One of the most popular ways of presenting the gospel over the last half century or more is the idea of the Four Spiritual Laws. Billy Graham popularized this approach to simplifying the gospel. I will list the laws and then explore the issues.
Law 1 – God made us to know Him and be with Him forever
Law 2 – We are sinful and are separated from God and His love for us
Law 3 – Jesus came into the world to allow us to know God and His love
Law 4 – If we receive Christ we can once again know God and His love for us
This list has quite a bit of scripture to back it up. I would nuance things a bit but basically I could agree with this list. But there a few issues that arise…not in whether or not the list is truthful but in the message that packaging the good news up like this sends.
First, it can send a transactional gospel message. We have/had a problem. God has solved it. If we do this then God will do that. In essence it can be very easy to twist this list around to make it a consumeristic list that is focused on self rather than on God.
Another issue with this list is that it leaves out 2/3 of the Bible…the Hebrew Bible and all of the information that helps us understand God and Jesus. The salvation Jesus brings is firmly rooted in the Old Testament. Jesus as savior and Messiah are hard to understand without the Old Testament.
And yet another issue with this is that it is geared toward getting a decision based on agreement over getting a commitment to discipleship. I am not saying this is always the case (it depends on how it is presented) but it is often the cast. To his credit, Billy Graham tried to send people who responded to local churches to help them get plugged in but it didn’t always work out. And so people were left with the idea that if they made the commitment they were good without understanding that the actual commitment is not mental agreement to a list of propositions but it is a commitment to the person of Jesus and to follow Him the rest of our lives!
And still another issue is how do we define how one “receives” Christ? I would assume we would want to receive Christ how the Bible says we receive Christ and that is through faith, repentance and baptism (Acts 2:38, Romans 6:1-6, etc). The first two are almost always included in these presentations but the third is almost never included. It is almost never included because those who take this approach often believe that baptism is a work. Faith is not a work (I agree). Repentance is not a work, they say (and I agree)…even though it is an action you must do. But baptism is the work! And since we are saved by grace through faith and not by works (Eph 2:8-9), then baptism doesn’t make the cut.
I am sure you have heard this line of reasoning before but it is faulty. Of all of our responses to the work of Christ, Baptism is the one verb that is always used in the Greek passive voice, which means an action done to you by someone else. You have to do the action of repenting but baptism is done to you! It isn’t a work and it doesn’t earn anything but it is necessary. Instead, people are asked to DO something – pray the sinner’s prayer but, again, not even that is considered a work on our part even though it is an action (not found in the Bible) that would be considered required to DO to be saved.
Again, the four laws on face value are helpful but we must be aware of the message we are sending in order to not create another gospel.
What does this mean for us? Why is it important?
It is a reminder that while we can say things that are true, the way we package it, order it and present it can communicate as much or more as what was biblically correct. So we have biblical ideas packaged up to result in false conclusions. Any of us can wind up in that position. So take with what you say and how you say it. It matters!
If you would like to hear more of this history of the four spiritual laws and their implications on how people view salvation, watch this next!
Baptism IS a work, a lot of work! But look at Who is doing all the work! It ain’t people! It is God who is hard at work. He buries us. He brings us up. He just added a new child to His family… Hard work – but by God. Never understood the lack of understanding when this is read…
I agree with Rudy, baptism is a work, God’s work. As to the importance of baptism, Acts 1:8 reveals that the power of the Holy Spirit will enable Christ followers to be effective witnesses. In Acts 2:38-39 Peter states that all who repent and are baptized into Christ will receive the promised gift of the Holy Spirit. Those who think that baptism is optional apparently believe that they can live a sanctified life and effectively witness for Christ in word and deed through their own power, minus the Holy Spirit. What I find lacking in the Four Spiritual Laws is any mention of repentance, the call to discipleship or the inaugurated kingdom of God.
Matt, I Just viewed your video regarding what Gospel. I couldn’t agree more!
Even though the list is true, the “work” of Believer’s Baptism doesn’t SAVE a person’s Soul. Likewise, the “work” of Repentance “from sins” is not required for Salvation either. The ONLY requirement for Salvation is “Trusting/Believing” in the “work” which Jesus did on the Cross and when His Soul went down to Hell to “pay” for our sins. During those 3 days and 3 nights when Jesus’ Soul was in the Heart of the Earth, 3 sabbaths were fulfilled. (The Passover, the feast of unleavened bread and finally the Saturday Sabbath) Thus, JESUS did ALL THE WORK necessary for our Salvation. All we have to do is BELIEVE ON what He did.
Our Lord Jesus did ALL the “work” for our Salvation. We are “Believe in the Rest” of the 3 Sabbaths, while He did ALL the “work” to wash our sins away. THANK YOU LORD JESUS!