Reminders of the Gospel

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We need to be reminded of the temple’s foundation: Jesus Christ.

Recent issues of The Banner provided for me the impetus to write about a concern that needs to be addressed, in my humble opinion. It relates to the very dominant emphasis on what might be called the human-centeredness of the Banner’s contents. There is a continued refrain of what we have done, what we are doing and what we ought to be doing. So much of we—and, in comparison, so little of Christ.

Living in a culture that promotes and glorifies human endeavor, we need constant reminders of the free gift of God’s salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. The Reformation is one of those reminders. God used Martin Luther to steer us away from human-centeredness in salvation, stressing that faith is not a human possibility but a radical and free gift of God in Jesus Christ. “By grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone” highlights Luther’s teaching of God’s sovereignty in our salvation. Each “alone” affirms the centrality of Jesus Christ and what he has done for us in his active and passive obedience. To this we daily need to open our eyes as we contemplate God's amazing love for us. It’s a source of comfort I have been missing in these pages.

I fully realize that what our churches and denominational ministries are accomplishing is our Lord carrying out his mission through his Word and Spirit. It’s wonderful and praiseworthy to observe the mighty redeeming acts of God through his church. We stand in awe as we observe our God building his temple with living stones from every tongue and tribe and nation. The Banner does a superb job of tuning us in to God’s redeeming symphony in every issue.

But we also need to be reminded of the temple’s foundation: Jesus Christ, and him crucified. Featuring God’s free gift of salvation through faith in Christ prominently in every issue would set the stage for reporting how the church is, in gratitude, abounding in the work of the Lord. Without this connection we might unintentionally be promoting works-righteousness.

The numerous articles and pictures highlighting the church’s ministries could possibly lead people to the unwarranted conclusion that we are not acceptable to God unless we are hard at work for him. The Banner can avoid this danger by including in its issues frequent reminders of the gospel of God's full forgiveness through faith in Jesus Christ, who died to save us.

About the Author

John Bylsma is a retired pastor in the Christian Reformed Church. 

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A recent vacation took us to a location where for several weeks, services and bible studies were scripture centered.  Every single sermon, every message, every bible study, the preacher recited John 3:16 and fit it into his overall message.   Mildly irritating, and manifestly marvelous!  Grace first, then faith, then works.

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