On the Present State of the Gospel

On this blog, we have been looking at History and Reformed Theology for a few months now. Underlying this title is a basic belief that what is called Reformed theology in our day is not in line with what was historically Reformed. The last discussion was on the word “by” in justification by faith alone which points to the use of faith in justification. This is a greatly neglected topic. Yet without that topic many people see no real difference between the Reformed view of justification and other views. There has been a lot of agreement between Reformed people and those of other views. Again, is this to say that people with other views are not Christians? Regardless of that, what we must wrestle with is that there is only one Gospel and there is only one way of salvation. We must also wrestle with the idea that people mean differing things when they use the same words and the fact that the words do not always express accurately what is the deepest belief of the heart. It is easier to join hands and call all other people brother than it is to deal with the hard issues of the Gospel.

During the time of the Reformation and then in those who followed the thinking of the Reformers as biblical, some great distinctions were seen between Roman Catholicism and biblical teaching. In more recent times those who desired unity have desired to see the great distinctions between Rome and Protestantism gradually diminish and even disappear. One issue that will not go away is that of justification. To achieve unity with Roman Catholicism one has to ignore the biblical distinctions set out in the Reformation. A unity achieved at that price is not true unity but is just simply a case of people ignoring what is important in order to get along. Paul told us that there is only one Gospel. The issue is not being gracious to people and it is not getting along just to get along, but it is seeking the Lord to glory in Christ and the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

In the modern day the distinction between Arminianism and Calvinism is having a veneer put on it as well. It is thought to be gracious and winsome to get along. But the unity between the two positions is really nothing more than appearance and is perhaps as simple as people wanting to get along for the reasons (as they call it) of a higher purpose. It is also true that Paul said that if he were still trying to please men, he would not be a bond-servant of Christ (Galatians 1:10). The Gospel of Jesus Christ demands that we not link hands with those who deny the Gospel even if they profess to believe it. It seems as if the Gospel is taken for granted by so many as being just a few facts about Jesus, and as long as people agree on a few facts in word they are brothers.

Jesus Christ commands His people to love Him with all of their hearts, minds, souls, and strength. This means that doing theology will be tough and we are to submit to Scripture in all things rather than to get along for the sake of getting along. The Gospel has been eclipsed in our day by many false gospels (even in the name of orthodoxy) and by the joining of groups who come together for what they see as good reasons. The phrase justification by faith can be used by Roman Catholics and Protestants alike. It can be used by liberals and conservatives. The phrase justification by faith alone will weed out some, but it still will not bring all together in unity in the Gospel. The phrase Arminian means so many things today and many who are Pelagians use that to describe themselves. There are many who claim to be Reformed who are really Arminian at the root issues.

What is to be done? We must know that true unity will only be found in Christ and in truth. We cannot just use the name Christ and say we have unity because we use the same name. As set out in the past few weeks on the word “by” and the use of faith, there are enormous differences between people on the use of faith. Does one have to be a Calvinist to be saved? What is a Calvinist? Does one have to be an Arminian to be saved? What is an Arminian? What we do know is that one has to be justified by grace alone apart from any works that contribute to salvation by the human being saved. What we do know is that true faith must be in Christ and not in self. As the distinctions are continually watered down by people on all sides, we must learn to go to God Himself through Christ by means of the Scriptures. We must learn to pray as we read and meditate on Scripture asking for God to show us Himself. It may be that as our nation is going through a battle that is shaking it at its very core, the professing Church will be shaken as well. It may be that those who wish to get along despite the truth will be shaken free from any theological moorings at all. No matter what people call themselves in terms of theological distinctions, all true believers must adhere to the historical teachings of justification by faith alone in all of its parts. The foundation of Christianity is rooted in Christ and His grace. What we know as good and right is falling away to the winds and waves of liberalism. Soon we will only be left with the Gospel. The true Church that is founded on the true Gospel will never truly be lost as the gates of hell will not prevail against it. We must fight for the true Gospel.

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