Saturday, February 23, 2008

The Primary Work of the Church

It is always striking to me how the issues we face as a church have been faced before. I've been plugging away on a faculty lecture that I'm to give this April at Westminster Seminary California; in doing so, I ran across this quote from Nelson Bell, father-in-law to Billy Graham and associate editor of the Southern Presbyterian Journal (3 June 1953; p. 2):

There is a central emphasis which the Church and individual Christians must constantly keep before them and, because we "wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places," we face the ever present temptation to change that emphasis to something more compatible with human reason and pride.

The all-important emphasis, the very key-stone of the gospel message, is redemption of the individual soul and this redemption means a change of destination, a change of eternal environment, for those who believe.

While it is true that the home, the community and the nation are safer, happier, and better in every when when lived in and influenced by Christians, these happy results are incidental to the Gospel of Christ, for our Lord came into this world for the primary purpose of saving sinners, giving to those who believe in Him eternal life.

Without discounting in the least the social implications of the gospel, we need to constantly remember that there can only be social blessings and changes after men have been saved from sin and live unto righteousness. There is the constant temptation to long for the fruit and forget the absolute importance of the true from which the fruit must come. Social reforms must come through and from redeemed lives. Without such a transformation vital and lasting changes cannot materialize.

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