The Gospel – All Natural with No Additives or Fillers

I had the pleasure of being involved with a student led ministry in college called ICTHUS while I attended Missouri State in the late 1990’s. The ministry was interdenominational, but divided pretty equally between Southern Baptists and Assembly of God. I attribute a better understanding of an ecumenical spirit to my four years associated with ICTHUS. To this day I still call quite a few of my friends from that time in my life for spiritual counsel and prayer requests (For some reason it always seems like it is the Assembly of God guys I end up asking when I need prayer!).

Anyway, one of the common theological debates between my college buddies and I surrounded the so-called “prosperity gospel”. It is not a secret that the Assembly of God denomination leans a bit towards a “name it and claim it” mentality. Now, I’m not picking on the AG folks. It seems to me each and every denomination eventually struggles with some form or fashion of adding to the gospel. Having been raised southern Baptist, I know there is a predisposition towards legalism in that particular denomination. It just seems we humans just can’t leave well enough alone! Take tea for instance. Regular tea used to be just fine, now you can add just about anything to tea; Green tea, black tea, white tea, even raspberry tea. Was there something wrong with just tea? When it comes to the gospel we feel almost universally compelled to isolate ourselves and manipulate the gospel to fit our own idea of the way things ought to be.

I was able to spend some time with some of my college friends last week and we had a great time catching up. As the discussion inevitably turned to spiritual things, I was quite struck by some of the internal theological realignment taking place in some of my friends’ lives at the moment. I joked that it is too predictable that the prosperity gospel wouldn’t seem as attractive during a recession! As we discussed in greater detail, my friends in the Assembly of God camp repeatedly referenced a return to the truths of the gospel revealed in the book of Galatians. My interest was drawn as I have enjoyed the opportunity to work a small group through the book of Galatians a couple of times.

By the end of the evening, I recognized I had never had a more coherent discussion of the gospel as long as I can remember. The topic was a refreshingly simple reminder of the sufficiency of Christ. There was no attempt to uncover mystery or delineate the boundaries of sovereignty or free will. We simply were able to remind each other how the gospel is Jesus… plus nothing else.

Most theologians would tell you Galatians is as spoon fed as the gospel gets. However, I would argue most of us probably aren’t at the point of even using utensils in our version of exegesis! I’m suggesting you take the last few weeks of the summer and work your way through Galatians before life gets too crazy. You can follow this link to the Redeemer Presbyterian Church website and download a copy of Tim Keller’s study on Galatians. It would be a great self study or even better through a small group. At the very least, read through Galatians chapter 3 today and be reminded of the basics of the gospel, without the additives.

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