Is social justice a gospel issue?

Sep 12, 2018 by

By Kevin deYoung, The Gospel Coalition.

[…] What Is a Gospel Issue?

Again, we have to define our terms. If “gospel issue” means we are smuggling good works into the sola fide side of the equation, then clearly social justice is not a gospel issue. We don’t save the least of the these in order to save ourselves.

Likewise, if “gospel issue” means “as important as the proclamation of Christ crucified” then the answer must again be no. There is only one thing that can be of first importance, and that, according to Paul in 1 Corinthians 15, is the message that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures and was raised on the third day.

I’ll go even further: “gospel issue” should not be shorthand for “you must be passionate about all the same things I’m passionate about.” Nor should it be synonymous with notions of “building the kingdom” or “transforming the culture.” By the same token, preachers must be careful lest they allow CNN and Fox News, not to mention Twitter and Facebook, to set the agenda for their weekly pulpit ministry. If pastors in our day let cultural concerns crowd out the preaching of new birth, repentance, and justification by faith alone, it wouldn’t be the first time in the church’s history that the “gospel” became more social than gospel.

And yet, “gospel issue” need not mean any of these things. If “gospel issue” means “a necessary concern of those who have been saved by the gospel” or “one aspect of what it means to keep in step with the gospel” or “realities without which you may not be truly believing the gospel,” then social justice is certainly a gospel issue. When biblically defined, social justice is part and parcel of loving our neighbor as ourselves. It’s part of keeping the second table of the Decalogue. It’s part of doing the good works God has prepared in advance for us to walk in (Eph. 2:10).

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