Monday, August 28, 2017

Concerns About The Rhetoric: “X Is A Gospel Issue”

People use this language because they believe that a particular sin is so grievous that it compromises or contradicts the gospel witness of Christians individually and of the church visible and corporately. They want the sin  to stop right now. So, they categorize X (pick a sin) and call it a “gospel issue.” Thus named, it is thought that Christians who care about the condition and future of the lost must repent immediately and change their behavior accordingly.

 

The Good news is the message that Jesus Christ is God the Son incarnate, who obeyed in the place of his people, suffered for them, was crucified, dead, and buried for them, was raised for their justification, and is coming again. We receive Christ and his benefits by God’s free favor (grace) alone, through faith (resting, receiving, trusting) in Christ alone. That is the gospel. Any doctrine that denies this message is a “gospel issue.”

The law says, “do this and live” (Luke 10:28). It says, “cursed is everyone who does not do everything which is written in book of the law” (Gal 3:10; Deut 27:26). It says, “You shalt love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second like it is this, you shalt love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments the whole law hangs, and the prophets” (Matt 22:37-40).

I understand the temptation to say: “X is a gospel issue.” People use this language because they believe that a particular sin is so grievous that it compromises or contradicts the gospel witness of Christians individually and of the church visible and corporately. They want the sin  to stop right now. So, they categorize X (pick a sin) and call it a “gospel issue.” Thus named, it is thought that Christians who care about the condition and future of the lost must repent immediately and change their behavior accordingly.

The only proper “gospel issue” is the gospel itself. When the Judaizers said that resting or trusting in Christ alone was insufficient for salvation, that was a gospel issue. When Peter implied that the Judaizers were right, when he refused to eat with Gentile Christians because they were not keeping the typological ceremonies, that was a “gospel issue.” Paul writes,

But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?” We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified (Gal 2:11–16; ESV).

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