The Forgiveness Only Gospel


In my previous post, "The Six Gospels We Preach Today," I discuss what I see as the six most common gospels people preach today. Of those six, the most common gospel preached today focuses almost exclusively on forgiveness. The forgiveness gospel is quite popular because it is simple, explains the basic requirements for getting your sins forgiven and gaining entrance into heaven, and is easy to publish on fliers, brochures, and booklets. The forgiveness gospel tends to equate faith with agreement to a set of religious facts. This decision to agree is typically followed by a prayer or some other protocol, after which a person is proclaimed a Christian forever more. What is wrong with this, you might ask?

The primary weakness of the forgiveness gospel is what it doesn’t mention. Often this gospel covers the important topics of forgiveness and grace. But makes no mention of repentance, gives no invitation to follow Jesus, and does not discuss obedience to Jesus that Scripture teaches is required for a life of discipleship. The result in practical terms is what some have called the gospel of sin management. By it you manage your sin rather than having your life transformed. This gospel deals with a specific problem—God’s judgment of our sin—by giving a specific solution—Jesus’ death on the cross enables you to be forgiven. How do you benefit from this solution? You simply make the right decision, say the right words to make the right confession, and have the right experience.

Only a Little Blood from Jesus

As Dallas Willard adds, “For some time now the belief required to be saved has increasingly been regarded as a totally private act, ‘just between you and the Lord’” (The Divine Conspiracy, 35–39). This gospel preaches a Christ who exists for our benefit alone. His only work is to redeem humankind without requiring any further obligation from them. This understanding tends to foster what some have called “vampire Christians.” They only want a little blood from Jesus for their sins but want nothing more to do with him until heaven. By its nature, this gospel cuts off any ongoing life in Christ because it creates a person who has confidence in heaven but no stake in living for Christ now. Tragically, when so-called Christians like this stand at heaven’s gate declaring by the gospel there is no reason to keep them out, they may find there is no reason to let them in (Matt. 7:22-24ff).

Follow Bill Hull on Twitter here and Facebook here

This excerpt has been adapted from Conversion and Discipleship.

Image credit: Shutterstock.