|A Complete Gospel by Tony Stone
by Tony Stone
Lately, I have been thinking about the many issues our modern churches face when it comes to trying to get more people in the Church and attracting new members. I’ve been dwelling in the book of Romans frequently, since this is the book that I have been teaching through for the last year with the youth at my Church. Spending that much time in the book of Romans has made me think about the gospel message and how it’s presented in our day and age. More than ever, I’ve noticed people not mentioning sin, in an effort to not make the unsaved feel better and, hopefully, stay in the Church. We’ve confused bodies in the Church with actual successful conversions. So I want to deal with two major elements of the gospel message: Law and Grace.
The Law is both wonderful and dreadful at the same time. When I say Law, I’m not talking about 5-0 chasing down your cousin Pookie, but I am talking about the Law of the Lord as summed up by the 10 commandments. The Law is wonderful because it shows us how God feels about sin. As Christians, when we think on it daily, it has a way of pushing us towards Christ. Psalm 1:2 tells us
But his delight is in the law of the LORD, And in His law he meditates day and night.
However the Law has a very opposite effect to those who are not in Christ. The Law brings us to an understanding of our sinful nature. Romans 3:19-20 says:
“Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin.”
So the Law of the Lord will make a sinner specifically aware of their sinfulness, because we all have sinned.
Law without Grace
There are many of you who have had Law only presentations. You were told about the Law and your sins. You were told about a God of wrath who punishes sinners. Although this is true about God, if that is all you are taught about Him, then that is not a complete picture of the Gospel. As a result of hearing a Law only presentation you lived your life with a heavy burden, trying to earn God’s approval and righteousness by attempts at Law keeping. You would try to clean up the outside act, being one way in front of your parents and Church people, but still living with the internal problem of sin. This is because the Law doesn’t save us by itself, but it is key in bringing us to our knees to realize that we are not as perfect as we thought we were. That’s where grace comes in.
Grace is truly amazing! Grace is God letting us off the hook when we deserve otherwise. Grace is the favor of God given to us despite our sins. It is a gift. Ephesians 2:8 tells us:
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God,
If it were not for grace, none of us could be saved! I thank God that He saves by grace and not by the merit of our works, else we’d all be destroyed. Grace, however, must be understood in contrast to works. For the person who thinks that they have not sinned against God, how can they understand that grace is undeserved pardoning of a sinner? In the mind of the proud, they deserve to be pardoned by God. But the humble knows their works are evil and that they deserve the punishment of their sin. They then see the greatness of grace.
Grace is what salvation boils down to: God graciously loves us and gives salvation unconditionally. Jesus sheds His blood on the cross even though He’s innocent. He sheds it for guilty sinners who should be paying that price in their own blood. This is grace: believers given what we don’t deserve. What a relief it is to be in Jesus!
Grace without Law
Like the Law, Grace is one of those Biblical truths that has been told in part, also. Many of us have been told a message of Jesus that only included love, kindness, and grace. You may have heard about this loving Jesus who loves you and cares for you, who wants to be with you. While these things are true about God, if you are given a grace only presentation, you are not getting a complete picture of the gospel. I think more Churches and youth groups fall into this category because we really don’t want to offend people. We don’t want to turn people away from such a great gift of salvation when we know it’s wonderful!
But consider the drastic results of a love only presentation. I admit that leaving out the Law feels better and seems to produce more people passionate to accept Jesus, so it must work, right? Well, if we were to examine the motives of people who come to accept Jesus when there is no understanding of sin, you’ll find that many there had a very different idea of what they were “accepting Christ” for. Some may have very legitimate reasons why they feel they need a Savior. Some has illnesses. Some have issues with money. Others are in need of good grades. While these are all real problems that we face in life, they are not the motivators of true conversion. The only motivation that draws us genuinely to the foot of Christ is the recognition of our sinfulness and need for a redeemer. The only means by which we are saved is by grace through faith.
We have discussed the Law and Grace and the importance of both of these elements being present in the gospel presentation. When you share your faith with others, it’s important that there is an awareness made of sins and offences against God. Without this, men don’t understand why they need Jesus. However this alone will cause people to persue works righteousness as a means for salvation, which is impossible. It’s also important that you share the grace of God with men. They need to know that a suitable atonement is in Christ alone! They need to know the love of God and that we are saved by His grace alone by faith alone. Without this element, it men are left without answers as to how a man can be saved. But presenting a love only message leaves people unaware of the sins that we have and the need for grace.
Be unashamed of the gospel! Point to the reason we need salvation. Point to the grace of God. Let’s go out there and glorify Christ in our evangelism!