By Ess-Jee Rautenbach
We are living in very interesting times. And the way we perceive the Bible and Christ is key to how we construct our lives and make decisions. The way we view the Gospel is also a great prediction of how we perceive marriage, divorce, re-marriage and separation. In this article, I will try to show you that in our generation we can get three types of Gospels. Most Christians fall in one of them.
The Analogy of three Gospels can also be seen as what type of lens you are looking through. Your lens is the filter you look through -- at the Bible, Jesus, etc. This lens also determines the way you experience other believers and how you will act in certain situations. It is also the core of your belief system. Frank Viola names the three Gospels in His book, “Reimaging Church,” and he discusses them in detail. For this article’s purpose, I only touch on them shortly, just to give you an idea of why we do what we do.
“A man's morality will almost always determine his theology, not vice versa. People first choose how they wish to live and then construct and conform their world view to suit their lifestyle. It is a rare person who objectively looks at the Bible in inductive study to see what is said and then brings his life in conformity with biblical standards.” Craig Hill
In the start of the first century and even to the present day, we get three Gospels. They are: Libertinism, Legalism and the Gospel of Liberty and Lordship. Libertinism is where the individual beliefs that Grace covers all his sins. He believes that Jesus dying on the cross gives him a license to sin. He justifies his actions with prophetic words: God told him, etc. Most of his actions are not in line with the Word of God but, in his mind, he is okay because Christ died for His sins. As we read Romans 6, we can see that Paul tackles this Gospel head on, telling the reader that we should not give in to the desires of our flesh because the fruits of listening to our flesh lead to sin, and sin leads to death. The same is true in the book of James. James implores believers not to fall for this type of Gospel. To make James’ and Paul’s cautions relevant to today, we can find this type of Gospel in Hyper Grace movements and also in some Charismatic Churches. Apply this lens to marriage and we find individuals who divorce, re-marry and even commit adultery with no hint of remorse or repentance.
The second Gospel is Legalism. This Gospel is marked by the believer working very hard to earn God’s acceptance. In my own experience, these individuals always dig deep into old covenant scriptures and use the Old Testament to justify their words and actions. They also judge those who do not do what they do or do not have the same conviction they have. They are very prideful individuals who are marked by self-righteousness. In some way or another, they have placed themselves above other people. In marriage, these individuals have all the right knowledge and they even sometimes speak the truth, but what they say and what they do are two totally different things. They use scripture to justify their sinful behaviors. In the Book of Galatians, we can see Paul addressing such a legalistic Church.
“In short, the libertine lives as if there is no God. The legalist lives as though she or he is God to everyone else. Both attitudes are incompatible with the life of Christ.” Viola, Frank. Jesus Now: Unveiling the Present-Day Ministry of Christ
The third and final Gospel is the Gospel of Lordship and Liberty. This Gospel is very scarce in our generation. This is a Gospel where believers take up their crosses and follow Jesus. This can also be seen as the ecclesia of Christ, the church most of the new covenant and New Testament talk about. When there is a reference to Church in the New Testament, it is talking about ecclesia, not the Institutional Church we know today.
“But the truth is, submission to Christ’s lordship is the gateway to the liberty of the Spirit.” Viola, Frank. Jesus Now: Unveiling the Present-Day Ministry of Christ
It is a Gospel where individuals, in cooperation with other brothers and sisters, make Jesus Christ Lord of their lives. They learn individually and corporately how to live from Christ in them. In other words, they learn how to live from Christ inside of them. This is a type of individual whose life will testify of love and all the fruit of the spirit as is described in Galatians 5. His walk is a sacrificial one. He strives to serve others daily and denies himself as well. In marriage, this individual stays true to his vows until “death do us part.” No matter what his or her spouse does or says, he or she chooses to stay faithful till death even if there spouse isn’t. They choose to stand for their marriages if need arises, sacrificing their lives for a spouse who doesn’t really deserve it, but they choose to love them anyway.
When Christ Jesus is the one who determines our Gospel and lens, nothing else matters. Our priorities begin to fall into place, our values are rightly determined and, most importantly, God is honored and glorified.