What is the Gospel?
The gospel is the world's most powerful message. This message is able to grip the hearts of the world's most wicked men and utterly transform them. It is a message so powerful that rulers of kingdoms and religious systems have fought fiercely to completely eradicate it from the globe. The message of the gospel has wrecked the lives of myriads of people (for the good) as they were transferred from darkness into God's marvelous light. Though the gospel is so powerful and has impacted the world for thousands of years, few people—even in Christianized nations—truly know the gospel and its implications.
Though millions of pages could be written about the gospel, it can be succinctly stated from many passages in scripture. Believing the gospel is required for salvation, and knowing the gospel is essential for fulfilling the great commission (Matthew 28:18-20). Have you believed the gospel? If not, keep reading. Do you know the gospel enough to share it? If not, keep reading. Do you need the gospel in your life daily? Yes, you do, so keep reading. Titus 3:1–7—one of my most favorite passages in all of the scripture—presents 4 aspects of the gospel. The gospel can be summed up four words: God, man, Christ, response.
God is the all-powerful and all-authoritative Creator of the universe. He demands that all live in light of that reality. He is the upholder of the universe, and in Him we live, move, and have our being. Though this truth is not explicitly laid out in the passage, we can see it in the authoritative commands laid out in verses 1–2. The apostle Paul—one of God’s chosen and inspired authors— wrote these commands with no less force than the 10 commandments because "all Scripture is breathed out by God" (2 Tim 3:16). Every human being is called to honor and submit to God as holy and glorious through obedience and worship. Everything in all of creation was created for the purpose of worshiping God. In the case of Titus 3, God is glorified through our obedience to civil authorities and our fruitful good works toward others. Submission to earthly authorities exemplifies our faith and submission to God's ultimate authority.
There is one problem. In our sinful state, we don’t want anything to do with God or His commands. Look at verse 3, “For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another”. There is nothing about that us that is pleasing to God apart from Christ. We were created in the image of God (Gen. 1:26–27), but sin entered humanity in Genesis 3when Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit. Since then, every intention of the thoughts of our hearts is only evil continually (Genesis 6:5, Romans 3:9–20). We see this in ourselves and everyone else as we look at Titus 3:5. Foolishness, disobedience, addiction, hatred, etc. are characteristics that we despise in ourselves and others because they reflect the worst about us. We are not as bad as we could be because God graciously restrains our sin, but we really are bad people. We really are evil people. We really are enemies of God. Because of this, we are all destined for eternal death in hell because, “In Adam all die” (1 Cor. 15:22, Romans 5:12–14).
Without a remedy, we are all left hopeless and helpless. But God didn’t leave us in our sinful state to work our way back to Him. He also didn't leave us to face our much deserved eternal punishment without a Savior. Look at Verses 4–5b: "But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy...” This is glorious! Christ is at the heart of salvation! When Christ appeared, He saved! He saved according to His own mercy! He did the good works and became righteousness for His people because they aren’t able to meet the requirements of the law (Romans 8:4, 2 Cor 5:21). Jesus’ goodness is transferred into their accounts because He took the full wrath of God as their substitute (see Romans 4 for further study). This is often called "The Great Exchange". How did Christ achieve all of this? He laid down His sinless life by submitting to death on a cross to pay for the sins of all who would believe in Him (John 10:17–18, Phil 2:8). He rose from the grave with power after three days (Romans 1:14, 1 Cor. 15:4). Finally, He ascended to sit at the right hand of His Father and prepare a place for His sheep until He returns (Col 3:1–2, John 14:3). Christ is the remedy for our broken relationship with God! But how do you apply this message to your life?
Throughout the scriptures, especially in the New Testament, we see the call to repent and believe the gospel (Mark 1:15, Matthew 3:2, Acts 17:30–31). The gospel is the “power of God unto salvation” (Romans 1:16), and it is a message that demands a response from us. We have two options, we can either believe the gospel (more than a mental assent to the facts) or we can reject the gospel. Belief in the gospel means a life that trusts and rests in Christ’s finished work for our righteousness and salvation. Every person in the universe is accountable to respond in faith to the call of the gospel. Notice the language in Titus 3:5b–6 that salvation is through Christ and also “by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior.” In our choice to believe, God is at work. He draws us to Christ (John 6:44). He gives us the new birth and eyes to see the kingdom of God (John 3:1–15). He places His Spirit in us and causes us to walk in obedience and repentance. This is the power that enables us to respond to the gospel (Ezekiel 36:25–27)! This power also carries us through the process of sanctification so that we may become a holy and blameless bride of Christ (Ephesians 5:27)!
How will you respond?
Now that you’ve heard the gospel message in it’s fullness, it is vital that you search yourself to see if you are believing and resting in this powerful message. Has your life been ruined by sin and death? Have you submitted to the lordship of Jesus Christ? Have you moved from death to life? If you haven’t, read and reread the numerous passages of scripture found in this post. The gospel is not a message to put off until later. Sin is deceitful and it only leads to death. Christ is glorious, and faith in Him leads to eternal joy and fellowship with Him for eternity! There is nothing more necessary for your soul than to rest in the work of Christ so your relationship with God can be restored!
A Shocking Statement About Evangelicalism
Webster’s Dictionary defines evangelical as synonymous with protestant, which broadly means “a Christian not of a Catholic or Eastern church” with more specific ties to the doctrines which separate Protestants from the Roman Catholic Church. With the exception of mainstream and liberal churches, most Christians in America would align themselves with such a definition. Notably absent from this definition is a discussion of race or cultural preference because evangelicalism is primarily tied to the broad theological unity among those who continue to “protest” the teachings of the Catholic Church in favor of the gospel as presented in scripture.
Ameen Hudson wrote a thought-provoking article on Lecrae's departure from “evangelicalism". Though much could be said about the position of Lecrae and others who want to leave “white evangelicalism”, I simply want to note the misunderstanding and misuse of the term. Though Hudson doesn’t explicitly define "evangelical" in his post, he points out that "only 6% of black people and 11% of Latinos" identify as evangelical and that these statistics “give us insight into how much of a minority African Americans and Latinos are in an evangelical world that’s largely white.” This statement—perhaps unintentionally—shifts the discussion away from theology to a focus on race.
These staggering statistics ought to be heavily considered as we seek to understand the causes and consequences of such a stark reality. However, we must also ask some questions. If such a small percentage of minorities identify as evangelical, what is their religious identity (in terms of their theology)? If, according to Pew Research, 53% of African Americans are not “evangelical protestant” but “black protestant”, what truly separates them from white, evangelical Christians? Do they affirm the 5 solas? Do they protest papal authority? Is race and culture the only difference between them? These are questions that mustbe addressed for the sake of clarity and unity in the body of Christ.
Two Areas Of Concern
Is the “whiteness” of evangelicalism the real problem?
The term “white evangelical” has been a buzz word in secular media as well as Christian circles lately to differentiate between conservative, white Christians and other groups of Christians (especially minorities). This term is often used when black Christians are discussing highly racialized issues such as the Michael Brown shooting or the kneeling of NFL players fighting systemic racism. In those cases, there are some white Christians who stand in disagreement on the issues, and they are quickly branded, and often disregarded, as "white evangelicals".
Regardless of the circumstances, it is often unclear what is meant by those who use the term because it is not often defined in the posts. The reality is that there are some white Christians who are ignorant of the struggles of black people in America. There are some white Christians who fail to ask questions before blasting their opinion on social media. There are some white Christians who refuse to acknowledge the wrong in the history of the church. But this does not represent all white Christians who identify as evangelicals.
Equally, there has also been a trend of sound, gospel-centered, rappers, preachers, authors, and bloggers rapidly and drastically changing the content of their music, social media presence, and response to fans and followers. Their discussions of racialized issues sometimes seem lacking in gospel application. Their conversations, at times, appear to shun all who disagree with them—especially white evangelicals. The truth in their messages sometimes feels like an unloving horse pill to swallow because they are writing from a place of pain, feeling misunderstood, broken, and sometimes righteously angry at the circumstances befalling them.
We have to ask some more questions, though. Should the animosity be aimed at white believers? Why is there so much talk about leaving “white evangelicalism”? Why is this “new level” of rebellion against evangelicalism something to be so celebrated? This mentality seems to fall short of addressing the root of the problem.
Is leaving evangelicalism a solution to the real problem?
At the risk of being shunned and considered a sellout, I am concerned that this new-found freedom and departure from evangelicalism will only lead to further isolation from white Christians in a way that will continue the segregation that began at the hands of white racism. How can we be of “one accord” (Phil 2:2) when we distance ourselves from the very people we need to be united with? If we speak our minds and people immediately (and perhaps, wrongly) disagree with us, should we turn our backs and give up on them?
If black Christians consider our white brothers and sisters to be in sin, shouldn’t our solution be to restore them with a gentle spirit, watching out for ourselves so that we also won’t be tempted to commit the very sin we feel that they are committing (Gal 6:1)? Shouldn’t we call them to carry our burdens and examine themselves to see if they are in sin, as well (Gal 6:4–5)? It seems that there isn’t much of this going on right now—especially via social media where most of these discussions take place.
The Way Forward
As a Christian who is black, I deal with some of the same struggles as many of the people I am speaking of. I am in a predominantly-white church in rural Kentucky. I mourn at the police shootings, I feel the weight of threats of white nationalist rallies in my home state, I feel uneasy at a traffic stop from time-to-time, and I weep over the lack of love shown by some white Christians on my newsfeed. I’ve been treated and viewed wrongly due to my race, even in churches within my community. However, as I consider Philippians 2:1–4 and Romans 12:1–8, I don’t think leaving evangelicalism will fix these problems or the problems in the Church.
God calls us to be united. God calls us to count others as greater than ourselves. God calls us to have the mind of Christ. If all non-white Christians leave all the predominantly white churches, we will not only be disregarding God's command for unity, but we will be equally guilty of the sin of kinism and dividing the body into sects and factions based on race and culture. If all non-white Christians look at our white Christian brothers with disdain as “those white evangelicals”, we will be just as guilty of partiality as some of them are.
My prayer is not that black and brown Christians leave evangelicalism—even with of all of its flaws and imperfections. My prayer is that we cling to the One who died for sheep from all nations in the world, and beg for His grace to cling also to one another. My prayer is that we keep Christ’s high priestly prayer in our hearts and minds as we navigate the challenging racial climate in this nation and our churches. May the Church be the first place we see racial unity in this nation.