I cant remember the last time one of my posts caused such a stir as my wife’s simple gospel has done. It is amazing how much controversy the gospel can still cause. In this post I would like to do the rounds of what people have been saying and also restate the gospel in my own words. People keep saying that it was me who wrote those ten points- it wasn’t.
I will restate the gospel in a way that would probably not be understandable to a four year old but hopefully will make sense to most of my readers. I will state it under two headings and will mostly stick to my wife’s headings but reword them and explain them a little.
1. God made everything that exists out of nothing and made mankind as the pinnacle of his creation designed for a relationship with him. This desire for a relationship is hardwired into us, and one of the evidences for this is our stubborn insistence in clinging onto notions like morality, love, individual choice, nobility and the reality of the conscious self in the face of people telling us we are nothing but a machine.
2. Everyone has Sinned. Following in the footsteps of our first parents from whom we have inherited a self-destructive urge- we all are biased towards sin. Without the constraints of culture we would all be capable of committing the worst of sins.
3. Despite our hatred for God, God still loves us. God does hate sin and has determined that sin must be punished, or else he could not be considered just.
4. God loves us so much that he gave his only son to die in our place. Jesus took the punishment instead of us on the cross so that we could receive a pardon for our sins.
5. God convicts us of our sins and leads us to confess our helplessness in the face of sin and our need for him.
6. We then turn from sin and towards God in trust in him and in the work of Jesus on the cross which took our punishment. A glorious transaction proceeds where Christ receives our sin and we his righteousness. We turn from going our own way and decide instead to follow him. Our whole being now reaches out in trust towards Christ as much as it used to hide from him in fear and hatred.
7. As an outward testimony to the inward reality of what has happened to us in secret we outwardly declare to others our determination to follow Christ by being baptized. Baptism is our seal on the agreement that has occurred between us and God.
8. As an outward testimony to the reality of what has happened, God pours out his Holy Spirit on believers that seek him for such a blessing. Receiving the Holy Spirit is a conscious, real experience that is usually accompanied by gifts of the Spirit such as tongues and/or prophecy. At its core, however is an experience of the love of God poured out into our hearts. This is God’s seal on the agreement that has occurred between us and God and a deposit that guarantees our inheritance.
9. The church, on seeing that this has all occurred welcomes the new believer into membership of the family of God. They commit to care for the new believer and in turn the believer covenants to serve God and his local church. The church is Gods body on earth and exists to demonstrate his attributes to the world together. There is no plan b, the church is Gods answer for a fallen world.
10. On earth believers live in a constant state of tension, living in the good of the age to come, but at the same time groaning for that final day when their salvation will be complete. Christians work to speed the return of Christ by building his kingdom, and should anticipate both great blessing and great hardship as the end draws near. We live ultimately not for this earth but for the world to come.
My sermon on the message that changes the world goes into some of these things in more detail.
The detractors have been many however Eternal Perspectives is happy with most of what is said but asks “must a person believe all of these points and go through this process in this particular order for salvation to occur? I would argue that they do not.” Of course I would that people can go through some of these stages in a different order as indeed happened to me. I think though asking the question “What is the minimum I must do to be saved?” is the wrong question. This post is intended to describe the “Normal” Christian birth- which of course allows for some not to quite match certain aspects. This however I believe is a good model.
Eternal Perspectives also goes onto say “Salvation is from beginning to end a work of God. As people who are dead in sin, an unbeliever is completely unable to contribute to his or her salvation: God does it all, from calling to conviction (our experience of repentance) to the provision of faith and, finally, to glorification (this list is not exhaustive). God enables us to believe; the Holy Spirit is the Agent of salvation.” and rightly assumes I would agree. He also makes a great argument which I would wholeheartedly agree with that it is faith in a person that saves us – people can definitely be saved by a fragment of truth, and without some of these aspects.
Eternal perspectives quotes Rom 4.5 “But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness . . .”
His posts and this quote are a great antidote for the in my view totally false views of The Gospel in 30 Seconds who states that we must EARN our salvation.
Sven expresses an 11 point plan of salvation which valiantly attempts to answer a question I have been asking him and Richard for a while “What kind of gospel is left if we remove the notion of penal substitution?”. According to Sven
“The climax of Christ’s atoning work is in the shedding of his blood, which in keeping with the OT sacrificial tradition, represents a life poured out to God which brings forgiveness. Not because it satisfies God’s anger and placates him, but because it turns us towards God and unites us with him. Christ gives his life to God in complete obedience, and unites us with God in the process. God himself has provided the means through which we may be transformed and brought into union with him. Similarly, we are to offer ourselves as living sacrifices to God, as Christ offered himself.”
Notice how according to Sven the sacrifice itself accomplishes very little as far as God is concerned- instead either as an example or possibly by in some way empowering us to be different. I am sorry but I quite simply do not recognize that as the Christian Gospel. God needs to be reconciled to us, and our guilt needs to be dealt with.
David Warnock (no relation) feels my wife included too many “controversial” aspects like baptism I suppose. But, when Peter was asked in Acts 2 what people needed to do in response to his message he replied ?Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Acts 2:38
Parableman wants to know if I “would accept a simple gospel that focused solely on a different atonement theme, recognizing that that theme does not exclude the Penal theme and that a short and simple presentation must by necessity exclude some themes?” . My view is that it is possible to present the gospel in many ways and that people can be saved by a fragment of truth, but that a presentation of the gospel is not complete without an explanation of sin. Other models of the atonement may trigger trust in Jesus and hence salvation, but I am not convinced that a person has understood the gospel unless he has understood that his sin has been dealt with by Christ.
The essence of the gospel is that there are consequences to our actions. To escape these consequences we must turn to Christ and acknowledge that he took those consequences on our behalf on the cross. Without this there can be no salvation for God would not be just and the one who justifies the sinner.
It worries me somewhat that there have been so few posts that have been wholly supportive of my wife’s summary, although I may have missed some and many of the quibbles are not such as to totally negate the truths expressed.
I would encourage my readers to post their own understanding of the gospel preferably interacting with this and/or my wife’s summary, and let me know so I can link to them in a future post. How many people are there out there who can say “amen” to what I have said here?