Gospel Proclamation and Gospel Demonstration

Posted: July 6, 2011 in evangelism, gospel, justice, missions

Ed Stetzer recently posted another great article in his series about the “Missional Manifesto,” a document composed and signed by the likes of Alan Hirsch, Tim Keller, J.D. Greear, Craig Ott, and Stetzer himself.  The most recent article is about the duality of the Gospel mandate: Gospel proclamation and Gospel demonstration.

Stetzer reminds us that questions surrounding the tension between these two intertwined issues are not new, and that we have much to learn from history.  He first points to Jonathan Edwards, noting that,

The distinction between social justice and Gospel proclamation might go back to Jonathan Edwards, who said that God’s work has two facets: 1) the converting and sanctifying of individuals and 2) the grand design in creation, history, and providence. Many of you know Edwards as one of the preeminent theologians of the church in the 18th century, a preacher used by God during the Great Awakening. You might not know that he championed both of these mandates.

He then goes on to provide a concise summary of the history of social justice and Gospel proclamation, closing with this helpful conclusion:

I think it is crucial to remember that there is a difference between the gospel and the implications of the gospel.

The gospel is news: the good news of the gracious work of Jesus in his life, death, and resurrection that restores our relationship with God when we, as the manifesto says, repent of our sin, confess the Messiah as Lord, and trust in him. A gospel-centered mission will always include a call to the individual to place their faith and trust in Jesus. This is why evangelism is an indispensable part of mission.

But the gospel is also a story. Many today prefer to describe the story-arc of the Bible as “Creation-Sin-Redemption-Restoration.” The addition of restoration emphasizes that God ‘s end game is to restore His creation back to its original order. God’s purpose is to redeem individuals, who join God in acts of restoration (mercy and justice) and ultimately, gathered as one people who will dwell securely forever in a restored creation (Revelation 21). So while the gospel is God’s work of redemption in Jesus Christ, the followers of Jesus Christ demonstrate the hope of the gospel in both words and deeds.

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