SBC21: The Gospel (Conclusion)

sbc21-scopeThe introduction, direction, and explanation for the baptist21 vision series entitled “SBC21: The Duties and Dangers of This Present Hour” has been laid out in two previous posts. Here are Part one and Part two of the introduction to this series.


The first blog in the series is dealing with the Gospel, here are Part one and Part two.

So, getting the Gospel right has tremendous implications for being Baptist in the 21st century. For too long the Gospel has been envisioned as a hoop to jump through in order to get “in,” and then we live moral lives after that in order to get more reward in heaven when we finally die. This type of gospel leads to a moralistic, legalistic church. It displays for the lost that in order to be a Christian it means doing x, y and z, instead of teaching them that they can do nothing to commend themselves to God and are in desperate need of the mercy of Jesus. We teach justification by faith, but we fail to teach sanctification by faith and the need to constantly be reminded of the gospel in order to be conformed to the image of Christ and see our idols of self, money, and a host of others knocked down. This error leads to an elitist, self-righteous church who fails in the Missio Dei. The first implication of not getting the Gospel right is that legalism keeps people from Christ.

Second, discipleship and holiness are about learning to believe and apply the Gospel. At root all sin is a failure to believe and apply the gospel. Saying that we want to be gospel-centered is about more than just sharing the gospel. It is about living the gospel. Our actions often betray us! We can SAY that we believe in a gospel of forgiveness but when we hold 10 year long grudges against family members it reveals something different to the world. We can SAY that we believe in a God who was longsuffering with us in Jesus but when we blow up in anger at a traffic jam it betrays our confession. We can say we believe in a generous Gospel but when our iphone bill keeps us from sacrificially giving to meet the needs of the poor it is because we do not really believe that Jesus became poor so that we could become rich in Him (2 Cor. 8:9).

Third, being Gospel-centered should also call the SBC to repentance for our failures at being community and seeing that the Gospel demands a corporate nature to the Christian life, not an individual one. The Gospel is about Christ building his church (Matt 16). The Gospel is not just about reconciling enemies to God. It is also about reconciling us to one another (cf. Eph. 2). We live in an age where interfacing with a computer screen is more popular than spending time with flesh and blood people. We live in an age where tragically a celebrity like Alyssa Milano can say that a baseball stadium is the last place in America that a person can actually find community. The lack of community in our churches betrays our confession of the Gospel. When we have two men in our congregation who sit on opposite sides of the “sanctuary” because “she said, she said” between their teenage daughters has caused them to not want to speak to each other anymore it is because we do not really believe the Gospel. Those actions display to the world that we believe in a Gospel where Christ’s death is enough to forgive our sins but it is not enough to forgive sins committed against us. When we have cliques in the church (or cliquish churches) that make “outsiders” feel uncomfortable, it displays to the lost that we believe in a Gospel where Christ’s death makes us “insiders” with God but it is not enough to make them insiders with us. When we have members of our churches who give to “meet needs” in the congregation but also feel that the person they gave to now “owes them one,” or when we have people who are in need but refuse to accept generosity because they do not want to be obligated to anyone, it is because we do not really believe in a Gospel of grace in which Christ has given to us more than we deserve or could ever payback! When we have people who refuse to bear with one another in the church it is because we do not really understand how much God has put up with us! The church is to be a gospel-centered community that loves the brothers and sisters (cf. John 13), and in so doing attracts the nations to King Jesus, but too often in the American church (SBC) all people see is dis-community and  a measly Gospel. We need to recapture the community-centered nature of the Gospel.

Fourth, we must know the Gospel so that we can engage in God’s Kingdom mission. The Gospel is the Gospel of the Kingdom. Through his vicarious death and victorious resurrection the Messiah has ascended to the throne and is establishing his rule (Psa. 110). That rule is now visibly manifested in the church. We live in submission to the rule of our king by believing the Gospel, and this means lives that are radically different from the kingdoms of this world. We, as citizens in the kingdom of light, call others out of the kingdom of darkness as we declare the Gospel with our lips and display the Gospel with our lives in the church under the rule of King Jesus. We as Southern Baptists need to be gospel-centered because we live in a post-Christian America and an unreached world. In order to rightly engage this culture with the Gospel we need to be keenly aware of what the Gospel is, not relying solely on a pre-packaged “plan of salvation” that communicates only with people are already just like us. We need to live the Gospel in community with one another and declare it to the lost, and through these redeemed communities the lost will see the Gospel and the reign of King Jesus on display. If the lost do not hear it they will not be saved (cf. Rom. 10).

The Gospel is the glorious message of God acting in Christ to rescue a people for himself, establish his kingdom and remake the cosmos! The Gospel needs to be the center of our lives. If it is then we will raise children who reject pharisaical self-righteousness and avoid self-crushing guilt, and instead embrace the fact that they are sinners in need of mercy. If we center our lives on the Gospel then we will display the cross-love of Jesus as we care for our brothers and sisters in Christ. We will live life in community together as a display of the Gospel to the world. We will not make sarcastic comments about the “sinners” around us because we recognize our own deep sinfulness and the incredible grace of Jesus. We will be driven by the Gospel mission to get this message to those who currently have no access to it. Our prayer to God is that we and all Southern Baptists in the 21st century would be known as holding to what is of “utmost importance!”

Jon Akin