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Saturday, October 23, 2010


by Pastor David R. Barnhart

When Mary Magdalene went to the tomb of Jesus that first resurrection morning, she encountered two angels who asked her: “Woman, why are you weeping?” Mary responded, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him” (John 20:13). That is exactly the way I feel as I observe what is or is not being taught today in so many churches regarding the true gospel of Jesus Christ.

Paul defined the gospel as the salvation Christ obtained for us through His life, death and resurrection. God offers us this blood-bought salvation as a free gift, without any merit or works on our part. Salvation is offered to us by grace through faith, plus nothing.

Today, liberal church leaders have decided the teaching of the Bible regarding salvation is no longer acceptable, especially teachings about “the atonement” or “the blood.” Instead, they say, the gospel must be given a new interpretation in keeping with our enlightened culture, wherein peace and social justice are the ultimate goal.

In the September 2008 issue of The Lutheran, published by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Steven Marsh, assistant to the bishop of the Southeast Michigan Synod, distorted the gospel when he defined Christ’s resurrection as an “issue of justice.” His interpretation of Christ’s death and resurrection are straight from the handbook on Liberation Theology. Marsh wrote: “If justice is faithfulness to the values of the kingdom of God—values that would have everyone living in harmony, equality and peace—then the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth was and is an issue of justice.” Marsh goes on to say, “Right relationship is justice, and we can be publicly resurrected to right relationship with each passing moment. That makes resurrection not just an issue of justice but an issue of public justice.”

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America members and all Bible-believing Christians should be outraged that the gospel of Christ is being so perverted. This perversion of the gospel is being taught in most mainline denominations and by the emergent church movement. Sadly, it is even being taught in portions of the evangelical church as well.

Paul could not have been more clear when he stated: “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” (Gal. 1:8). And then to reinforce the seriousness of this departure from truth, Paul stated again, “if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed” (Gal. 1:9). Let there be no mistake, those who pervert the divinely revealed gospel of Christ will answer to God.

The tragedy of this perversion of truth is found in the millions of lost souls who enter their churches Sunday after Sunday and never hear the clear call of the gospel to repent of their sin and be saved. Jesus did not tell His Church to go into the world and preach “peace and social justice,” rather He commanded us to go into all the world and proclaim the gospel of salvation.
Peace, justice and other noble aspirations are not the essence of the gospel. These things, important as they are, will come to fruition only when unregenerate hearts are converted to Christ. Christ did not die to bring about social justice; He died to deliver all who will believe in Him from eternal death to eternal life! He died to restore us to a right relationship with God. It is only as salvation is received by faith that we are enabled to live in a right relationship with God and with our fellowmen.

While I am saddened to see the gospel of Christ being perverted in liberal and emergent churches, I am equally saddened to see it being neglected in evangelical churches. Over the past several years, I have sat under the preaching of numerous pastors who, though holding to a high view of Scripture, chose to substitute the authentic proclamation of the gospel for sermons that could have been delivered by a Unitarian or a psychologist. Such sermons rarely mention sin, the need of repentance or God’s plan of salvation.

While it is appropriate to offer biblically based instruction designed to help Christians mature in various areas of their lives, Sunday morning is no time to get off task. It is wrong to set aside the preaching of the gospel to accomplish these secondary matters. On any given Sunday, most churches are filled with people who are not saved. They don’t need a message on social justice or “How to Have a Happy Marriage,” or “Principles to Prosperity,” they need to be led to the cross through the proclamation of the Word of God.

Whether the authentic gospel of Christ is being changed or challenged by liberals, redesigned and repackaged by emergent church leaders, or neglected by evangelical pastors, the result is the same—the lost remain lost, without help or hope!

In light of the Lord’s soon return, we pastors are urged to resist the temptation to preach what people want to hear, and instead tell them what they must know in order to have eternal life. As Paul said, “Preach the Word in season and out of season” (2 Tim. 4:1-3). Tell them of Jesus and His great sacrifice on the cross to redeem them from sin and death. The proclamation of the true gospel of Christ never grows old or fails to yield eternal results.


  1. Excellent article, Pastor. I'm currently reading Walther's Law and Gospel and I must say that I hear little of either in Church on Sunday. Lot's of cute stories and examples but people are not first preached into Hell before being lifted into Heaven as Luther stated. Law and Gospel are no longer taught and are commingled!

    Thanks for your writing!

  2. Where in Michigan do they preach and teach the True Gospel? Every church it seems is preaching prosperity or how to start your own business, how to become a better you... We who crave for Christ and Christ alone, who crave for His righteousness and to walk as He walk, even if we suffer for His name sake who can we fellowship with?