Posted by: Moses | June 18, 2008

Today's Gospel: authentic or synthetic?

The Book

I’ve been chewing on this little book for the past week. It’s only about eighty pages long but it’s pretty intense, weighty like The Mortification of Sin. The main thrust of the book is the precious rarity and high calling of the biblical gospel. Chantry lays waste to a gospel of cheap grace, arguing for the indivisibility of faith and repentance.

Christians should love unity, but only when it is founded on the truth. He gives an illustration that a true presentation of biblical gospel becomes very unpopular when it begins to cause division within a mission society. Generality is not enough; the gospel is specific and it divides. In Jesus’ words it divides even the closest family ties, dividing two against three in a family, mother against daughter, brother against brother, bringing not peace but division.

Like Bonhoeffer, he takes the gospel presentation to the rich young ruler and builds a poignant case against false assurance and half-hearted hope: cheap grace. In Chantry’s words: “Evangelicals are swelling the ranks of the deluded with a perverted gospel.” I was rather convicted, that I do no one any favor when I assure them of a salvation that they may not have. Assuring someone that they’re on the way to heaven while allowing them to persist in their sin is a pretty sweet deal. Who would refuse sin and wanton abandon in this life and leisure in the next?

But by the authentic Gospel we are saved from sin. We are saved to live in Christ, to love Christ, and to follow Christ. We don’t come to him on our own terms bargaining about what to give and what not to. Chantry calls for evangelicals to drastically reconsider their evangelistic approach, educating their thoughts by the thoughts and approach of Jesus. Jesus first preaches the character of God to the Ruler, displaying God in his unique goodness. His primary motive was to glorify God, not to devalue Him and assuage a sinner’s fear, or coddle his immature knowledge of the Truth. The True gospel demands that we understand the depth of our sin, that we have committed heinous treason against God: “Christ’s Gospel sends men to beg pardon of the Holy One.” Jesus teaches failure and punishment, but very clearly against the holiness of God, instilling a fear of God rather than a fear of individual torment. I think there’s a big difference. The one defends the exclusivity of the Gospel, that it only exists on God’s terms. The other offends that exclusivity, presenting it as free to all who would choose to avail themselves of God’s free fire insurance, as if God were up in Heaven biting his finger-nails, hoping that some people would choose to not make him destroy them. On the contrary, “The Holy One has done you a great favor in commanding you to trust His son.” His command is the ultimate source of all salvation.

The law of God is also often neglected. The Ruler thinks he has obeyed all the commandments, but ultimately the tenth commandment disqualifies him. His greed demands that he hoard his own possessions rather than follow Christ. He seems to know this too because he went away sad. He didn’t go away angry as if he had been commanded to do something that he thought was wrong. He didn’t go away confused. He went away sad, knowing that he was torn between two masters, God and money. He was unwilling to give up the one, and stood condemned by the very law he professed to keep.

Just wallowing in sin gains nothing, such assault by the truth must produce repentance. The law of God exposes our hearts. We know that we are wicked, but only a repentant heart will turn from that wickedness to pursue the path of Christ. Such repentance is not the road of super-spiritual Christians, but the mark of every Christian. Unrepentent faith is a biblical unknown. Part of faith was that conquest of sin; Christ bought our freedom from sin so that we could live lives full of love as we were designed, rather than filling our lives with destructive rebellion. We were saved from sin! We were saved in order to be able to repent and live our lives in Christ. There is no either or; their is no moment of “rededication;” there is only repentant faith that restores our fellowship of broken boldness before our Holy God. We don’t come minimizing our sin, but confessing it and mortifying it.

Chantry concludes his book with a progression of thought, faith in God’s Son alone, leading to assurance of faith because of a dependence on God. Jesus is the only way; only those that abide in Him have fellowship with the Father. To give assurance to someone who abides outside of Christ deceive them, and probably drives them further toward a Christless eternity because they lose the conviction of the Holy Spirit and an unkeepable law. They think they are set, so why would they call upon the name of the Lord and be saved from their sin? They think that they can live and wallow in their sin, utterly assured that they are on their way to heaven. But they love nothing heavenly? If they got to heaven they would hate Christ; Heaven would be hell to praise him for eternity. Assurance of safety was one of the marks of false prophets in the Old Testament, saying “Peace peace, when there is no peace.” We must declare the truth, not the convenient statement that keeps us from offending those who need to trip over the truth of the Cross of Christ. Finally Chantry spends a moment centering the reader’s mind on Grace. No sinner comes to God on his own; no sinner desires God. In Christ’s words to the disciples after his encounter with the ruler: “With man [salvation] is impossible, but with God all things are impossible.” No man will ever turn from his sin on his own, but God can work even such a miracle, changing a leopard’s spots and transforming a sinner to love righteousness.

The Gospel all depends on God. It flows from a knowledge of God’s holy character, displayed in His unattainable law, demanding repentance. Such repentance exists in Christ alone, thus those in Christ have assurance and those who do not follow him are deceived. These are the essential points of the Gospel; to lose them is to lose true Hope and replace it with a fear assuaging lie.

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Responses

  1. This book is refreshing and challenging to so much of today’s thinking about evangelism. Confronting the error of so much of today’s salesmanship type of evangelism, “Today’s Gospel” pits our traditions vs. the example of Christ Himself. By the standards of so many evangelists today, Christ would have been a lousy “soul-winner”. This elevation of tradition over Bible is a crucial error that this book clearly points out. It nailed down for me what has so often dismayed me about “soul-winning”. Far from a watered down Gospel of cheap grace, Christ offers a true Gospel of free grace that comes only through God. My views of prayer room decisions forced by personal workers was solidified by this book. How sad it is that I have played my part in deceiving people to thinking they have come to Christ even if their hearts are unwilling to submit to His Lordship. I can rejoice though in the truth of a free, rich and God-given salvation that changes the very essence of my soul.


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