God did not make this decision based upon knowledge of human choices, as no human could ever produce his or her own faith apart from the work of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 13.48; Romans 11.7; John 6.37; John 17.6) It follows from this that God also passed over some, leaving them in their sins. (John 10:26; 12:37-40; Romans 9:11-18; 1 Peter 2:7-8)

    Christ Jesus died on the cross for the sins of His people, was buried, and was raised again on the third day in accordance with Scripture. Those who repent from their sins and trust the living Christ as Savior and Lord will have their sins forgiven them and will be counted righteous in God’s sight because of the perfect life and sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, being credited to their account. (1 Corinthians 15.3-4; Romans 5.1; John 14.6) The answer to the question, “How may I be saved?” is: Repent, turn from your sins, trust Jesus Christ, the only name under heaven by which people are saved, and you will have abundant life eternally in Jesus Christ.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sunday, April 27, 2008 4:23:00 PM  

  • I think too many congregations (not just SBC) have "lost" the Gospel. Jason and I struggled for quite a few years both during college and after to find a congregation that was feeding us spiritually. We both have an inborn desire to grow closer to our Lord and crave "meat" but all of the congregations we attended were only feeding "milk". We got so fed up with it that we didn't attend ANY congregation for about a year. We finally found a congregation that isn't afraid to preach the word, both New AND Old Testament, regardless of whose toes get stepped on. Black vs White. Wrong vs Right. Our Bible lays out the instructions for a godly life, and it is our duty to study and teach others.

    As a member of a Messianic congregation who frequently witnesses to God's chosen people the Jews, my approach to presenting the Gospel involves showing how Yeshua (Jesus) fulfills the prophesies in the Tanach (Old Testament). Although our Messiah came first for the Jew, He welcomes the Gentile. My approach with Gentiles is the same -- Yeshua came to fulfill the promises/prophesies of old that we may have eternal atonement and live eternally with God. Without the remission of blood, there is no atonement. Without atonement, we cannot approach the throne of God as joint-heirs. Yeshua provided our atoning blood on the cross. Furthermore, he rose from the dead and is preparing a place for those who accept his atoning sacrifice so that we can live with him eternally. If we have accepted him as our Lord and Savior, then we can partake with Him in eternity. THAT is the Gospel (Good News).

    (Good to hear from you again. -Carrie)

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at Tuesday, April 29, 2008 2:16:00 PM  

  • Hey Dave,

    I'm glad to see you're here again too. I was checking the blogs I read regularly and you had a new title in the feeds. By the way, thanks for getting me that message the other day.

    When I read Finn's blog, my first thought was, "I could have written this." I agreed with every word.

    I wonder if sometimes we Calvinists struggle because we confuse the gospel with Calvinism? Just a thought--though I affirm all 5 points.

    In some ways that can be good, because it makes sure that essential elements are there that get lost in deficient methods. However, what I wonder is if we make a similar mistake in being reductionistic. Do we under emphasize ecclesiology in order to keep from offending our paedobaptist brethren? Do we under emphasize the social elements of the gospel in order to keep from being accused of liberalism?

    I'm working at a homeless shelter now. It's a really ecumenical place. One of my coworkers--is always accusing Southern Baptists of forgetting about the ethics of Jesus when it comes to taking care of the poor. While I see some problems with some of my friend's theology, is he bringing up a valid point?

    By Blogger jfile, at Monday, May 05, 2008 11:01:00 AM  

  • Hey David,

    About as often as you blog is about as often as I check links to my site :) But I just saw that you referenced my exchange with Nathan Finn, and I wanted to say that I appreciate your understanding. I agree, I could have and should have worded things better so as to not sound so militant. After his comment I posted an explanation and reply, to which he deleted (I don't really know why, it was apologetic), and I decided it was best to move on. But I wanted to make it clear here that I too agreed heartily with his post, and I'd be glad to dialogue with anyone off-line (email) regarding my comments there, which I believe were misunderstood by Nathan Finn.

    Grace to you my brother,
    Nathan White

    By Anonymous Nathan White, at Saturday, August 02, 2008 11:17:00 AM  

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