Simplify the gospel: warnings for the young reformed, restless or otherwise

Romans 10.13-17 is a precious passage.  Paul clearly states in a few sentences that the only way anyone is saved from an eternity of God’s wrath is by calling on the Lord, namely Jesus.  But people cannot call on him if they never hear of him, and they will not hear of him if people do not preach, and people will not preach unless they are sent (perhaps a call for missionaries to ONLY be sent out by churches).  Not all who hear believe, but no one will believe unless they hear, so faith comes by hearing, and hearing– being effectually called by God, or being regenerated– only through the word of Christ.  It is clear: like Paul communicated in Rom 1.16, the gospel, or the word of Christ, is the only thing God uses to save people’s souls.  So what is it, exactly, that has to come out of an evangelist’s mouth in order for God to use it to save sinners?

I think I will make this a two part blog (at least).  My goal is to remind my friends to simplify the gospel.  That sounds dangerous.  I am not saying we should water down the gospel, or compromise the gospel, or reduce the gospel, or preach anything less than what the Apostles have handed down to us. I am saying I am worried that some Christians over-complicate the gospel. There is a very encouraging movement of 20 and 30-somethings who have gained a renewed zeal for the doctrines of unconditional election, justification by faith alone, propitiation, imputation, and the like.  That is great!  I am one of them.  I have learned more about the gospel in the last five years than in the first 25 years of my life. But do we often require every new professing believer to know all the things we know about the gospel? Do we hesitate to baptize someone because they are unable to explain the difference between imputed and infused righteousness? In other words, do we try too hard to make sure this person is not a false convert?

Of course we do not want false conversions. I am as careful as they come in discerning conversion. But I am not trying to get people to be able to ace a systematic theology quiz. We hopefully teach theology with every evangelistic encounter, but all we need to do is introduce people to the risen Christ. Period. The heart of the gospel according to Galatians is justification by faith alone. But as many great thinkers have said, we are not saved by believing in justification by faith alone. We are saved by believing in Christ. I might go so far as to say we should not be so concerned about preaching justification by faith alone. We should be concerned about preaching Christ and him crucified. When someone believes on Christ, they are justified by faith in Him alone. That is the good news. But we must make sure people do not put their hope in doctrine, but in Christ alone. So teach them doctrine, but make sure they trust in Jesus. More to come…

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