One of the most amazing statements by the Apostle Paul is his indictment of the Galatian Christians for abandoning the Gospel. “I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel,” Paul declared. As he stated so emphatically, the Galatians had failed in the crucial test of discerning the authentic Gospel from its counterfeits.
His words could not be more clear: “But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you have received, he is to be accursed!” (Gal. 1:8-9).
This warning from the Apostle Paul, expressed in the language of the apostle’s shock and grief, is addressed not only to the church in Galatia, but to every congregation in every age. In our own day — and in our own churches — we desperately need to hear and to heed this warning. In our own time, we face false gospels no less subversive and seductive than those encountered and embraced by the Galatians.
Nowhere is our understanding of the gospel more important than in our evangelism. Our witness to Christ is an explicitly theological act that requires the utmost fidelity to Scripture and clear articulation of biblical truth. What we believe about the character of God, the identity of man, the nature of sin, and the work of Christ are put on full display when we articulate the gospel to unbelievers and invite them to repent of sin and believe in the Lord Jesus. In our evangelism we must avoid every hint of moralism and press the free gift of grace available through the work of Christ.
We sin against Christ and we misrepresent the gospel when we suggest to sinners that what God demands of them is moral improvement. But law-keeping and moral obedience is not the gospel, and it will not save. The only gospel that saves and the gospel that we must proclaim is the grace of God that is made available through Jesus Christ and his atoning work.
“What we believe about the character of God, the identity of man, the nature of sin, and the work of Christ are put on full display when we articulate the gospel.”
This gospel is the one we must proclaim. The church of the Lord Jesus Christ is built through the imperative of evangelism. Christ called his followers to preach the gospel to the uttermost parts of the earth (Matt 28:18-20). That’s why Southern Seminary focuses on training theologically equipped and courageous evangelists, missionaries, and evangelistic pastors. The great commission is at the heart of our curriculum and at the core of our commitments.
We are justified by faith alone, saved by grace alone, and redeemed from our sin by Christ alone. Any other “gospel” cannot save our friends and neighbors. This issue of Southern Seminary Magazine focuses on the task of evangelism and our commitment to faithfully fulfilling the great commission in our neighborhoods, workplaces, and other spheres of influence. Only the gospel of Christ has the power to change lives, and my hope is that this issue compels you to share the gospel more faithfully and consistently for the good of Christ’s church and for the glory of God.