"Unity without verity is no better than conspiracy." - John Trapp

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Sovereign Gospel

I've been taking this class along with three other people from Grace and Peace. In the final week's reading was this quote:

"'The gospel has a sovereignty of its own and is never an instrument in the hands of the evangelist.' The good news is not ours to feel superior about or to use as a tool or a weapon. It is not our story; it is God's story." (Bryant Myers in Walking with the Poor: Principles and Practices of Transformational Development quoting Lesslie Newbigin on p. 216)
There is a sense in which the gospel is our story. Luther said that the pronouns make all the difference in the gospel - e.g. Jesus died for me. Luther was getting at the fact that we must see and experience the gospel personally, as, in a sense, our story.

But the quote is concerned not with how we experience the gospel, but who has ownership of the gospel. I see two implications/applications from this idea that the gospel has its own sovereignty. First, in regard to the Gospel not being a tool in the hands of the evangelist, the sovereignty of the gospel has been increasingly lost in America since at least the Second Great Awakening. The preacher/evangelist became the focus of the activity and the power of the gospel was downplayed.

Charles Finney's focus on methodology has had a serious negative impact on our preaching and teaching. This is seen in those who do not preach the whole counsel of God out of concern that the message will not be received. Instead of the message the emphasis is put on methods. The sovereignty of the gospel is not recognized either in the fact that we do not have the right to change it nor does it need to be changed to have an transform lives.

This is not to say that preaching today must be of one particular style, a monotone without emotion. If God used men to write Scripture such that the writings are stamped with personalities and passions of the human authors, then we should expect that the personalities and passions of preachers will come through the preached word as well. But the content of the message must not change in favor of what is perceived as more palatable (attractive) content.

Second, whether we would verbalize it or not, we tend to think and act like we are the caretakers of the gospel. We are like John wanting Jesus to act because someone who is not part of our circle is casting out demons. We are the enlightened and the gospel becomes a tool in our hands to exalt ourselves above the "heathen" (and we get to define who the "heathen" are). This attitude is not only misguided, but dangerous. It is the attitude of the Pharisees.

So long as people are not deny core truths (e.g. the Galatian heresy adding Law to gospel, or denials of the resurrection as addressed in 1 Corinthians 15), we cannot sit in judgment over them. We can, and should, dialog on matters of disagreement and try to come to the unity of the faith. But the gospel is sovereign enough not only over itself, but also over the human heart, so that it can work despite my lack of understanding and my false ideas. Therefore, I have to believe it can do the same for others.

If we want to fully participate in what Jesus is doing in these last days, then like John we are going to have to learn that He will use those not like us. Sometimes he will even use those that we may think should be stopped. Paul was even willing to rejoice in the proclamation of the gospel by those who were motivated out of a desire to see him afflicted.

Because the gospel is sovereign, and we are to be subject.

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Blogger Even So... said...

Good to remind ourselves of that...

11:25 AM EDT  

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