Archive for the 'Evangelism' Category

Does the Gospel have a Social Mandate?

The gospel should be the dearest thing to the heart of the redeemed. That God would save a sinner such as I should never cease to amaze me. That there would always be some who stretch the gospel to include things that it does not should not surprise me.

For the last sixty or so years we have heard new evangelicals stress “social involvement.” Harold John Ockenga characterized fundamentalists as being indifferent to the physical needs of people. He and other new evangelicals promoted a positive social message. Their view of a contemporary kingdom of God provided a foundation for engaging the culture and advancing a social element in the Gospel. Ockenga claimed, “There need be no disagreement between the personal gospel and the social gospel.” Fundamentalism was portrayed as leaving out an important part of the Bible message. The push for the Gospel to have a social relevance gained acceptance in both liberal and new evangelical circles. This emphasis has appeared in many different forms, but has never gone away.

Today there are groups which claim to be defining the Gospel. The Gospel Coalition is gaining popularity among new evangelicals and some fundamentalists. I wholeheartedly agree with the Gospel Coalition that salvation is “received by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone” (Gospel for all of Life: Preamble). But in the same document they claim that Christian living is supposed to impact the arts and improve living conditions.

“Developing humane yet creative and excellent business environments out of our understanding of the gospel is part of the work of bringing a measure of healing to God’s creation in the power of the Spirit. Bringing Christian joy, hope, and truth to embodiment in the arts is also part of this work. We do all of this because the gospel of God leads us to it…. Christian churches must work for justice and peace in their neighborhoods through service even as they call individuals to conversion and the new birth” (Theological Vision for Ministry, V, 5).

Those who wrote the Foundation Documents for the Gospel Coalition lament that they do not “see enough individual churches that embody the full, integrative gospel balance we have outlined here” (Theological Vision for Ministry).

In 1976 Ronald Sider wrote, “Social reform and social welfare are aspects of proclaiming the gospel.” That has been the rallying cry of most new evangelicals for decades. The Gospel presented in God’s Word calls men to turn from sin and trust the finished work of Christ. The lost must see that they are spiritually bankrupt, and the God of all grace provides salvation through Jesus Christ alone. That’s the Gospel message. Our work is soul work. We should beware of any man or movement that removes repentance from the Gospel, and we should be aware that many are preaching social action as part of Gospel work.

I’m always wary of any movement that presses for evangelism but has little or no use for biblical separation. Historically fundamentalists have warned of an inclusivism that claims we can focus on what we have in common with compromisers for the sake of the Gospel. While some have rejected the terms “fundamentalist” and “new evangelical”, differences in agenda and emphasis still exist. Always look behind the curtain of any “coalition” to see who started it, who’s supporting it, what they are stressing, and what they are leaving out.

The mandate of the Gospel is repent and be saved. A social consciousness is not part of the Gospel of Jesus Christ the Lord.

June 2010


Let There Be Light!

Categorical rejection often meets the proclamation of the gospel. Over time, this kind of opposition can breed discouragement. Who hasn’t walked away from a slammed door or brusque refusal and wondered why it seems nobody wants to listen?

In 2 Corinthians 4, Paul addresses this very problem by pointing out the obvious: God’s mercy in the gospel has reached us! Remembering we are “Exhibit A” of the gospel’s power encourages us not to give up (v. 1).

However, a very real dilemma faces us: should we change our message or our tactics? Many ministries have done this very thing in the vain attempt to avoid the world’s rejection. Paul’s answer could not be stronger. We refuse to deceive our hearers or distort our message. Instead, we clearly and precisely articulate the gospel (v. 2).

But why do unbelievers reject the gospel? Why doesn’t the gospel seem to “work” sometimes? Paul makes clear that the gospel is rejected because of the hearer, not on account of the message or the messenger. The glorious gospel is only hidden to the lost (v. 3). They do not see the life-changing truth of the gospel because they are blind (v. 4)! Imagine leading a blind friend to the rim of the Grand Canyon with your hands over their eyes. When you reach the lookout point, you pull away your hands in a grand flourish and ask them what they think of the canyon’s immense scope and magnificent colors. They, like the unbeliever, cannot appreciate the glory and splendor before them. We can describe it all we want, but what we need is supernatural intervention!

We proclaim the gospel as we praise the glory of Jesus Christ, eternal God who took on humanity, lived a perfect life, and died in our place (v. 5). But our words do not affect the spiritual blindness of a lost person. They cannot see Jesus of Nazareth for anything more than a teacher, a good man, or a prophet.

But when God in his grace sweeps the scales from those blind eyes, the overwhelming brightness of God’s glory dawns on that soul. This marvelous act of God rivals the first moment of human timekeeping when God’s voice thundered, “Let there be light!” Just as light flooded the universe at God’s command (Gen 1:3), so God’s gracious salvation causes the blazing glory of Jesus Christ to dawn on the darkened and unbelieving heart (v. 6).

When we are discouraged by rejection of the gospel, we must remember that we too, once rejected the lordship of Jesus Christ. We strained to no avail to see him with our blind eyes, but when God commanded, “Let there be light,” we basked in the light of God’s glory in the face of Jesus Christ.

December 2009

The Image of God in Man

The crowning achievement of God’s creative week was different than anything he had already created. He saved the best for last. Genesis 1:26–27 states, “Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’ And God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” Notice that there is nothing else in the creation account or anywhere else in the Bible described as being created in this way. People are the only thing about which the Bible ever says, “made in the image of God.” As we will see, this means that there is a fundamental difference between humans and all other creation. Also, we did not evolve from monkeys or amoeba. We did not crawl out of a pool of organisms and teach ourselves to walk upright. The world and man did not begin with a big bang, it began with “In the beginning, God.” God spoke, and creation happened. But what does it mean to be made in the image of God? The Bible says Adam and Eve were in the image of God—are people today still made in the image of God? If we are still in the image of God, do we have any responsibilities that come along with being made in the image of God?

Continue reading ‘The Image of God in Man’

Is God Still Working?

There is a shocking lack of confidence in the Gospel of Jesus Christ today. To borrow a phrase from Romans 1:16, it seems that many are “ashamed” of it, or at least doubtful as to whether it is indeed the “power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.” This Gospel doubting can be seen in at least two ways.

Some doubt the Gospel and therefore supplement or replace it.
There is no question that the church is embarrassingly pragmatic in our day. Pragmatism is essentially the idea that success justifies strategy—that the end justifies the means. “If it works, do it,” we are told. Thus, in the name of evangelism, we see all sorts of circus-like shenanigans: “preaching” that apes foul-mouthed stand-up comics, shockingly explicit “outreach” to the pornography industry, goldfish-swallowing youth pastors, bait-and-switch outreach efforts, felt-needs preaching, and the like. While the Gospel may be “snuck in” to such efforts, they actually reveal a sad lack of confidence in the Person and Work of Jesus Christ. Such “evangelists” act as though the Gospel is an impotent thing—a hard sell that has to ride the coattails of more attractive products, not unlike the add-ons politicians tie to bills in order to pass unpopular measures using measures with broad support. But make no mistake—the tacky salesmanship that exists both inside and outside of fundamentalism betrays a lack of confidence in the unadulterated, unadorned Gospel.

Some doubt the Gospel and therefore expect no conversions.
Not all Gospel doubting is as crass as the used-car-salesman tactics listed above. Some have a more respectable shame of the Gospel, but it is a tragic doubt nonetheless. Some are convinced that God is finished, that the conversions we read of in the New Testament and throughout church history are relics of another time, evidences of more receptive hearers and more empowered churches. We shouldn’t expect solid churches to grow, we hear. In fact, our declining numbers are justified and almost celebrated as badges of our faithfulness—as though all growing churches must be doing something wrong.

I disagree with the second concept as vehemently as I disagree with the first. To quote a Christmas hymn, “God is not dead, nor does He sleep.” He’s still working. His Spirit is still convicting, illuminating, drawing, regenerating. The Gospel is still the power of God for salvation. The Word is still alive, and powerful, and heart-rending. And thus, I expect to see it work. I pray expectantly. I preach expectantly. And God is saving people—like the deacon who will preach in our prayer meeting in a few hours, like the drug addict whose life has been turned upside down in recent months, like the single mom who has turned from religion to Christ and been eternally changed; like the multitudes that have come to Christ in recent months at Grace Church of Mentor—not because the church is perfect, and not because the church is compromising, but because the Gospel is mighty and they’re unleashing it to one sinner at a time.

One of my favorite hymns about the power of the Gospel is Isaac Watts’ stirring “How Sweet and Awesome Is the Place.” After rejoicing in salvation blessings and marveling at God’s including us in them, the hymn ends with a prayer for the Lord to use His victorious Word to save souls, fill His churches, and glorify Himself.

Pity the nations, O our God!
Constrain the earth to come;
Send Thy victorious Word abroad,
And bring the strangers home.

We long to see Thy churches full,
That all the chosen race
May with one voice and heart and soul
Sing Thy redeeming grace.

We mustn’t be ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We mustn’t sell it, as though it’s on a discount rack. And we mustn’t shelve it, as though it’s no longer useful. The Gospel is as powerful as ever! God is as alive as ever! Let’s pray and preach like we believe it, by God’s grace.

August 2009

“Unmuzzleable” Ministry

feature-article.gifPresident Obama is coming under fire for repeatedly saying that America has many Christians in it, but that we are not, or at least not now, a “Christian nation.” Few would say that we are still a Christian nation, many claim we once were a Christian nation, and some question whether we were ever one. While the United States has a system of government that stems largely from Judeo-Christian values, what qualifies America to be a Christian nation?

Continue reading ‘“Unmuzzleable” Ministry’

The Independent Church and Its Missionary Program

Periodically we reprint articles from past issues that offer helpful insight for us today. Roger Bixler pastored Westerville Bible Church from 1963 to 1996 and now serves with Gospel Fellowship Association as a mission representative.

feature-article.gifSomeone has made the statement, “The church is missions and missions is the church.” Every local church is, or should be, interested in missions. Rarely does a week pass in which the pastor does not receive some inquiry from a missionary desiring to present his work to the people of that church.

Continue reading ‘The Independent Church and Its Missionary Program’

Christian-Muslim Unity?

Unless we’re prejudiced like Jonah, every Christian should have a heart that beats with love for Muslims. Unless we’re consumed with Joab’s appetite for perpetual warfare, every Christian should long for and pray for more harmonious relations between Muslims and Christians. Unless we’re disobedient to the Lord Jesus and the Apostle Paul, every Christian should think through strategies for pursuing peace with all men, including Muslims. On the other hand, unless we’re as perpetually gullible as Samson, every true Christian should have serious concerns regarding the recent well-publicized dialogue between Muslims and Christians.

Four significant stages of Christian-Muslim dialogue have taken place between September 2006 and November 2007. Before one can rightly respond to the situation, it is essential to have a fair understanding of what is actually happening.

Continue reading ‘Christian-Muslim Unity?’

OBF Visitor Website

The OBF Visitor is the official publication of the Ohio Bible Fellowship. Feature articles from past issues of the Visitor are made available here for your use. You may read, distribute, and use this material as long as you do so in its entirety and without modification. All articles © The Ohio Bible Fellowship.


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