I recently read, at a forum titled “What is the Gospel?”, the following:
“To focus too much on sin can lead to a legalistic, pharisaical, condemning message.”
I find that an interesting expression, especially in light of every ‘evangelistic’ encounter recorded in the book of Acts. The focus of every one of those encounters centers on the sinfulness of man, the righteousness of God, and impending judgment. If it is not explicitly stated, it is undeniably implied by the very definition of gospel presented by the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 15 (and elsewhere). You will not find in any of those encounters the ever popular witnessing lead-in of “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.”
Does that mean that those involved in those evangelistic encounters in the New Testament failed to achieve the proper balance between the topics of ‘sin’ and ‘love’ in the content of their message?
If I am of the opinion that salvation is the work of man (ala Charles Finney) it might indeed be true that ‘God loves you’ needs to be spoken ‘X’ numbers of times in order for anyone to ‘accept’ Jesus. In that evangelistic paradigm (Pelagian in that it denies original sin), men have the ability to persuade other men to accept Christ, without the aid of anything outside of themselves, and in fact must ‘attract’ sinners to Christ with whatever method works best.
If I am of the opinion that “Salvation is of the Lord!”, as was Jonah, men who focus on the ‘sin’ issue can trust God to do a supernatural work in the heart of the hearer so powerful that he not only realizes his helpless, hopeless condition as an deserving object of God’s just wrath, he also realizes the tremendous love of God in Christ Jesus’ substitutionary death for his sin, and so runs willingly and happily to the foot of the Cross!
Then there is the matter of being under condemnation by our very nature because of our unbelief, having been ‘born on death row’ so to speak, because of Adam’s sin imputed to the whole human race. If that is the case, then there needs to be an element of judgment and condemnation in our gospel message for true salvation to take place. It is only when the full weight of what scripture says about the fallen condition of man really sinks in, that the sinner being drawn to the Cross can fully comprehend the length and breadth of God’s love!
The boundless love that would have an all powerful and sovereign God send His own Son to die for the sins of the elect overwhelmingly eclipses the love expressed with words concerning the temporal blessings we receive once we are His true children. Mere words are somehow inadequate, and totally unneeded, when the truth of God’s vast love and boundless mercy dawns upon the ‘God-opened’ heart!
Having said that, I still find is somewhat puzzling when my well intentioned brothers in Christ ‘counsel’ me for not balancing the message of sin and impending judgment (with it’s unspoken, inherent, and transcendent love), with a lot of love ‘language’ in the presentation of the gospel.
What would be the measuring rod of a ‘balanced’ gospel presentation anyway? Word count? And if it could be measured, exactly how is the standard applied? Do we need to ‘can’ our gospel presentations to ensure balance, or are we supposed to intuitively recognize, in the middle of the conversation, that we tipped the scale in the wrong direction? Perhaps some enterprising soul will come up with a digital monitoring system, with voice recognition software, to vibrate in our pocket or something, so we wouldn’t appear to be faking the whole thing.