2002-07-16 - Two Gospels
1 Peter 2:24 And He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.
In 1883, Franklin Press which was located in Boston published a pamphlet by Edwards A. Park who was then President of Dartmouth College in New Hampshire. The pamphlet was titled, "The Associate Creed of Andover Theological Seminary." I give you this information so you can hunt for it if you please, but I imagine it would be next to impossible to find. In the pamphlet Park documents the current trend of progressive and traditional views of the gospel of salvation that he had been observing in the church during his lifetime. One form of the gospel he identified as:
"The atonement of our Lord consists, not mainly in his dying, but mainly in his holy living. Also: the pains of Christ were not designed mainly, if at all, to vindicate and honor the retributive justice and the holiness of the supreme Lawgiver. They were not inflicted by the Father as the punishment the law threatened. The brightest glory of our Lord does not consist in his willingly enduring the pains of the Cross; but it consists in his incarnate personality as distinct from the shedding of his blood, in the person of the God-man as our king..."
The other view of the gospel he identified as this:
"The Son of God took upon himself the office of High Priest, and offered his blood as a sacrifice for all men; his sacrificial pains and death were inflicted by his Father, were representative of the penalty which the Father had threatened to men, were substituted by the Father for the actual punishment of believers, were equivalent to that punishment in honoring and vindicating the Father's holiness, distributive justice, and law; were needed, first of all, on God's account and in order that he may forgive the sins of the penitent; and accordingly the crucifixion of the Lamb of God, and the sufferings preparatory to it, and implied in it, are the sole and exclusive ground on which the penitent are saved; and therefore the grace of Christ, as manifested in his sacrificial pains, is the brightest of all his glories."
If you take a moment and really examine these two expressions of the atonement of Christ you will see that they are quite different. The first one presents Christ as a mere moral example that we should emulate. The death of Christ secured the honor of God. Christ left us an example to follow. The second expression of the work of Christ presents a savior who actually saves. The atonement of Christ actually paid the penalty for our sin. Christ became the sinners substitute and paid the punishment due to sinners because of their sin. Christ is here the sacrifice made in our place that fully pays the penalty for our sin.
The difference between these two statements are nothing short of night and day, hot and cold, light and darkness, pure and defiled. The first expression presents a gospel that forgives no one. It is therefore no gospel at all. What Park was lamenting in this article was that in his lifetime he had witnessed the understanding of the gospel in the churches proceed from the second to the first and he feared that what had become substituted for the true gospel was, in fact, no gospel at all.
So here we are 119 years later. Shall we expect that things have become better? Doubtful. I fear that it may be true that many churches simply present Christ as our example and not as the substitute for our sin and our only hope at reconciliation with a holy God. It is essential that we gain a proper understanding of the gospel of salvation. There is really nothing in our lives that is more significant for us to understand. If we fail to understand the gospel and rest in the forgiveness it offers in Christ, nothing else we do in this life matters. We live without hope and even worse, if we think we understand the gospel, but have fallen for a substitute gospel that really is no gospel, then how sad it is for us who have hope, but hope in that which cannot save.
Let us be sure we have embraced the true gospel of salvation and not a sham substitute. Some passages in Scripture that may be of use in understanding the gospel are: John 3:1-21, Acts 15:7-11, Titus 3:5, Ephesians 2:8, 9, John 5:24, Romans 5:6-8, 8:1, John 1:12.
Soli Deo Gloria,