salvation-only gospel

Our church has recently been asking the question, “What is the gospel?”

And if we take Paul’s words seriously that the unity of the gospel is of utmost importance (Gal. 1-2), how we answer this question is crucial.

In my sermon this past week I took a look at the “salvation-only gospel” (you can listen here).

Now, I’ve already talked about some of this recently (see here and here). Essentially, when the gospel (“good news”) of Jesus Christ gets boiled down to personal salvation - a transaction between us and God - we end up with a gospel that is more modern than biblical.

Like I said in reference to cliches, we read passages like John 3:16 through a individualistic grid (“what’s in it for me?”). All one has to do is make a decision - “invite Jesus into your heart” as it’s typically communicated. Personal salvation - “eternal life” in the future sense - is the gospel. Christian identity hinges on internal belief in Jesus as saviour. Everything else (e.g. following Jesus) is additional or extra. Or worse, everything else is optional. We risk settling for internal assurance at the expense of whole-life transformation. We have belief without action (discipleship). We believe in Jesus but struggle to (or just don’t) follow him.

For a North.American evangelical church so entrenched in a salvation-only gospel, there are some key questions that need asking:

Isn’t this the main message of Christianity? Isn’t personal salvation the gospel?
Isn’t critiquing the personal salvation gospel just succumbing to postmodern skepticism?
Does this mean salvation is about works?
Maybe people who struggle to believe and follow don’t really grasp their salvation (i.e. they were never really saved)?
Shouldn’t we just preach personal salvation more?
And then teach and model discipleship better?

Essentially, if we do have a gospel that is more modern than biblical, what should Christians do? 
More to come...


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