Where did justification by faith go?

I have become increasingly burdened over the last few years because it seems to me that many Christians – even the most evangelistic ones – fail to clearly herald that salvation is through faith in Christ alone. As my children are getting older, we have them enrolled in many Christian organizations for sports or other activities. One of the main reasons we have done so is to expose them to organizations that will preach the Gospel. I have started listening carefully and one pattern seems to be emerging; calls to be saved by believing the Gospel are rarely, if ever heard.

This was punctuated to me at one of our last “devotions” given at my son’s t-ball game. The coach spoke with the children about being good vs. being bad. The coach went on to proclaim that God wants us to be good. Then John 3:16 was quoted…well, almost quoted. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.” I was anticipating the rest of the verse. But it never came. The silence was deafening and I longed to hear the words “that whosoever believes in Him will be saved”.

Perhaps the incident above was isolated. Sadly, it doesn’t seem isolated in my experience. In fact, it was the closest thing in the three different Christian sporting leagues that we have been in this year that I have heard to the Gospel. It almost made it…but one thing was left out.

While there are many reasons that we may come up with, there are a few things in particular upon my heart as I have studied the Scriptures. In June I hope to address some of these issues during our time of Bible study. Some of the issues that are upon my heart are:

  • There are many words and phrases in the Bible that most people take to refer to the Bible that I believe should be understood specifically as references to the Gospel. Therefore we often assume that Christians should continually be studying the Bible (which I certainly agree with), but we should be seeing the Church should be continually preaching the Gospel, even to our selves!
  • The idea of “flesh” in the Scriptures is often misunderstood. While it does refer to sinful desires, I believe it is very often to warn against self-effort (whether it be self-vindication, self-righteousness, or self-reliance). Therefore, our battle against the flesh is often separated from the essential work of faith, when in fact it should be exactly opposite.
  • The place of faith in the Christian life has been damaged by both the Easy-believism camp and also by the Lordship Salvation camp.
  • The terminology and methods employed by Christians today has replaced biblical teaching.  Instead of Justification by Faith, many churches basically teach Justification by Praying The Sinners Prayer After Me, or Justification by Inviting Jesus in Your Heart.
  • One of the greatest issues is that there is a grave misunderstanding of the relationship of the Old Covenant and the New Covenant.
  • Finally, I think we have lost faith in faith. This is not a modern issue. It is the reason that the Scriptures warn us over and over to guard against returning to a life of self-effort. We must be absolutely reliant upon the Spirit of God. Even self-control is not within our abilities…it is the fruit of the Spirit!

I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas that you believe are also responsible for the demise of heralding that we must believe in the Gospel of Christ – and Christ alone!

1 Comment

  1. Chris Carmichael

    Sat 21st May 2011 at 11:06 am

    I think that professing “Christians” of today are constantly exposed and influenced by the never-ending propaganda of pluralism and tolerance. Because of this, they have become conditioned to use generalities instead of proclaiming “Christ alone.” The end result, I’m afraid, is that they do more than truncate and neuter the Gospel for the sake of tolerance; they actually start to believe that Jesus is just a better way instead of the only way.

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