In his book “The King Jesus Gospel,” Scott McKnight asks the questions, “How did the gospel culture become a salvation culture? How did the gospel become the plan of salvation?” He explains how the gospel stories of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John is a story of Jesus as the completion of the story of Israel. Jesus established a kingdom of which He is King. This story formed and framed the culture of the earliest Christians. However, due to its openness to Gentile (non-Jewish) believers, much of the Jewish history, customs and culture were overlooked and eventually left out of the gospel message. Through time, the lifestyle and cultural aspects of Israel with its kings and kingdoms, along with its historical meaning and fulfillment through Jesus had been forgotten. The gospel had been reduced to an evangelistic “plan of salvation”, while obedience and discipleship is something totally separate. We now call the gospel the “good news”, and rightly so. It’s the good news of how Jesus came to die for our sins. But that’s not all there is. What about His Kingship? What about living for His Kingdom? The focus has turned from a desire to be part of a world-changing culture and kingdom which lives out and conveys God’s truth, to a measly "get out of hell for free" pass.
We often use evangelistic tracts to convey a quick, easy and convenient gospel presentation. However, these evangelistic tracts only touch the surface of the gospel and quite often focus on the wrong point. One of the most well-known gospel tracts is “The Four Spiritual Laws.” See if you can find the flaw in its presentation…
Spiritual Law 1 – God loves you and offers a wonderful plan for your life.
Spiritual Law 2 – Man is sinful and separated from God. Therefore, he cannot know and experience God’s love and plan for his life.
Spiritual Law 3 – Jesus Christ is God’s only provision for man’s sin. Through Him you can know and experience God’s love and plan for your life.
Spiritual Law 4 – We must individually receive Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord; then we can know and experience God’s love and plan for our lives.
Were you able to see it? Each law states actual truth’s, but it’s presentation is very “me-centered”. Notice how each law talks about our life? It’s very humanistic in nature. It’s more about man and having a better life rather than God. It goes on to lead a person through a prayer to receive Jesus and eternal life. This presentation is almost as bad as the health and wealth presentation which lures and promises a better life.
The danger of this gospel is that we have reduced the salvation experience to a simple prayer. In an effort to “win the masses”, we have developed a quick and easy process for salvation... A "get out of hell for free" gimmick. A person can say a prayer then walk away with eternal life without any form of understanding, commitment or desire to change. We don’t see a prayer like this in the book of Acts. Nor did Jesus lead His disciples in a prayer of salvation. This gospel makes forgiveness and salvation the end goal while leaving discipleship as something optional. As it is, we have multitudes of people who have said a prayer but have never been discipled nor do they seek to know God, read His word daily or desire to grow in faith and obedience. Yet most of them believe they are saved from the dangers of hell. Salvation and discipleship are not separate events. You cannot just “get saved” and think that’s it. Salvation and discipleship are part of the same deal. Therefore, a “Forgiveness-only” Gospel is unscriptural.
The gospel you preach is the kind of disciple you will make.