Last month, I asked anbut there is more to it than that. It is also important to talk about why a proper definition of the gospel is needed.d answered the question, “What is the Gospel?” As I have thought about this question I realized that it is not only important to talk about what the gospel is, but there is more to it than that. It is also important to talk about why a proper definition of the gospel is needed. Why should we care about how we define the gospel?
Although you should go back and read that post, here’s a recap. In my estimation too many Christians believe that the “gospel” is about doctrine, or the rules that we are supposed to follow. The person who said this to me talked about how SDA doctrine defines the gospel and that anyone who deviates from this sound doctrine has a false gospel. He is not alone. I know a lot of Adventists who think this way, as well as people of many different Christian faiths. However the gospel is not doctrine. The gospel is the good news of the kingdom of God, which is not necessarily based on any explication of laws, rules, or doctrine, but instead is the simple story of “Christ, and Him crucified.” (1 Cor. 2:1-2)
There is another simple explanation of the gospel in the New Testament and within that verse we also see why it is important to define the gospel correctly. One of the most famous texts in the Bible is John 3:16, 17 - “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the word, but that the world through Him might be saved.” What a beautiful and brief explanation of the entirety of God’s plan! But even more importantly, these verses show us that God’s plan is a plan of love and not condemnation. Christ sacrificed His own life because He loved us. God sent Jesus, not because He wanted to condemn us for straying from Him, but to redeem us to Himself because of that love.
This is the message that the world needs to hear. It is not as important for them to hear about fornication, or abortion, or homosexuality, or gay marriage, or anything in the law for that matter. To be clear, as I stated in the previous post, this doesn’t mean that I don’t believe in the law. I do, and I do my best with God’s help to live up to its high standard. But the basis for following that law is the fact that I love God and realize what He has done for me, and that He loves me. It is that loves that spurs me on to righteousness, even when I fail time after time. When we lead with the law, or when we attempt to make our particularly unique doctrine the center of why someone should learn more about us, we rob people who don’t know Jesus of a true understanding of how to escape their own predicament. Furthermore, we give that person the very impression that God is trying to avoid. When we talk about how sinful people are, or what they should or should not do, instead of focusing on the love of God, we make God sound like He is only about condemnation, instead of focusing on the love that caused Him to send His Son to die. There is certainly a time and place for the law, but the gospel message is a story about Someone who gave up everything because He loved us. In a world where so many people are looking for love that seems to me to be a story worth sharing.
Jason Hines is an attorney and doctoral student in Religion, Politics, and Society at the J.M. Dawson Institute of Church-State Studies at Baylor University. He blogs about religious liberty and other issues at http://thehinesight.blogspot.com.
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/6139