Gospel: Authentic or Synthetic?

As I rummage through archives of Church History, I’m awed often by the resolved effort of past leaders to preserve the truth. Take for example the Filioque from the revised Nicene Creed. This minor insertion caused no small disturbance and would play a major role in the rift between the Church of Rome and of the East. What is this divisive insertion? It is the Catholic confirmation that the Holy Spirit is sent not only from the Father, but from the Son also.

plane crashI wonder how concerned are we that every “t” is crossed and every “i” dotted in our theology today. Picking something from the air (as Ben has this on my mind through an excellent series over his way), “how now shall we share the gospel?”

I was reminded of the warning presented in the Way of the Master evangelization series. An illustration is used that is very fitting.

If you were twenty-five thousand feet in the air aboard an airplane, but you were unaware that your craft was spiraling to the earth, how would the airline attendant approach you with a parachute?

She could say, “Here, put this on. It will improve your flight.” Or, she could be more realistic and scream, “Put this on now! We’re about to crash and this is your only hope for life!”

The second approach assumes that the immediate need of every sinner is a path of escape from the eternal wrath of an angry God. Ray Comfort insists, “Offering the gospel as a means for an improved lifestyle is more so foolish than offering a parachute with the promise of it making the flight more comfortable.” Yet, we hear the gospel presented often as, “Come to Jesus. He has a wonderful plan for your life.”

I do believe that God indeed has a wonderful plan for every believer’s life, but the worldly perception of wonderful and God’s intent are almost always two opposite realities. When someone responds to a wrong gospel, and it doesn’t live up to all that was promised, this person is left worse off than before. Rather, when it is understood that the promise is that Christ frees us from the wrath to come, there are no misperceptions. When hardship, persecution, and suffering come (and they will), the believer will endure because he or she didn’t believe the gospel with wrong expectations.

The point these authors make is that good news does no one any good until they first grasp the bad news. God has preserved His Law for us to be a schoolmaster to show us our need for Christ. Leave the Law out of the gospel presentation, and the good news is meaningless.

While the argument over the Filioque may never be resolved, the right method to present the gospel is beyond dispute. Mr. Comfort shows that Jesus, Stephen, Peter, Paul, and James all used the Law to lead listeners to grace. The lost must understand their state of lost-ness before they can be found. Any thoughts?

About mtsweat

Seeking the rest that is only promised and found in Christ Jesus, along with my treasured wife of more than twenty-five years, we seek to grow in our relationship with our Heavenly Father, walk with the Holy Spirit as He moves our hearts, loving others always as Jesus loves us, and carry the news of His glory, the wonderful gospel, that gives light and life where there once was only darkness.
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9 Responses to Gospel: Authentic or Synthetic?

  1. ‘Easy-believism’ and ‘everything will be rosy’ are two approaches which cause much harm, produce a false security and keep people from the true Gospel.

    May each blood-bought, adopted child of the living God be faithful to presenting the facts of the NEED for salvation, the surety of the Saviour and the responsibilities of the new life in Christ.

  2. Totally, one cannot comprehend the “Good News” until one comprehends the “Bad News”! Wow, this puts it all into perspective. Blessings to you, Brother, for spelling this out!

  3. alwayzhis says:

    AMEN! PRAISE GOD for your willingness to speak the truth. There are far too many “people pleasing” gospels out there— being presented by far too many celebrity style preachers/teachers. I pray daily for the One True Church to be as diligent as these phonies in reaching the lost with the one true Gospel!

  4. Butch Dean says:

    If we present the Gospel as the Holy Spirit directs, we can’t go wrong. Keep in mind, the greatest presentation of the Gospel is without words.

  5. very well said 🙂

  6. One thing I have learned in counseling people, is that some need the front door approach. That is they want it straight and up front! Others, I have found are damaged by that approach and respond better to a back door approach. I think both entrances bring us to the same point of being inside the house. Not even the disciples could come to the full realization until it was revealed to them. As long as the message remains the same, both approaches work because it is the kindness of God that leads us to repentance. I wish we would not worry so much about who is right in their approach and worry more about who is yet not “right” with God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. We are all one body, it is high time we learn to function as one under the One. (Just my thoughts on the matter).

  7. Truthfully, the Catholic and Orthodox churches have come a long way in resolving the dispute over the filioque. Leaders on both sides have agreed that it was largely a misunderstanding of each other’s positions — a talking past each other — as so often it has been in the history of our divisions. The Orthodox agree that there is a sense in which the Holy Spirit proceeds from both the Father and the Son; and the Catholic Church maintains that it never meant that the Holy Spirit proceeds from both the Father and the Son in exactly the same way. The Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father, and He proceeds from the Father, through the Son. Both sides can agree on that. What really aggravated the Orthodox more than anything else is the way in which the issue was handled — the bishop of Rome simply dictating that it was to be officially inserted. I sincerely believe that within my lifetime the Catholic and the Orthodox churches will be reunited. And, I pray, for the reunion of all Christians.

    • mtsweat says:

      That is a very encouraging word! I also pray for the same good friend. How awesome a prayer to see the Body one once again. Thanks for filling in a gap… great words.

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