Does immorality pose a threat to the Gospel? In other words, do the sins of life, the depravity of man and the ugliness of this world threaten the Gospel you hold to? If the Gospel is threatened by the shadiness of life then we do need to be careful of the danger of sin and the immorality of the world. We better limit the Gospel’s exposure to sin and immorality! Let’s build morality fences and hold down the fort! However, is the Gospel that easily threatened? Do we need to keep the Gospel away from sin so as to protect the integrity of the Gospel?
Throughout the New Testament Epistles we see Paul constantly warning the church to guard the truth of the Gospel, to protect the Gospel from false teaching. But do we see Paul warning the church to keep the Gospel locked up and away from sinners?
The reality is that churches, who are stuck in legalism, will many times believe that the Gospel is threatened not because of false theology from within and around the church but rather threatened by the bad morals of bad people out there. The difficult reality for the legalistic church is that their view of the legalistic Gospel actually is threatened by immortality.
Now, this may sound harsh so let me explain. When we view the Gospel in legalistic terms, the Gospel turns from being the good news of God’s atonement to God’s good advice for righteous living. When the Gospel is shifted from the good news of what Jesus has done to good advice that we need to do, the Gospel is diminished, weakened and simply becomes vulnerable.
Seriously, think about this for a moment. How can the depravity of man and immoral actions of mankind possibly threaten what God has done in the person of Christ? No action of man in the past, present or future is capable of taking Jesus off the cross or keeping him in the tomb. Christ died. Christ rose. The gates of Hades will not overcome the person and work of Jesus! The Gospel is firmly framed in the time and space of history, it is also framed in God’s omnipotent sovereignty. However, what if we see the Gospel as good advice for us to live a better life now? Well, the Gospel is reduced and frankly diminished to the dimension of mankind’s actions. Thus, this watered down Gospel of moralism, which is no Gospel at all, is susceptible to the ills of immorality. If the Gospel is viewed as good moral advice for good moral living then bad advice for bad moral living is actually a threat and it needs to be kept at a distance. This warped view of the Gospel thus pushes sinners away, confuses Law & Gospel, builds walls of safety and makes the church into a bubble of steal.
The view of the Gospel as an atoning sacrifice for sinners, a view of seeing the Gospel as external good news for sinners, has the opposite effect. Christ embraced the ragamuffins of his day to grant forgiveness. They even labeled him and called him a drunk, a friend of sinners. Christ even said that he came not for the healthy but for the sick, the sinner. This view of the Gospel, as good news for sinners, breaks down walls, seeks the sinner, absolves sin, chases the lost coin, seeks the lost sheep and runs out to the prodigal. This view of the Gospel knows that the gates of Hades cannot overcome it. It is not threatened by the mere foolish acts of immoral people. Frankly, this second view of the Gospel doesn’t shy away from sin but rather absolves and forgives it.
Two different views of the Gospel. One threatened and the other absolving sin!