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Defining the Gospel

Thom S. Rainer, president of LifeWay Christian Resources, has a Baptist Press column that critiques pastors for not preaching the gospel correctly. However, his own definition of the gospel seems to fall quite short. Without giving any examples or fully explaining what he means, Rainer claims that "pastoral malpractice ... is practiced weekly without inhibition" by pastors. He then explains the gospel he wants pastors to preach:
I mean ministers who stand and preach a gospel other than God's rightful need for punitive justice against our sin and His wrath being appeased by pouring out upon Christ judgment intended for us. He in turn sets us in right legal standing before Himself, through faith in what Jesus has done, while simultaneously giving to us His holy righteousness.
There seems to be a huge and critical error in his definition in that it is missing a very important four-letter word: love. The most memorized verse in the Bible explains salvation by starting "For God so loved ..." Instead, Rainer offers a cold and technocratic definition that misses the most important part. His error seems to be a problem that often occurs in practice as some preachers forget to tell people about the love of Jesus and focus instead just on the judgment. Thankfully, the true gospel message is one of the amazing and incredible love of Jesus. That is truly good news!


  1. Anonymous7:16 AM

    Justice, wrath, legal standing...WooHoo! What great news!

  2. Brian,

    I guess it's okay to pick on one part of an article without referencing the context of the whole, as long as you provide a link to it?

    Rainer's thesis is that some are preaching neither aspect --man's need (the justice side) nor God's provision (the love side)--but rather sound like self-help and improvement is all that's needed for a right relationship with God.

    His final statement doesn't sound nearly as cold as you're making things out to be: ". . . send people out into culture to be Jesus' ambassadors . . . not . . . pious moralists who point people to their sins, but servants who through humility and loving relationships point people to an all-sufficient Savior."

    You're often subjective, not objective when it comes to the SBC.

  3. Thanks for the comments!

    Howie: Ha, very good!

    Cat's dad: I did not take this out of context. Never in the entire column does he talk about God's love. I was focused only on his definition of the gospel, not the entire column. And at least I did provide a link to back up my point (which is the blog way of providing context). He makes a much larger and critical claim about preachers and never gives one single example. So why are you not criticizing him for being even worse?

    You claim he is saying we need both sides but he does not talk about the love side. He never talks about God's love in this column. You are correct that parts of it are less cold (like the one you quoted), but it still does not disprove my point as he does not talk about the love of God. Additionally, that was not part of his definition of the gospel, which is what I was critiquing. I would have critiqued anyone who wrote that definition. You have proven once again that you are much less objective than I.

  4. Rainer's claiming we need some side, not the absence of both.

    What does "loving" refer to in "humility and loving relationships" attributed to Jesus' ambassador-servants?

    999,999 out of one million objective readers will conclude it's the love of God living itself out in the life of the believer, pointing the way to salvation.

    You just may be one in a million, Brian.

  5. Anonymous12:09 PM

    Make that 999,998 out of one million objective readers. But is there really an "objective" reader?

    I appreciate your ministry. Too many times what Christians say or don't say can lead to misunderstandings or in Rainer's case illumine one's weaknesses.

  6. CD: No, he does not talk about the love part of God's sacrifice. He tells us to love others--as you point out--but that is NOT the same as saying that God loves us. You are reading more into his piece that what he said, and thus you are not being objective.

    Rather than me being one-in-a-million, it looks like you are one-in-three here.

    Howie: Thanks for your comments. You are right that there is no truly objective reader--we all bring our biases into it.


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