I was referred to examine Pastor Shawn Mathis’ blog ‘Did Calvin preach anti-ChristIan sermons?’.
My response is ‘no’ if you truly understand the Gospel. Many in the Reformed Camp and outside of it have a very narrow understanding of the Gospel. I also believe their views truncate and actually misdefine the good news. They do that by making justification the sole issue of the Gospel. But the Gospel of reconciliation to God is so much more. It is also about us being made new creatures in Christ. It is about being regenerate (born again) and having a renewed spirit. It is about our daily sanctification and salvation. The Gospel is about our whole life before God.
I posted the following response in the comment section on Facebook where Pastor Mathis posted the blog. Someoone referenced Warfield saying that the passage concerning the Prodgal Son had no Gospel in it because there was no reference to the atonement. In general I also am confronted by attacks on self examination and how we should view our obedience by those who truncate the gospel. They have a few good points but you can’t throw the truth out because some misapply or misunderstand the truth.
“I will say this, there are different layers of the Gospel. All of our reconciliation to God totally depends on the person and work of Christ. But there are themes of the Gospel message that may be presented without specific acknowledgement of the cross. Repentance from sin and seeking reconciliation is a call to the covenant community. How to live before God and please Him is a part of the Gospel. As Bavinck noted, the Gospel restores the Law to its proper place in the life of the redeemed. The Gospel is more than the teaching of Justification. That is something many don’t understand now days.
Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.
Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ. For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself. But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. For every man shall bear his own burden. Let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things. Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.
1 John 3:18-24
My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth. And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him. For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things. Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God. And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight. And this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment. And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him. And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us.
2 Corinthians 13:5
Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?
I have another example of the problem presented to us in a gospel that is truncated by being focused solely on justification.
Let’s examine the examples of Abraham’s faith. His faith is referenced two specific times in the New Testament. A lot of people make categorical mistakes when they try reconciling the writings of Paul and James concerning justification by faith. Paul is speaking about Abraham’s response of faith concerning the future promise of his seed. He is declared righteous without works. Genesis 15:1-7 , Romans 4:1-8 James presents a totally different situation as does Genesis 22.
A lot of people in their zeal for the doctrine of justification by faith alone in the Gospel make a categorical error when they present Genesis 22:1-14 in a typological way concerning the person and work of Christ. Abraham and Isaac are not typological of God and Christ here. This passage is about God testing Abraham’s faith. It is not about justification by faith alone. It is about covenant obedience and blessing. If anything, and I am assuming here, the Lamb provided is typological and indicates that even our obedience needs to be viewed as imperfect and covered as it can only be accepted in Christ. James is presenting Abraham in a totally different context than Paul is in Romans and it is still Gospel.”
I am looking forward to Pastor Shawn Mathis’ follow up blog. He is an ordained minister in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.