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.
I 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?