This morning I met with the men from our church for our monthly men’s fellowship. Currently, we are reading and deeply discussing The 9 Marks of a Healthy Church by Mark Dever, along with additional material from their website. Shortly after a quick breakfast, we delved into the topic of the morning, namely the gospel (chapter 3 or the third mark). Our men passionately shared with one another that the gospel is foundational and it is what drives our church, our worship, our fellowship, and our evengelism.
But unfortunately, that is not the case with many churches. And too often the so-called gospel for many people has reduced to a mere moralism, self-esteem, only one facet of Christology, namely “Jesus loves you,” or only that “God is love” or that “God loves all.” Or, how about this one: the gospel is about “having personal relationship with Jesus,” as if it is privatized, without any sense of both individual and corporate accountability to a local church. Don’t people understand that Jesus has “personal relationship” with both condemned and converted ones?
And too often the gospel is simply “Jesus died for you,” while completely ignoring or neglecting that there is undividable connection between the true gospel and sound systematic doctrines. For instance, is there a direct relationship between the gospel and bibliology? The answer is absolutely! How else the gospel is known without God’s special revelation? If one has a wrong view of the Bible (such as its inerrancy, authority, or sufficiency), more likely, one would have a wrong view of the gospel.
Next, how about the relationship between the gospel and theology proper? Again, absolutely! If one would have a wrong view of God, more likely, one would have a wrong view of the gospel.
How about the relationship between the gospel and anthropology? Absolutely! It is because if one would have a wrong view of man (such as what Robert Schuller and Joel Osteen advocate), one would have a wrong view of the gospel.
How about the correlation between the gospel and Christology? Absolutely, again! If one has a wrong view of Jesus, he/she has a wrong view of the gospel. How about the relationship between the gospel and pneumatology? Again, if there is a wrong view of the Person and Work of the Holy Spirit, there is no true gospel.
And the list of other theological implications can go on and on (e.g., ecclesiology and eschatology). I hope you get the picture. All that is to say, there is absolutely undeniable relationship between the gospel and systematic theology. As you can see, the biblical gospel is more than “Jesus loves you” or other one-sided half truths.
I have concluded that the reason why so many do not preach the biblical gospel is because so many do not understand the biblical gospel. Many think they do, but they don’t. And one of the fundamental reasons for this is because people failed to have a high view of God and a low view of man. Dever rightfully writes:
One of the early stages of becoming a Christian involves beginning to realize that your problems fundamentally are not that you have messed up your own life or tha tyou have failed to ralize your own potential, but that you have sinned, not primarily against yourself or even against someone else, but against God. And now, because of that, it begins to dawn on you that you are yourself rightly the object of God’s wrath, of His judgment – that you deserve death, separation from God, spiritual alienation from Him now and forever (p. 83).
As much as it is important to preach or share the gospel, we must know the gospel, first and foremost.