The Priority of the Gospel

The Priority of the Gospel June 17, 2010

Kevin DeYoung shares the notes of Mark Dever from a Sovereign Grace Pastor’s Conference last year.  They really are worth reading in full, but I wanted to excerpt the following two paragraphs, since they hold together a properly biblical suspicion toward wealth and a sense of the superior importance of the inward transformation of the individual through the gospel of Christ, over and beyond social justice ministries.  Too often a commitment to evangelistic ministries over social justice ministries is accompanied by a comfortable, self-indulgent materialism.

Also, the sentiments he expresses regarding the place of the church in relation to the state are Barthian and very much worth hearing.

24. We should warn our congregations about the dangers of accumulating wealth. Many Christians throughout history have read the Bible as being more suspicious of wealth than we modern American Christians seem to be. Everyone from Augustine to Wesley has written eloquently of the dangerous gravity of wealth, and the worldly pull it can have on our hearts. Such teaching need not cause us to reject careful financial planning, but it should cause us to be more vigilant, more wary and even suspicious of wealth than we tend to be. We should give fresh attention to cautionary passages like Matt. 6:21, Luke 12:34, I Tim. 6:17-19 and James 5:1-6. According to the Bible, wealth can be more spiritually dangerous than poverty.

25. We must carefully prioritize the responsibilities unique to the church. Matters like a concern for education, politics, and mercy ministries for those beyond the church’s membership are proper concerns for Christians to have, but the church itself is not the structure for addressing such concerns. They are the proper concern of Christians in schools, governments, and other structures of society. In fact, if such concerns came to be the focus of the church, they could potentially distract the church from its main and unique responsibility, that of incarnating and proclaiming the gospel. “To the church is committed the task of proclaiming the whole counsel of God and, therefore, the counsel of God as it bears upon the responsibility of all persons and institutions. While the church is not to discharge the functions of other institutions such as the state and the family, nevertheless it is charged to define what the functions of these institutions are . . . . To put the matter bluntly, the church is not to engage in politics. Its members must do so, but only in their capacity as citizens of the state, not as members of the church,” (John Murray, “The Relation of Church and State,” in Collected Writings of John Murray, vol. 1 [Banner of Truth, 1976], 255). We want to protect the practice of evangelism, and the priority of evangelism in the life of the local church. We never want to allow our congregation’s activity in caring for the needs of the community to diminish, or encroach upon the priority of the Gospel.

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