Call To Die

Then [Jesus] said to them all, "If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will save it. (Luke 9:23-24, HCSB)

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Follower of Christ, husband of Abby, member of Kosmosdale Baptist Church, and tutor/staff member at Sayers Classical Academy.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Is "Our Father" the Gospel?

"'Hail Mary' is not the gospel."

The above quote is from my friend Eric Paulson, as a Roman Catholic man beside him questioned him due to us street-preaching over the chants of a throng of Mariolaters last Saturday.

"Is the 'our Father' the gospel?" the Roman Catholic man challenged, referring to the fact that the throng was switching back and forth between these two prayers [i.e. the "Hail Mary" and the "our Father," which I refer to as the "Lord's Prayer" below].

"No," said Eric.

"It's not?" the man said, incredulously.

"No, it's not," said Eric [I'm paraphrasing this next part], "it's in books called 'Gospels,' but it's not the gospel." Eric emphasized that what people need to hear is the gospel itself.

A moment later the Roman Catholic man had walked off, and Eric asked me what I thought about the conversation. I replied that maybe the Lord's Prayer is part of the gospel.

"But it's not the gospel," Eric replied.

"Right," I said.

When this conversation took place, I felt a bit uncomfortable asserting that the Lord's Prayer is not the gospel. This is due to the fact that I realized the Prayer is a direct quote of Jesus' words, and I didn't want to say anything that sounded like it was denigrating the teaching of my Lord and Savior. But thinking back on the conversation, I must say that Eric was RIGHT, and I should have no discomfort in boldly asserting (as he did) that the Lord's Prayer is not the gospel.

I believe that further consideration of this issue may be helpful because there are all kind of good biblical teachings that are related to the gospel, but that are not themselves the gospel. Christians who are dedicated to proclaiming the gospel must be able to articulate what the gospel is NOT as well as what the gospel IS, and examining the Lord's Prayer in light of this fact may provide a model for how other Bible truths (which some people may assert are part of the gospel) should be addressed as well.

The Lord's Prayer is NOT the gospel for the following reasons:

1. The gospel is a message with a definite historical content concerning who Jesus is and what He has done on behalf of sinners. This message (also called the "message of the Cross") is summarized in New Testament passages such as 1 Corinthians 15:3-7. Because the Lord's Prayer does not contain the message concerning the historical facts of the gospel, it cannot be properly called the gospel message. (These historical facts are contained at the end of the books in which the Lord's Prayer is quoted, as the climax of the Gospel narratives.) The Lord's Prayer definitely springs from a doctrinal standpoint that cannot be denied if the gospel is to be truly understood (i.e., one cannot deny that our Father's name is/should be "hallowed," and one must understand that we must seek forgiveness of trespasses, if Christ's death for sins is to mean anything), but the fact that there is some relationship between the Lord's Prayer and the gospel doesn't mean that the Lord's Prayer is the gospel itself (by comparison: Genesis 1:1 is vital for an understanding of the biblical worldview/theology that is the necessary framework without which the gospel cannot be understood, but that does not mean that Genesis 1:1 is the gospel itself).

2. The gospel is a message that calls for a definite response involving confession of sin, repentance from sin, and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, our Savior from sin. This response may be referred to as a gospel call as distinguished from the gospel message, mentioned above. The relationship between the gospel call and the gospel message is clearly seen in passages such as 2 Corinthians 5:18-20, in which the Apostle Paul refers to the gospel as "the message of reconciliation," and pleads with the Corinthians to "be reconciled with God," or Acts 2:14-41 in which the Apostle Peter immediately follows his gospel proclamation with the call to repent. When a person accepts the gospel, repents, is reconciled to God through faith in Christ Jesus, that person becomes a disciple of Jesus. But the Lord's Prayer contains no gospel call because those who Jesus taught the Lord's Prayer were already His disciples. As recorded in Matthew [6:5-15], the Lord's Prayer was given as part of the Sermon on the Mount, which Jesus preached primarily to His disciples, though with a view to the larger crowd as well [as demonstrated through a comparison of the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5:1-2, with the end of the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 7:24-29]; as recorded in Luke [11:2-4], Jesus reiterated the Lord's Prayer to His disciples in response to one disciple asking Him to teach them how to pray [see Luke 11:1]. The Lord's Prayer is NOT the gospel call because it is meant for those who are ALREADY following Jesus.

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