Don’t Assume the Gospel

For well over a decade I have expressed concerns that many conservative, Bible-believing churches have in important ways lost the gospel. This concern has been met with varying degrees of incredulity by certain sectors of the evangelical world, most notably, some of the very ones that provoked my evaluation.

Though things have improved from fifteen years ago to today, there is still ample evidence that my concerns remain well-founded.

For the sake of clarity let me reiterate the essence of my concern. The gospel is all about Jesus Christ—who He is, what He has done and why that matters. As Jesus Himself said, the Scriptures bear witness to Him (John 5:39) and that the Prophets and Moses wrote about Him (Luke 24:44; cf. v. 27). The whole Bible—not just the New Testament—is a Christian book and unless every part of it is read as revealing Jesus Christ then it has been misread.

Too often, Scripture is treated more along the lines of an inspired version of Aesop’s Fables than the revelation of the gospel of Jesus Christ. When this happens the Bible becomes little more than a source for tips on success and happiness. Rather than recognizing it as the revelation of Christ it is treated as the basis of moralistic principles. When that happens, the gospel is lost.

This was demonstrated to me again in a recent article in a local newspaper written by an outspoken, conservative Baptist pastor who has no hesitations affirming the full inerrancy of Scripture and, who, I have no doubt genuinely believes and preaches the gospel. But his article, like too many sermons, betrays a deadly tendency that actually undermines the Bible’s message of salvation in Christ. His article assumes the gospel and then leaves the impression that Psalm 1 has nothing to say about Christ.

The article cites Psalm 1:1–2 as a formula for blessing that will result in a life of “peace and joy in spite of our circumstances.” In less than 400 words the author makes the following points:

  • Because people are so impressed with the ungodly and quick to stand in the path of sinners people miss out on “real happiness.”
  • “The truth is[,] looking to God for counsel pays great dividends.”
  • “We all want to be happy….Without God’s blessings in our lives, we are never going to be happy, happy, happy.”
  • Most of us have tried everything else; perhaps it is time to give God a chance to show us what He can do for us.”

Again, I am sure the author believes the gospel and would never suggest that anyone can be right with God apart from trusting Christ but he never states that. What he does state is that one can know the blessings of God by learning to delight and meditate on God’s law. Jesus is never mentioned or even referenced in the article. He is assumed. And to assume Christ is, ultimately, to forget Him.

Psalm 1 is actually a portrait of Christ, who alone has never walked in the counsel of the ungodly nor stood in the path of sinners nor sat in the seat of the scornful and who alone has perfectly delighted in the law of the Lord and meditated in it day and night. Those of us who cannot say that “will not stand in the judgment” (v. 4). Therefore, the only way that we can experience the blessings of Psalm 1 is to have the only true Blessed Man stand in our place—to have Jesus Christ as Lord through faith.

The whole Bible is a Christian book. It reveals Christ to us in every part. We must never forget this, take it for granted or assume it.

Tom Ascol has served as a Pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Cape Coral, FL since 1986. Prior to moving to Florida he served as pastor and associate pastor of churches in Texas. He has a BS degree in sociology from Texas A&M University (1979) and has also earned the MDiv and PhD degrees from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Ft. Worth, Texas. He has served as an adjunct professor of theology for various colleges and seminaries, including Reformed Theological Seminary, the Covenant Baptist Theological Seminary, African Christian University, Copperbelt Ministerial College, and Reformed Baptist Seminary. He has also served as Visiting Professor at the Nicole Institute for Baptist Studies at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida. Tom serves as the President of Founders Ministries and The Institute of Public Theology. He has edited the Founders Journal, a quarterly theological publication of Founders Ministries, and has written hundreds of articles for various journals and magazines. He has been a regular contributor to TableTalk, the monthly magazine of Ligonier Ministries. He has also edited and contributed to several books, including Dear Timothy: Letters on Pastoral Ministry, The Truth and Grace Memory Books for children and  Recovering the Gospel and Reformation of Churches. He is also the author of From the Protestant Reformation to the Southern Baptist ConventionTraditional Theology and the SBC and Strong and Courageous. Tom regularly preaches and lectures at various conferences throughout the United States and other countries. In addition he regularly contributes articles to the Founders website and hosts a weekly podcast called The Sword & The Trowel. He and his wife Donna have six children along with four sons-in-law and a daughter-in-law. They have sixteen grandchildren.
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