Dear Sovereign Redeemer and other friends,
I am almost finished re-reading J.C. Ryle’s “Holiness”, and I came across this gem in Chapter 18, titled “Unsearchable Riches”, regarding whether or not a person truly knows Jesus Christ:
“After all, this is the question of questions! Pardon, peace, rest of conscience, hope in death, Heaven itself – all hinge upon our answer. To know Christ is life eternal. To be without Christ – is to be without God. ‘He who has the Son has life – and he who has not the Son of God has not life.’ (1 John 5:12). The friends of purely secular education, the enthusiastic advocates of reform and progress, the worshipers of reason and intellect and mind and science, may say what they please, and do all they can to mend the world. But they will find their labor is in vain if they do not make allowance for the Fall of man, if there is no place for Christ in their schemes. There is a sore disease at the heart of mankind, which will baffle all their efforts and defeat all their plans, and that disease is sin. Oh, that people would only see and recognize the corruption of human nature, and the uselessness of all efforts to improve man which are not based on the remedial system of the gospel! Yes, the plague of sin is in the word, and no waters will ever heal that plague except those which flow from the fountain for all sin – a crucified Christ.”
The point being made is obvious: the gospel is remedial, meaning that it – and only it – cures mankind’s real problem. All other attempts amount to treating cancer with band-aids (imagine the futility!). There is no going forward without first going back and dealing with the source of our problems – we have waged a war against a holy God and our many and great sins must be cleansed by the blood of Jesus.
And that, friends, is why a purely social gospel is much worse than just a waste – it sustains people in their rebellion against God while only temporarily alleviating the pain and hardship that should drive them to Christ for real relief.
The saving gospel is a preached gospel that illuminates the sinfulness of sin and points to the only remedy – the work of our Lord Jesus Christ. This is what must be at the absolute leading edge, the absolute forefront of all of our efforts to address the problems of this world, whether poverty or abortion or any other source of pain and hardship.