When did the word Gospel become an adjective or part of a compound noun? It is simply (and beautifully) a noun that means “Good News.” And it is used in the context of Proclamation. It is a Good News Proclamation. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the good news that the Kingdom of God is at hand (Mark 1:1,15), it is the power of God for Salvation to all who believe (Romans 1:16), and at its core it is that Jesus died to save sinners and has risen from the dead (1 Cor 15:1-8). The Gospel is the most precious thing in the world. It is our only hope.
It has become popular in Christian circles to pronounce specific solutions to agreed upon issues of great importance as “Gospel Issues.” Notice I wrote “specific solutions to agreed upon issues.” I have yet to meet a Christian who doesn’t agree that we are commanded to care for the poor and that racism is a sin (for example). So when this term is being applied to “issues” it is not the issue that is under discussion, but rather a person’s preferred (demanded?) solution to the issue they are coopting into the Gospel.
The implication is, if you don’t agree with my solution, you are “not in line with the Gospel” (Galatians 2) and therefore are sinning. This is troublesome on a number of fronts. First, this argument is rife with logical fallacies which we won’t address here. But most importantly is that in appealing to Galatians 2 as their trump card for support for whatever issue they are trying to elevate, they are actually doing what Galatians 1 condemns, namely “adding to the Gospel” which is “another Gospel.” And that is not a Gospel at all. Paul wishes those people would be “accursed.”
To that end, for me the Only Gospel Issue is the Gospel itself. In other words, the only Gospel issue is when the Gospel itself is threatened through the adding to it (Galatians 1). At issue in this case is the Gospel itself.
It is true that many people’s own use of the term doesn’t always elevate to that level (though they come dangerously close). The issue I still have is that bandying about the word Gospel to place emphasis on a solution you want is a misuse of our only hope and confuses people as to what the Gospel actually is.
Furthermore, if I prioritize my “Gospel Issues” over your “Gospel Issues” you will assume I am not rightly discerning the Gospel and vice versa. If everything that is important to you is a “Gospel Issue” and if everything important to someone else is a “Gospel Issue” before long the phrase has no real significance. And that dilutes the Gospel, which we should never do.
I will say at this point that I understand there are appropriate uses of the phrase. I indicated that above. However, in writing this, I came across others who are wiser and more thoughtful than myself who share in my discomfort with this phrase’s use. You can read their assessments at the bottom of this article. As a result of the misuse, and in an effort to protect what the Gospel actually is, I don’t use the phrase and I wish others wouldn’t either.
Now, it is true the Gospel Changes everything for those the Gospel changes. And from the Gospel flows a whole host of ways to look at issues. As a matter of fact, it would be difficult to find an issue that the Gospel does not speak to. The Gospel impacts how we view and approach issues of money, race, the poor, sexuality, unbelievers, injustice, our work, raise our children, marriage, and so on. In other words, It is the Gospel that makes one a Christ-follower. And there is a “Christian” worldview that affects how we view everything. There is a Christian way of acting in every situation. (Colossians 3:23, Philippians 1:27, Ephesians 4:1, Galatians 2)
So, let’s say that. Christians should care about the poor. Christians should want racial reconciliation. Christians should love one another.
What is wrong with the word Christian? Is it not hip enough? Let’s reserve the word Gospel for what it is, Salvation in Jesus Christ made available to sinners by grace through faith and that brings us into the family of God, into the Kingdom of God, and one day all things will be made right and new again in a physical existence where we are in the presence of King Jesus. If you believe a Christian should act a certain way you can say that. But lets stop accusing other Christians of not being in line with the Gospel, simply because they don’t agree with your particular solution to an agreed upon problem or sin, or because in the whole host of concerns in the world they have chosen to focus and prioritize their work and advocacy on another “Gospel Issue.”
- What is the Gospel? – by George Sayour
- Is Social Justice a Gospel Issue? – by Kevin DeYoung
- What Counts as a Gospel Issue? – by Tim Challies
- What Are Gospel Issues? – by D.A. Carson
- Christians Can Disagree on Solutions to Agreed Upon Problems (an article entitled “How do Christians Fit Into the Two Party System by Tim Keller)
- What’s Wrong with CRT? – by George Sayour