This pastoral passage was originally written for LRBC for July 11 2021.
A short while ago I came across a summary of the gospel from John Stott’s commentary on the book of Acts. I appreciated the summary but wondered what place gospel-motivated social transformation has in it. How does the gospel make us make the world better? Given that Stott retained his focus on the text at hand, it didn’t come up. But it is something worth sharing as it summarises the message we have been entrusted with.
Commenting on Acts 2:22-41, Stott observes four pairs in Peter’s Pentecost sermon:
The gospel centres around two events – the death and resurrection of Jesus.
Two witnesses testify to the truth and importance of these – the prophets of the Old Testament, and the Apostles recently commissioned by Jesus.
The gospel offers two promises – forgiveness and release from sin and its guilt, as well as the Spirit who indwells and renews.
These promises are made out on two conditions –repentance and faith, with baptism.
The nature of the gospel is threefold: it is fact, doctrine, and news. It is historical in that these events really happened. It is theological in that their salvific significance is made clear. And it is contemporary in that the Lord Jesus by his Spirit and by his church is active today.
This leaves unmentioned the place of gospel-motivated social activism. What is the role of good works for others in the schema of the gospel? LRBC has plenty of teams and individuals who are active in showing the love of Christ in our community, in keeping with the impressive legacy of historic evangelicals.
But how does it connect to the central message of our faith?
The gospel changes lives in such a way that they bring blessing and redemption to others (cf. Luke 4:16-21). Our living must be good so that it ‘makes attractive’ the message that we are identified by (Titus 2:10), thereby bringing glory to our Father in Heaven (Matt. 5:16), which is the ultimate and God-centred end of the gospel (cf. Eph. 1:3-14).
Holding to this, we will be like the wise saints alluded to in Daniel 11:32b – who know their God, stand firm in him, and take action for him.