If a cluttered desk is a sign of intelligence, then I must rival Einstein. My desk is a mess.
Yesterday I decided to try to clear off my desk in an hour or so. I never got past the first journal I picked up.
I had not yet read the July-September 2020 issue of DTS’s Bibliotheca Sacra. I started by reading an article by Seth Postell arguing that for the person who is observant, the OT is filled with references to the Messiah. That is an outstanding article. I may write a blog about it soon.
BibSac has taken to publishing transcripts of DTS podcasts. I find this surprising, since they are not really articles and certainly not journal articles. But an article in this issue really caught my eye: “Sharing the Whole Gospel.” I wondered what that was about.
Normally, the full gospel refers to the Charismatic idea that there is a potential second work of grace that God wishes to do in us. The first work is salvation (typically viewed as initially by commitment, repentance, and faith and then kept by faith and works). But the expression the whole gospel was new to me.
Darrell Bock and Mikel Del Rosario discuss previous conversations with Spaulding, Dickson, and Yuan. The discussion proved to be on target with questions Shawn, Ken, and I receive a lot. Shouldn’t we start out our evangelistic presentations by telling people that they are sinners and then proving it to them?
Bock holds to what he calls mild Lordship Salvation. It is reasonable to think that Del Rosario and the three people whose views they discuss all hold to that position as well. However, none of that comes out in this article, other than by implication.
By the gospel, they mean the saving message. By the whole gospel, they mean the full picture, not just the answer to the question, “What must I do to be saved?”
Most people start out their evangelistic presentation “by essentially telling the person, ‘First, you are [a] sinner and you need to be fixed’” (p. 352). Bock and Del Rosario do not reject that idea. Evidently, they believe that one must turn from his sins to be born again. However, they do reject the idea that our evangelism should start there.
They say that starting by telling people that they are sinners who need fixing “can lead some people to see God primarily [as] a cosmic judge who keeps track of human faults in order to bring punishment” (p. 352). They add, “Beginning spiritual conversations with the Fall in Genesis 3 begins at the wrong point, in the middle of the Gospel story. Skipping over Genesis 1 hinders people from seeing a fuller picture of God and humanity.” They then cite Spaulding as saying that “they should begin with the biblical truth that all humans are created in God’s image. He designed the gospel to take us back to the initial purpose of life and our original design” (p. 352). “Preaching the whole gospel means including the beauty of creation, beginning in a positive place” (p. 352).
Their discussion then moves to the issue of “biblical sexual ethics” as they relate to evangelism. They cite a conversation Bock had with Yuan. In that conversation they came to discuss how we should evangelize gay people. Yuan said, “When we see a gay person, we [often] see them [as] their sinful behavior alone and nothing else. We forget that this individual, who has yet to know Christ, is still an image-bearer of God. We need to stop viewing same-sex behavior as the only lens through which we see those in the gay community” (p. 355).
Yuan added, “I’m not at all saying that we need to ignore or treat trivially this sinful behavior. I just don’t think that we need to elevate it as the first thing” (p. 355). Yuan said that often when he is in churches, he is asked what we should tell gay friends. “And I’m like, ‘Tell them what? [They respond], ‘That [homosexual sex] is sin.’ Why does this have to be the first thing that you want to tell them?” (p. 355).
Instead, he says we should “First, just get to know the person” and “The second thing is talk to them about God, the existence of God, and Jesus Christ his son” (p. 355).
The discussion ends with a discussion of how “the whole gospel is designed to lead us to reconciliation” (p. 357). Reconciliation is explained as being “relationally equipped to live the way God intended us to live from the beginning” (p. 357). “When we share the whole gospel, we lovingly invite all men and women into a new world, the family of God” (p. 357). That sounds like a changed life is guaranteed to all who accept the whole gospel. I use the word accept since they never talk about believing the whole gospel or about justification by faith alone.
Cru’s The Four Spiritual Laws reflects the idea that evangelistic presentations should begin on a positive note. The first law is “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.”
The Lord Jesus started with the promise of everlasting life (John 3:3, 5, 14-18; 4:10-14; 11:25-27). That is certainly a positive place to start. Telling people that God wants them to spend eternity with Him in His kingdom is wonderful news. And it certainly ties in with the creation mandate in Genesis 1-2. Man was created to bear God’s image on earth and to have dominion. God’s image in us is tarnished today. Even believers “fall short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23). A day is coming soon when we will sin no more, when we will bear God’s image as we were intended, and when we will be part of Jesus’ glorious kingdom. If we have endured in this life, then we will share in His kingdom reign (2 Tim 2:12).
While the discussion in BibSac is not as clear I would like, it is certainly a step in the right direction. We’d go further. The issue for us is not when we tell people that they must turn from their sins to be born again. We do not tell them that at all. We tell them that God wants them to be a part of His forever family. And He showed His love for us by taking away sin as a barrier between us and God when He sent His Son to die on the cross for our sins and then to rise from the dead.
Starting with the positive is the pattern the Lord Jesus gave us. Why not give it a try?