Gospel glitch


There is a possibility that many gospel presentations used in the church today have moved from the center of the gospel message. The problem is caused by a misunderstanding of Paul's teachings, particularly in the book of Romans. We commonly take the view that Paul is arguing against those who believe you can get to heaven by being good, by obeying God's law. We see Paul arguing against Jews who were infiltrating the church with their "salvation by works" philosophy. So therefore, many gospel presentations use Paul's argument as if it is directed to non believers. We focus on sinfulness, the lostness of mankind, the uselessness of works righteousness. The weight of the gospel presentation falls on sinfulness and what Jesus has done to deal with this problem through his death on the cross. The resurrection of Christ, with its consequent life for us, both here and for eternity, tends only to get a mention in passing.

The problem with this approach, is that Paul is not arguing against those who think they can get to heaven by being good. The Jews knew full well you get to heaven by grace, by being a member of the chosen people of God. The early Christians knew that they were saved by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ. The problem Paul addresses in books like Romans and Galatians, is about living the Christian life. Church members all knew that they were saved through faith in Jesus. Their error concerned going on with Jesus, how they would live for God today and tomorrow. Many of the more pious members of the church came to see the Christian life in terms of faithful obedience. They believed that obedience to the law would progress their Christian life, please God and shape them into the image of Christ. No, said Paul. Our Christian life progresses as it began, by grace through faith.

So then, the way we present the gospel is often more applicable to Christians than to non Christians. Believers are the ones who need to hear that their righteousness is but filthy rags. We are the ones most likely to be Pharisees. In fact, the more "faithful" we are, the more likely we will be affected by the fallacy that "Jesus loves good little boys and girls." Paul the apostle wrote Romans for compromised church members who had forgotten that "it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - not by works, so that no one can boast." It was never intended as a gospel tract for unbelievers.

It's worth noting that when Jesus preached, his cutting words were for the churchmen of his day. He exposed their sinfulness, hypocrisy.... For outsiders, for the lost, he preached the Good News of the Kingdom - "The gift of God ..... living water", "eternal life."