Yes, I know that this has been “neo” since about the Fifties, and that people have been talking about it for that long. Just like the social so-called “gospel” has been around for over one hundred years and that it too has been discussed that long.
But as what we assume are Christian churches enter into the political fray and attempt to “redeem the culture” and “advance the kingdom”, there are more and more things to think about.
What is the occasion for this rant?
As I have been somewhat a “man without a country” as far as church attendance or membership goes for several years now, I have been trying to find at least a group of believers in my neighborhood to establish some fellowship with.
There is a church in my neighborhood, a long walking distance, but fairly close, that has been around for around ten years. I’ve know a little about it, not a whole lot. I knew already that I would probably not find this group as the one I could call home, or would accept me as one of theirs, but it does have a good name — Grace Community Bible Church. It also has a reasonably good doctrinal statement as far as doctrinal statements go.
I attended a service there once or twice in the past and decided to attend again just to get out two weeks ago. The pastor was a pretty good talker. I remember thinking to myself “good talk, and a little Bible”. It definitely could have used more of God’s Word as the focus and not so much “philosophy” I guess you could say, although I don’t think that is exactly the right word for it. I did try to not be so critical, and then decided to go back to give it another chance.
The following week, last week, was when I could really see what the problem with the new “Evangelicalism” is.
The Pastor decided that since it was the weekend before Martin Luther King Day, and also the month coinciding with the March for Life, and maybe other reasons, that it would be a message in his series to preach about “justice”.
Now don’t get me wrong. I am for justice. But as Christians preaching from the Bible, there should be a clear line drawn from justice to the need for the gospel of Jesus Christ because of the lack of justice in the world, starting with the individual sinner.
He pointed to instances in our nation’s history that were lacking in justice. I concur, there has been a lack of justice. I am an American and thankful to be one, but perfect justice, or even anything close has been much sorely lacking. But we should not be shocked to hear that.
“The LORD looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God.
“They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one.” — Psalm 14:2–3
“As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one…” — Romans 3:10
So the sermon began speaking of societal evils. Quotes form Dietrich Bonhoeffer, words about problems within society, and how we should be people of justice. He talked about the Bible being for restitution, bringing in Zacchaeus in Luke 19 restoring to those he wronged. Again, I am not opposed to wrongs being made right, but this is not the gospel. Nor did the Lord tell Zacchaeus that he had to do this to be made right. Zacchaeus was under the Law and this law of restitution was part of the law. The text also does not say that he said he would start doing this now that he met the Lord, but that he was already doing it. But if we think we are to bring the law of Moses into our current society, we should start bringing in all of it. But no one wants to go there. The Puritans tried it and it could not succeed. We are not in that dispensation. We also would be hard pressed to find an “evangelical” church that would suggest going back to the law, because “it’s not about rules but relationships”. But some of the law is convenient at times, some not.
The pastor ended his message telling us that we should stand for “social justice”. He made it clear that this was not socialism, nor was it communism. It was “commonism” and he said this was Biblical. He told us that the “early church” practiced this in Acts. I’m pretty sure though that he went home to his own house.
He was dispensationally in the wrong place, but as big as that problem is, there is another, even bigger problem. In this whole message on “justice”, the justice of God never entered the picture. The Biblical texts went to Isaiah, Proverbs, Deuteronomy, but not Romans, the epistle that contains God’s answer to mankind’s lack of justice.
The word “justice” is not found in the New Testament in the King James Version. It is found some 28 times in the Old Testament. Jeremiah 23:5 is an example:
“Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth.” — Jeremiah 23:5
Now, I hope that you all know when the days will come that judgment and justice will be executed in the earth. It will not be until that King reigns and prospers in the earth. That is not to say that we cannot and should not act justly, but bear with me. This verse choice was one example with the word justice. It is translated from the Hebrew word tsedaqah, which in the Greek Old Testament is δικαιοσύνην. There is another word in this verse that is the Hebrew word tsaddiyq, (very similar), which is translated by the Greek word δικαίαν, and the English word righteous.
In the New Testament, those Greek words are most often translated righteous or righteousness. This is why this entire message was troubling. It is in the epistle to the Romans that we read these words:
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.” — Romans 1:16–17
“But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.” — Romans 3:21–26
Mankind is without justice. There is none righteous, no, not one.
Man needs God’s justice given to him, and this justice is given to him by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe. This is where a message on justice should lead. It was strangely and sadly absent. Not one word. Not one word about the most unjust act from mankind’s long, sordid history used of God to be the means whereby He could righteously forgive sinners:
“For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God…” — 1 Peter 3:18
Come to think of it, I never even heard a word about how a man could be made right with God at all. I would have thought that the gospel was found in Micah 6:8 leaving that sermon.
This is a serious problem with the neo-evangelical movement. It does not know the gospel, it does not preach the gospel, and it has no savior.
There will come a day when judgment and justice will fill the earth, but we are living in the day of salvation, not the day of judgment and justice. We hope for the hastening of that day, but do realize that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation (2 Peter 3:15).
Thank the Lord for this:
“Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;” — Titus 3:5
Christ died for our sins, and there are many. Christ rose from the dead, raised again for our justification. This is the gospel. Believe this and be saved. Pastors, preach the gospel of Christ, for therein is the justice of God revealed.
Husband, father, engineer...Enjoys fishing, archery, guitar, running, and lifting, but most of all reading and studying God's Word.