Thursday, April 08, 2010

Gleanings from the Pastor's Perspective: The Gospel and Cultural Vigilance

The Pastor’s Perspective
Vol. 33 Num. 18
“The Gospel and Cultural Vigilance”
First Published: April 28, 2000

This past Lord’s Day, I got so carried away on point one of the sermon that I hardly did point three justice in either morning service. So, I wanted to pause here to make a few comments. We were looking at Romans 1:16-17, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, "BUT THE RIGHTEOUS man SHALL LIVE BY FAITH."” In verse 17, Paul does something dramatic and surprising. He tells us that the Gospel reveals the righteousness of God. That’s not how we would have put it. If we were trying to explain why the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation, we would have said that it’s the saving power of God because in it the grace of God is revealed. Or, we might have emphasized that in it the mercy of God is revealed. Or, we might have gloried that in it the love of God is revealed. But that’s not what Paul says.
When Paul explains how the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation, he puts it this way: in it there is a divine righteousness obtained by faith. What does Paul mean by this? Well, in verse 17, he is telling us that the Gospel reveals God’s covenantal righteousness. That is, he is righteous in keeping his promise and he is righteous in the way he saves us. God saves us because of his gracious covenant promises, and thus he shows himself to be righteous in keeping his word. And furthermore, he saves us (by the atoning sacrifice of his Son, as Paul will elaborate on later) and thus shows himself to be perfectly just in the way he extends mercy to us. That thought blows Paul away.
Paul goes on to say that the righteousness of God is revealed to and in us by faith, and he proves that this is the one way of salvation in Old and New Testaments by appealing to Habakkuk. What are we to make of this? How should we be encouraged by it? The answer is both simple and profound. It is learning to glory in the righteousness of God in the Gospel that will bring about assurance. Only when we realize that God’s way of salvation is both righteousness and gracious, will we be confident of our eternal security and appreciative of the greatness of his grace.
Now on to something completely different. While our country has been preoccupied with the Elian Gonzalez case, and debating its handling, some significant things have been transpiring in the news here on the Mississippi home front. For one thing, as some of you may be aware, our State legislature has passed a bill to prohibit gay adoption in Mississippi. That is, this bill prohibits homosexual couples from adopting children in our state. The bill is on the way to Governor Musgrove, who has promised to sign it. Many people in our congregation worked to make yourselves heard on this issue. For this, I am profoundly thankful.
Family issues are on the front-burner of the agenda to change the culture of our great country. If Christians are not vigilant, if we will not think Christianly and act on that thinking in our approach to pressing social issues in our day, we will lose the whole battle for the whole culture. Those who would jettison the concept of the traditional marriage and family, and rob it of its cultural status, know exactly what they are doing.
For instance, listen to this paraphrase of a report that I received from one of our physicians who was active in monitoring the gay adoption bill. “The deviousness of many supporters of gay adoption is breathtaking. They consistently made the argument that this bill was not needed, because no gay couple had tried to adopt in Mississippi, and thus this was a meaningless, time-wasting procedure. However, we argued that if action was not taken, then when the situation did arise, the opposition would be quick to point out that there was no law on the books. How prophetic this was. Now that the bill has passed, the ACLU has announced that it would sue on behalf of a gay couple that had already begun preliminary efforts to adopt a child here in Mississippi.”

Your friend,

Ligon Duncan
April 25, 2000

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