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Did Jesus Preach a Social Gospel? — 23 Comments

  1. Elder, I quite agree with the sentiments expressed in this post, particularly to the extent that it corrects the ideas advanced by Hugh Mackay. First, that Jesus taught and demonstrated that faith (of course belief) in God is paramount and key to formation of that character of compassion, we so much need to relate well with all. Jesus taught much about FAITH (belief in somebody called God), without which it is impossible to please Him (God). (Hebrews 11:6)
    Two; the good deeds that we want to emphasize must not be left hanging on personal whim or humane feelings alone. Outright atheists or many godless people have the same. The compassion we should have on the needy, the destitute, the oppressed, the poor or the weak, should emanate from our connection to Jesus (God) through faith, the formation and demonstration of His character in our being, for without Him (Jesus) we can do nothing. (John 15:5). My take brethren is first things must come first in the lives of Christians and especially, the Seventh Day Adventists. Our gospel should clearly demonstrate or display God's power to create us anew, then the rest will fall in. In this new nature and life in the spirit, the needy can not be neglected.(II Corinthians 5:17, Galatians 2:20). We can only do the things Jesus taught and did, if we live like He lived.

    • "the good deeds that we want to emphasize must not be left hanging on personal whim or humane feelings alone. Outright atheists or many godless people have the same" I was thinking the same thing. One of the kindest most compassionate persons I know is my sister who is not a Christian. Truly, such acts will only be regarded as "righteous acts of the saints" when they emanate from a heart made new by Christ.

      • I think that sometimes we are too quick to dismiss the altruism of un-churched people. I know several un-churched and athiestic friends who lead the way when it comes to unselfish service. They put their effort down to the "right thing to do", or obeying a higher principle. Maybe they have met Jesus but have simply not learned to call him by that name.

        There are going to be people who are saved who have never heard of Jesus. They will have lived to the best of their understanding of how they should live with no expectation of reward. In some respects they can teach us something about unselfishness. Would we be interested in the poor and needy if we thought that they was no eternal life?

        • Maurice I have often wondered if people would be as generous with the poor if there was no God or a promise of eternal life. To me personally I share with what I have is that humans feel pain and ALL would like to have a decent life. Who am I to be better off than anyone else?Who am I to to let myself fat and knowingly that others are literally dying because they have no food? Knowingly that I can help a little to feed these poor? and with holding it ALL FOR MYSELF?

  2. Some of us Christians (Seventh Day Adventists) should observe some non-religious people and learn from them because they treat those in need better than we do.

  3. No, Maurice, and right so. Eternal life is a gift, not a reward. Your question resides in the same mystery that we can't comprehend, salvation being gifted rather than earned. Our earthly minds can't wrap around it without a lot of faith.

  4. There is a reason the scripture admonishes that good works cannot save us. It is because our motives are primarily selfish and it is possible to do an immense amount of good works without the right motives. As Christians our good works are an outgrowth of our love for Christ and the work of restoration that He has performed in our lives. We love because He first loved us. And we naturally show this to others.

    When we practice the social gospel, it is not just to relieve man's earthly suffering. We should follow Jesus's method which is to restore physically, but spiritually as well. The difference between our community service and that of atheists and other unbelievers is that we are seeking to transform lives by pointing to Jesus who provides not only physical, but spiritual bread. He heals not only bodies, but spirits. He provides life giving water as well as that which relieves physical thirst.

    There is no shortage of organizations dedicated to relieving human suffering. We are called to go beyond relief to restoration of the image of God in man. So much work has been done in communities that have remained broken and hopeless. Clinics that pacify drug addiction, but have nothing to ease the underlying pain of the soul. People who receive so much charity food, but are still hungry for something that would satisfy their deep inner hunger for meaning and purpose.

    When we, for example, run a stop smoking campaign, we do not only show people how to overcome addictions, but we offer something wholesome with which to replace their addiction. What the world needs is access to abundant life, one that begins right now in their communities. That, Only Christians, through their Holy Holy Spirit directed service, can provide.

  5. Another thought and question. If we believe that there are going to be people saved who never knew Christ, than what is holding back Christ return in light of Matthew 24:14?

    • John are you implying that those who never heard of Jesus in any way shape and form(not fault of their own) may be because of where they happen to live God is going to say go away from me I do not know you? If this is the case then God is Love is VERY decieving the very least.Like those tribs who live in the jungles etc.People really have to watch how they say only you will be saved if you accepted Christ you will be saved.

    • John, I believe that the world (and especially SDA) need to learn about God's character. EGW said, "The last rays of merciful light, the last message of mercy to be given to the world, is a revelation of His character of love." I have heard people say, "God is loving, but he is also just." meaning that he will punish the bad people. This week's SS lesson gives the Biblical definition of justice which is to help the downtrodden!

  6. A little thought comes to mind about social/political "activism".

    It is worth noting, I think, that when the apostle Paul wrote about submission to governing authorities (in Romans 13), he was writing with reference to Nero's administration -- a extremely hard-line administration which was decidedly anti-Christian (to say the least). Nero's policies were ruinous for many people (and his desire to re-build large sections of Rome meant disaster for a large number of the poor residing in that city), and yet none of the apostles spoke directly against him, or challenged his government.

    If Jesus had been actively working [in His humanity] in the time of Nero, would He have done anything different in that regard? I think not.

    • There are two issues here that we need to understand when dealing with Governments.

      Most governments provide essential services such as law and order, national infrastructure and so on. In the main we need to respect the national effort - without it we would not function as a nation.

      They also develop policies that may affect marginalized people. It is our responsibility to speak out when we see people being affected negatively.

      On the one hand we need to respect our governments and on the other hand we need to make sure that the voice for justice is heard. That does not mean that we need to take to the streets and join crowds. There are ways of making your voice heard in the right place at the right time. There are issues that we need to raise with government bodies because they are our representatives and it is appropriate to keep then informed about our concerns.

      I should stress that we need to look beyond ourselves here. I remember the level of concern raised with the government and justice systems of Australia over a particular situation involving Adventists. One well-known legal person remarked that it would be great if Seventh-day Adventists were willing to use their influence for others who had been mistreated by the justice system. It was a significant point.

      • Yes it is relevant, because it may depend on our concern whether to give our voice or not because sometime we are involved in government positions we are the part of the governments.

    • There was not much the apostles could do regarding social/political activism against brutal tyrannical Rome the best they could do was to spread the Gospel. However the people of Israel in Isaiah's time were held responsible for their own country thus Isaiah speaks to the injustices the people themselves were responsible for.

    • "It is perhaps not surprising that in the only picture of the judgement that we have, we are judged not on our understanding of doctrine, or our observance of Sabbath, or our strictness of lifestyle, but on our social responsibility."


      While the Scripture passages you have quoted, especially Matt. 25:34-36, do emphasize the importance of social responsibility, there are other texts which show us the role of other "doctrines" in our Christian life and, yes, even with regard to "judgment".

      In John 3:17-20, Jesus speaks about our trust in God as a factor in our judgment. ("He that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God." v. 18). That is the reason He asks the question, "When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?" (Luke 18:8).

      Elsewhere, in John 12:48, we read, "The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day" (ESV). 'The word' in this verse surely would refer to the truth as contained in the entire Scriptures because "all scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness" (2 Tim. 3:16). In other words, the condition of our hearts and minds---based on the reception or rejection of the truth in the Scriptures---will determine the verdict in the 'judgment'.

      The first angel's message, in Rev. 14:6-7, describes the association of our judgment with our acknowledgment of God's creatorship, His character and us reverencing Him. And we understand His character from what the rest of the Scriptures reveal about Him in the life of Jesus in the New Testament ("I have glorified Thee on the earth" and "I have manifested Thy name", John 17:4, 6) and the picture of God in the Old Testament ("They are they which testify of Me", John 5:39).

      Social gospel is important because "they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven" (Matt. 5:16). But it is "the everlasting gospel" (Rev. 14:6) in which "is the righteousness of God revealed" (Rom. 1:17) which inspires faith and "faith expressing itself through love" (Gal. 5:6, NIV) is the social gospel.

      • Pramod,

        See this EGW quote and see if you don't think that she says that the social gospel is the everlasting gospel.

        Those whom Christ commends in the judgment may have known little of theology, but they have cherished His principles. Through the influence of the divine Spirit they have been a blessing to those about them. Even among the heathen are those who have cherished the spirit of kindness; before the words of life had fallen upon their ears, they have befriended the missionaries, even ministering to them at the peril of their own lives. Among the heathen are those who worship God ignorantly, those to whom the light is never brought by human instrumentality, yet they will not perish. Though ignorant of the written law of God, they have heard His voice speaking to them in nature, and have done the things that the law required. Their works are evidence that the Holy Spirit has touched their hearts, and they are recognized as the children of God. {DA 638.2}

        • Hi Randall:

          Agree with the above without reservation.

          I do not intend to minimize the importance of social gospel.

          One of my concerns was that "we are judged not on our understanding of doctrine, or our observance of Sabbath, or our strictness of lifestyle" (See the quote at the top of my post above).

          There is nothing inherently wrong with these doctrines and practices if they are understood in the context of God's character and acted upon based on principles in accordance with it (His character).

          For us who have the privilege of knowing God as He is (Exodus 34:6,7; 1 John 4:8), it is our understanding of a picture of His character that "constraineth us" (2 Cor. 5:14) towards social gospel whereas "among the heathen are those who worship God ignorantly, those to whom the light is never brought by human instrumentality, yet they will not perish." {DA 638.2}

          A theoretical knowledge of doctrines will not suffice. When our hearts are filled with love, we have the right motive to attend to the hungry, the thirsty, the homeless, the naked and those in prison (Matt 25:35-36). On the other hand, "a selfish heart may perform generous actions" {SC 58.1}. So, then, the motive for the good deeds becomes important because it reveals that the heart has been healed from the infection of selfishness.

          Your quote from DA 638.2 is one of my all-time favorite quotes. It shows that the Holy Spirit works on the hearts of the heathen and they respond in a positive way. Paul says that the Gentiles "shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness"(Rom. 2:15). They have the law written in their hearts! That's the New Covenant (Hebrews 10:16). And that is God's ultimate goal for us.

          • New Covenant = God's law (read love) written in hearts and minds

  7. I agree with much of the article and individual points made in the comments section.There is an individual role for every Christian (despite their denominational name) within his or her community. The trouble is that many of us have not discovered or fully understood our purpose. It is very easy to become individualistic and consider only what is important to us; thus forgetting that there is a neighbour to consider as well. If we believe what Jesus Christ (a replica of the Creator of the Universe) taught, our motives will be pure as we embark on our daily activities. Remember, salvation is a free gift, there is nothing we can do by ourselves to earn it...

  8. Maurice,

    Thank you for your article. I think you have made some important points and the ending summarizes what you say, “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.” James 1: 27.

    Whenever people say, "I don't believe in organized religion or churches", I think of that verse.

    Thursday's lesson supports what you have shared with us. "True religion is practical... Practical godliness is the only kind of religion recognized at the judgement bar of God Matt. 25:34-46."

    So few people have cared about the widow and the orphans. For ten years I raised my son alone, worked and homeschooled. There was one church who invited us out every Sabbath after church, to eat and fellowship, for six straight months that we were a part of the congregation. There was another church that two families invited us for fellowship on three Sabbaths in a period of 3 years. During those 3 years, I had a car with no heat and after church, I would take my son hiking year round, because we lived in a home that didn't have Sabbath keepers. I packed a lunch, sometimes in a hot crockpot, and we kept the Sabbath that way.

    When I married, I opened my home to anyone who would come for fellowship.
    I have shared with others the need to do the same and to care about others but it falls on deaf ears.

    Someday, God will indeed resurrect these dry bones and bring His people to repentance and new life in Him, and then they will care about others, with no urging necessary.

  9. Thanks for an excellent article. I was curious to see the following remark:

    Atheists of course would argue that altruistic behavior benefits society as a whole. That is debatable...

    I shouldn't think that Christians would find this debatable at all. If God's law, including its deepest principles, is descriptive, and not just prescriptive, then I have to think that the living out of those principles is necessarily good, not only for those directly benefited by the resulting good deeds, not only for the doer of those deeds, but for society and humanity as a whole.

    Where I must differ with the atheist would be in the apparent assumption that altruistic behaviour proves us to be among the fittest. From a Christian perspective, I must protest that truly altruistic behaviour on our part is impossible without an unseen power and influence working from outside ourselves. This, of course, leaves us without the slightest reason for self congratulations.

    What do you think?

    • The texts that Maurice referred to, Matt 22:37-40 and John 13:34, 45, have been quoted untold number of times. I believe they say nearly everything that is commented about, in this discussion. A well known Seventh Day Adventist minister with credentials a mile long from the general conference made a statement that makes sense. He said I don't like Seventh Day Adventist, I do like Christians. Obvious tongue in cheek statement. We revere the Fourth commandment but neglect Rev 14:7 and Rev 15:4. To give our ultimate Worship To God, is our prime objective. specifically include our Maker God! If it is Biblical it must be acceptable?

    • The debate among atheists about the role of altruism is a consequence of a difference of opinion about the "survival of the fittest" mechanism. This is probably not the forum to explore those differences except to say that there is a debate about the issue. Some say altruism is beneficial while others say that it isn't.

      You are right in saying that true altruism comes from an unseen power outside ourselves. We call that power God. It is probably worth us considering that in the case of altruistic unbelievers, they are also responding to the call of God, but simply have not called him by that name. I am sure that many an unchurched person has been turned away from Christianity by the selfish, self-serving, face of Christianity that they have been exposed to, but have accepted the notion that unselfishness, generosity to the needy and so on, are appropriate behaviours outside Christianity. I think we may find some totally surprised atheists in heaven.


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