The Social Implications of the Gospel

Fundamentally, the Gospel is the proclamation of God's grace freely available in Jesus Christ - that He has lived and died in the place of all who put their faith in Him, so that they might be forgiven and restored to fellowship with God. However, this message should not be viewed individualistically: when God redeems people, He places them into community. This community, the Church, is described by the Apostle Paul as the Body of Christ.

Furthermore, even as Jesus did not come to be served, but to serve, so the Church does not exist for its own sake, but for the sake of the world (Matt. 20:25-28). The message of the Gospel is necessarily social, since the Gospel is the "ministry of reconciliation" (2 Cor. 5:18). Reconciliation between people, or between people and their environment, should never be made the final end of Christian ministry; however, neither should a gospel be preached which does not produce these as the good fruit of people's reconciliation with God.

When Christ calls us to be His disciples, He places His claim on the totality of our being. He "bids us come and die," in the words of [[Dietrich Bonhoeffer]] (The Cost of Discipleship). Having been delivered from the world (Col. 1:19), which lies under the control of the evil one (1 John 5:19), we are enabled to see all our aspirations and values in a new light. We are then given the task of living as strangers within the world for the sake of the world (Heb. 11:13), making God's values a visible reality through our work, both individually and as a Body. Ultimately, we seek a world made new, a world in which all of politics and culture has been brought under the merciful and just reign of Christ. As [[Abraham Kuyper]] said, "There is no area of life over which Jesus does not cry, 'Mine!'"

The word of the Gospel is a challenge to all merely human authority, and as such is foolishness to those who are perishing (1 Cor. 1:18), those who are not given a spiritual understanding of the excellence of Christ. Yet to those whose eyes are opened, only Christ - as presented in the Scriptures - is fit to rule, both over each individual believer and over all creation. Those who receive the Gospel are called in Scripture the elect, those called of God. Like the nation of Israel, they are called for a purpose - not only that they might themselves be saved, but so that they might extend the offer of salvation to others, making Christ's presence known through their preaching of Him and through their works of mercy.

As the theologian and missionary [[Lesslie Newbigin]] says, "No one can say why it is that one was chosen [to believe the Gospel] and another not, why it is that here the word came 'not only in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost' (1 Thess. 1:5), while there the same word carried no regenerating power. The answer to that question is known only to God. But if we cannot know for what reason one was chosen, we can most certainly know for what purpose he was chosen: he was chosen in order to be a fruit-bearing branch in the one true vine (John 15:16), a witness through whom others might be saved. He is chosen in order that through him God's saving purpose may reach to others, and they too be reconciled to God in and through His reconciled and reconciling people..." (emphasis mine)

It is with this truth that our theology of ministry must begin.

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