Thursday, November 19, 2009

When Conservative Churches Preach Law, Not Gospel

What drives a Christ-less Christianity? Michael Horton's answer:
In more conservative contexts, you hear it as exhortation: "These are God's commandments. The culture is slipping away from us. We have to recover it, and you play a role.
And later . . .
I don't even know when I walk into a church that says it's Bible-believing that I'm actually going to hear an exposition of Scripture with Christ at the center, or whether I'm going to hear about how I should "dare to be a Daniel."
So what's the problem with "be like Daniel" preaching?
The question is whether this is the Good News. There is nothing wrong with law, but law isn't gospel. The gospel isn't "Follow Jesus' example" or "Transform your life" or "How to raise good children." The gospel is: Jesus Christ came to save sinners—even bad parents, even lousy followers of Jesus, which we all are on our best days. All of the emphasis falls on "What would Jesus do?" rather than "What has Jesus done?"
So what kind of preaching do you hear? Things for you to do, or exultation in what Christ has done? Do you hear first an emphasis on objective accomplishments of the death of Christ (as the NT epistles so consistently prioritize), or a relentless drive to impose imperatives on the congregation? Do you hear a repudiation of the gospel as the foundation of sanctification, or a reaffirmation that the gospel is the believer's only hope for Christ-likeness?


Anonymous said...

Did you hear that Jay Adams interview on SI? Did you hear Don Arms say, "Sanctification is what you do"? Thoughts?


RWVNRAL said...

Don Arms obviously hasn't read much of St. Paul. Sanctification is not what we do, it's what the Holy Spirit does in us and through us. We either cooperate or rebel. Either way, the Sanctifier accomplishes his purposes.

Anonymous said...

I think Ben asked:

Do you hear first an emphasis on objective accomplishments of the death of Christ (as the NT epistles so consistently prioritize), or a relentless drive to impose imperatives on the congregation?

Obvious examples are Romans 1-11 and then the exhortation beginning in 12. Or Ephesians 1-3 and then the exhortation in 4.

Our exhortation is continuously to be who we are.

Good stuff Ben.

Josh Caucutt said...

This is a transformational truth that I really never remember hearing until the last two years . . . and I heard it from men who I believe have many doctrinal problems, but get the Gospel right.

sweetdreams said...

It's not one or the other but both. Look what Jesus did and look what he is asking you to do.

d4v34x said...

In what sense would you say some fundamentalist reachers "repudiate the gospel as the basis of sanctification"? Also, wasn't Daniel an embracer of the gospel?

Ben said...


First of all, I just met a guy a couple weeks ago who looks EXACTLY like you.

Second, in this sermon you'll hear the preacher grossly abuse the text in an attempt to make the case that believers need to move beyond the gospel and study deeper theological issues. You know, stuff like . . . music. (Start about 23 minutes in and listen for about 5.) His astonishing assertion is that the cross is not the epicenter of sanctification. This man is a member of the FBFI board, pastor of a prominent IFB church, and former president of an IFB Bible College.

To be fair, he does come back some days later to offer a clarification that takes him from outright heresy to mere serious error. He still distorts the gospel. And that's just the most overt instance I can point you to. Conservative churches are rife with examples of repudiating the gospel not by directly denying it but by marginalizing it—by moving it to the periphery and importing peripheral (not unimportant, merely less important) issues to the center. I'm convinced that this tendency is perilous. But when it's attached to a belief that the gospel is not the driving force in sanctification, it's no longer Christian.

d4v34x said...


Was his name John Jensen?

Also, regarding that link, wow.

Ben said...

Nope and no kidding.

Joshua Allen said...

Just catching up on my blog reading; really good stuff. What a great way to make clear the distinction between legalism and gospel!

Anonymous said...

The cross is not the epicenter of sanctification but of salvation. Having people saved by the blood of Jesus and then leaving where they are, not discipling them is not what Jesus asked us to do. Matthew 28:18-20 "And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, 'All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.'" How are we to observe all that Jesus commanded? Teach them the word. After all, Jesus is the word.

I agree with you that there are some churches that focus too much on the law. We are to NEVER diminish the cross and the sacrifice that Christ made on our behalf. That aside there are commandments (instruction from Jesus himself, and from the apostles) that require action on our part and if we aren't taught by our leaders what the word says and encouraged to study it; all of it, how will we ever accomplish this?

The gospel is for all men, to those who accept, believe and repent, there is more to our Christian walk. ICorinthians 2:12-16 "Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, Which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words. But a natural man does not accept the things of the
Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no one. For WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD, THAT HE WILL INSTRUCT HIM? But we have the mind of Christ."

We have the mind of Christ, amazing! Let us use it to understand the scriptures for His glory and for nothing else. We glorify God with our thoughts, actions, words; which need to line up with who He is and who He is is revealed to us in scripture. It is so important that scripture is taught to and studied by believers and followers of Christ so that we may glorify Him.