Is the Gospel of Jesus Christ to feed stomachs or souls?
For Christians the understanding must be that nothing supersedes the Gospel of Jesus Christ. For what can? Would money replace the Gospel? What about position or rank, would those serve as a substitute for the Gospel? Would health? Completeness then, or wholeness of emotion? Perhaps good values and education? No! None of these can provide for the need that the Gospel alone can suffice.
Why then does it appear the mission of the church has become one of providing these various things for people, and in most instances in lieu of the Gospel?
At the ascension of Jesus Christ in Acts we read of Him commanding those present, “Acts 1:8 But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.”
“Ye shall be witnesses unto me…” Go! Witness for me, and then He is taken up into heaven. Witnesses of what? The Gospel!
“Luke 24:46-48 And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And ye are witnesses of these things.”
Witnesses of the Gospel that declares men to be DEAD in sin and in desperate need of salvation. A Gospel that condemns all men under the death penalty of sin and consigns them to an eternal hell, but also the same Gospel that offers the way of salvation, true forgiveness of sin, and life eternal.
It is that Gospel which proclaims- The death of the Lamb of God, that perfect and only sacrifice which atones for the dreadful state of sin all men finds themselves in. And greater still the subsequent resurrection of the sacrificial Lamb- Jesus, signifying the sacrifice acceptable and the way into a state of righteousness having been made for all who would receive this gift of grace from God Himself.
Let the most wealthy man of the highest rank, who possess vast material goods; food, clothing, shelter, all his hearts desire. Let this man die a sinner and all is lost. The one thing of true value is lost, his eternal soul. Now, let a poor man who possesses nothing, hungry, homeless, broke… Let him die having received the promise of the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ which is the power of God unto salvation- which promise is eternal life. Let him die and all is gained!
I know some are perhaps already seething at this apparent denunciation of our beloved social gospel, which on a certain level it may well be such a thing. However, that is not my intent, certainly I feel it is the responsibility of the church to at least attempt to feed the hungry, tend to the sick, care for the elderly, minister to orphans, yes, yes, and yes. But should it be at the expense of the Gospel? No.
What happens when the church cannot feed, clothe or house people? What happens when under severe persecution the church has no material goods or wealth to offer? Such as is happening to much of the church right now in Europe, the Middle East, the Far East, and other places. What then? What do you offer to men then when you can no longer facilitate a social gospel?
What do we offer dead men if we have ourselves forgotten the true need for the Gospel of Jesus Christ?
And from another perspective, what remains to offer men when we retract from them for fear of offending them?
If I am in a dead sleep in my home and you passing by notice it engulfed in flames, please offend me by bursting in and rudely awakening me to the danger so that I might escape.
Sometimes it seems we, as Christians, are so worried over offending people when considering the presentation of the Gospel. I wonder if with our concern of not offending them, we do not inadvertently distract from the severity of the need?
People are dying. Lost men and women, some walking around in despair, most without hope, all without light and the church is quiet, backwards, bashful, and ashamed.
Or at the least distracted. (Played any sports lately?)
Perhaps the problem is that the church is content, “We have our programs. We feed and shelter the homeless. We care for widows and orphans… Now let’s go enjoy ourselves and relax.” God forbid it!
What good is light if we hide it? What is salt if not catalyst for the fire!
What value is love if we do not share it? I speak of that Biblical love that typically only comes when the giver is sacrificing their own life for the betterment of the receiver.
Are we dead to self, to sin, or are we just sleeping?
Are we alive in Christ, or just excited with the doing?
Are we providing for eternity, or just building with wood, hay, and stubble?
What do we offer men if not the Gospel of Jesus Christ?