Don’t Church It Up!

Grace-Filled Evangelism in Preaching and Teaching

It has been said by many that Christianity is always one generation from extinction.[1] Thus the gospel of faith alone in Christ alone must go out clearly and succinctly to fulfill the task of evangelism that God has called us to as His ambassadors.[2] We must also be diligently mindful of what the Apostle Paul proclaims with vigor:

I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 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 received, he is to be accursed![3]

We must pay special attention to the presentation of the gospel message lest we fall under the curse[4] that Paul proclaims for those who bring a message that does not line up with the simple message of faith alone in Christ alone for eternal life.[5] We cannot fail to preach the Gospel, for Jesus has commanded us to make disciples in Matthew 28:16-20 and Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 9:16 that we are compelled by God to preach the gospel.
Since we are compelled to present the gospel message of eternal life through faith in Christ, and since God is keenly interested in keeping that message profoundly clear of works and completely centered on His gracious offer of eternal life through the work of Christ[6], it becomes our highest mandate to maintain a truly free offer of eternal salvation in our preaching and teaching ministries.
This mandate is achieved through a two-part process that must guide us in all of our preaching and teaching: we must (1) understand the text that we are preaching, and (2) communicate it clearly and simply. 
These two concepts will be fleshed out in subsequent posts, but for starters let us ask the question of how we fall off the beam. How have you seen the gospel message “churched up” and because of that obscured?  Have you done it yourself or been subjected to it in church, Sunday School, or elsewhere?  How have you stopped it in your own teaching or confronted it in ministry?

[1] The origin of this saying is hidden in the past, and has been attributed to different authors, speakers, and theologians. Perhaps it is best to simply see it as an axiom of the church.
[2] 2 Cor 5:20
[3] Galatians 1:6-9, NASB
[4] The term ἀνάθεμα (anathema), which Paul pronounces upon those who bring a different gospel, refers to that which has been cursed. (BDAG) In the LXX it translates the Hebrew חֵ֫רֶם (herem) as a rule, which refers to something that has been “devoted” to God and is therefore unable to be reclaimed. Paul’s likely intent here is to have the Galatian church remove anyone from their church who taught them a different message than that which they had received from him.
[5] Cf. Gal 3:26.
[6] Ephesians 2:8-9

Education or Indoctrination?

I am getting to that time in my semester at school where my students are nearing turning in research papers.  They just wrote a test for me which needs to be graded, but looking at it reminded me of the real difference between education and indoctrination.

1 : to instruct especially in fundamentals or rudiments : teach
2: to imbue with a usually partisan or sectarian opinion, point of view, or principle
Education: (technically educating but education is defined as “the art of educating”)
1 a : to provide schooling for <chose to educate their children at home>b : to train by formal instruction and supervised practice especially in a skill, trade, or profession
2 a : to develop mentally, morally, or aesthetically especially by instruction b : to provide with information : inform <educating themselves about changes in the industry>
3: to persuade or condition to feel, believe, or act in a desired way <educate the public to support our position>
So of course in a grace-centered way, which are we trying to do with those who we are trying to train to see God’s grace in salvation and sanctification?  Are we trying to indoctrinate or are we trying to educate?
To me, the difference in approach is critical.  The Pharisees spent a lot of time indoctrinating.  In Acts 15:5 some believers who were Pharisees argued that all Gentiles needed to get like them in every respect before they could be acceptable in the church.  They had a very narrow idea of what it meant to be a believer and they wanted everyone to be exactly like them.  In other words, they focused on indoctrination!  Their “sectarian opinion” was that Gentiles needed to be circumcised and obey the Law of Moses to be part of the church.  The Apostles, though, said no way.
The counterbalance to this approach is found a couple of chapters later, in Acts 17.  As Paul traveled on his second missionary journey he encountered some opposition to his teaching, but in Acts 17:11 Luke speaks approvingly of the people of Berea. When Paul came and preached to them, they searched the Scriptures for themselves.  Paul gave them information and appealed to them to believe in Christ, but he didn’t browbeat them.  He focused on education, not indoctrination.  And as a result, these noble Bereans believed in the grace of salvation by faith alone, both Jews and Greeks.
So within the span of a couple of chapters of Acts we can see the difference between a desire to indoctrinate and a desire to educate.  It seems clear that the grace of God is served when we pursue the latter rather than the former.  I firmly believe that if we teach people good Bible interpretation skills, educating them on the need for a literal, grammatical, historical approach, and then give them the options on how to view the biblical text then many if not most will see it from a Free Grace perspective.  We won’t win the hearts of all, but we will help many see the true freedom of eternal life in Christ by faith alone plus nothing in Christ alone plus nothing.  The alternative, to me, just doesn’t work and in fact seems to go against the grain of Scripture.
What do you think?  How do we best help people see the grace of God?