There are two gospels being preached in the church today. The one is the Gospel of Jesus Christ, with the message of salvation as seen in John 3:16. The other is the social gospel, which teaches that Jesus was merely a social reformer, and that He expects us to be social reformers too.
The true Gospel of Jesus Christ is a divine offer of salvation, an offer of redemption and deliverance from the penalty of sin. The social gospel is a mere human program for social reform. The true Gospel of Jesus Christ is God’s only message to lost men: “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures . . . (and) was buried . . . and rose again the third day . . . and in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye . . . the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed” (1 Corinthians 15:3,4,52). This is the Gospel. Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures. This is the Good News of salvation. And any person who perverts that Gospel, and who offers people something else in place of it, is putting himself in danger, and he is putting in danger the souls of those who listen to him.
The main stress in the professing church during the past several decades has been away from the supernatural and toward the social. One preacher writes, “On Monday evening, our church members are all busy running a rummage sale—our church is in the junk business. On Tuesday night, our members are serving dinner at the fair—our church is in the restaurant business. On Wednesday night, they are making and selling aprons—our church is in the dry-goods business. On Thursday night, our members are busy borrowing costumes for their big annual entertainment—our church is in the theatre business. On Friday night, they are gathering labels and box-tops, and selling jello—our church is in the grocery business. On Saturday, our members are picking up pies, cakes, bread, and doughnuts (that other church members baked)—our church is in the bakery business.” And he concludes by saying, “No wonder this community doesn’t know what the business of the church is when Sunday morning comes around.”
Many churches are not too much more than a social club. They sell almost anything to make money (jello, oyster soup, dishrags, Christmas cards)—anything, you name it, we have it! But the social gospel is something more serious and more far-reaching than mere social activities. The social activity within so many churches is merely a by-product of a false, perverted gospel.
Everyone recognizes that this world is full of problems. We live in a world of conflict. Ever since Adam and Eve rebelled against God, there has been contention and trouble on earth. Through six thousand years of human history, the conditions have only grown worse. Nation has been fighting against nation; the breach between the races has become wider and wider; children are becoming increasingly rebellious against parents. In fact this world has not known one single day (since the fall of Adam), in which there has been no strife and conflict. Now the social gospel is simply the teaching that God’s answer to all this mess is that the church shall go out and attempt to get the whole world Christianized through social and political reforms.
Advocates of the social gospel say that the cure for the world’s ills is to have everyone adequately fed and sufficiently clothed, and living in a warm, comfortable house. They believe that with the advance of democracy and science and universal education, mankind will build a new world. But listen friends—better housing conditions and more education will never make the world a better place in which to live. The cause of all the sorrow and death and hatred in this world is sin—and until the sin-problem is settled, there will be no release from the troubles of mankind. Society will never be improved until the individuals of society are regenerated through the supernatural redemption which God has provided through the blood of Jesus, and the final solution to the world’s problems will only be realized when Jesus comes back in Person to be King over all the earth. Revelation 19:13-15 says: “His name is called the Word of God. And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean. And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations; and he shall rule them with a rod of iron.”
The powers of Hell are assailing the church today in a way that we have never known before. Many preachers are emphasizing racial integration, world peace and disarmament, the liberation of minorities, etc.—and are failing to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and the doctrine of the New Birth. Because we believe that this social gospel is a serious departure from the faith of our fathers, and from the will of God, we want to present in this message some of the basic fallacies and errors upon which it is founded.
1. The Social Gospel Teaches the False Theory of Evolution Which Ignores the Fall of Man
This is the first point where the advocates of the social gospel take issue with the Bible. One preacher says, “The fall of man is not a fact. Ever since we have known man on earth, he has been progressing mentally and morally.” But Genesis 3 tells about the fall of man. Genesis 6 describes the Flood which swept men from the face of the earth because they had become corrupt. The whole Book of Exodus is devoted to the history of a sinful people. The Scriptures everywhere present man as a sinful, fallen being, tending by nature to go away from God. The Bible declares that humanity is depraved and lost in sin, and that there is none that doeth good, no not one.
Those who preach the social gospel claim that we all started as some kind of jelly on the shoreland of some prehistoric age, and that through millions of years of evolution, we have been working our way up toward perfection. Everything is lovely they say. The world is getting better and better. Civilization is progressing. We have a World War once in a while (and a few little things like that), but there is nothing fundamentally wrong with man. He will work out his own salvation, if you will just give him a little time. These men teach that man evolved from a lower form of animal by a slow process, and that gradually he is getting better and better, and that it is our Christian duty (that it is the work of the Church) to give him a boost on his way up the ladder toward perfection.
Adam was never a caveman swinging a club. He was a godlike, intelligent being, who fell from the perfect state in which he had been created. Man in his present state, is not on his way up from the beast, he’s on his way down from the best! If the first were true (that he is on his way up from the beast), then all he needs is culture. If the second is true (that he is on his way down from the best), then he needs Calvary. If the first is true, all he needs is more education; if the second is true, he needs regeneration. These false teachers say that man is on his way up (he’s getting better and better) and that all he needs is a boost. God says that man is on his way down (he’s getting worse and worse), and that what he needs is a birth! The supreme need of every human being born into this world, is spiritual regeneration. Jesus told Nicodemus (a moral, religious, educated man) that he must be born again. Jesus never tried merely to improve social conditions. His work lay in creating new hearts (and of course this does indirectly improve social conditions). Only to the extent that men receive Jesus Christ into their hearts, only to that extent will the world become a better place in which to live.
The Bible teaches that man was created in perfection. The first man Adam, was not a primitive savage. He was an intelligent man. He named the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air. But he fell from this state of perfection (and all his posterity after him), and now man can be lifted up only through appropriating the plan which God has provided, the blood of Jesus. False teachers say that man started out as some prehistoric slime and that over millions and millions of years, he evolved into the human being, and that through education and reformation and legislation, he is gradually progressing toward a higher plane—and that all he needs is more education, more reformation, more legislation—and finally the golden age will come. This is contrary to the Word of God, and this is the first fallacy of the social gospel.
2. The Social Gospel Asserts that the Church will Bring the Kingdom of God on Earth
The social gospel advocates looking at the church as a great ship sailing through the seas. The ocean might be stormy they say, but the ship keeps on in triumph, surely to come into port some day with all the world on board! They expect the world to be Christianized, and every man to be bought under the dominion of the Gospel. But the Bible actually pictures the world as a ship—a sinking ship at that—from which the Church is to salvage as many souls as possible, before it sinks under the sea of God’s judgment. Not one verse in the Bible, teaches (nor even hints) that the whole world is to be converted through the work of the Church. Rather, God is calling out from the world a people who will honor His name. This is the meaning of the word “church”—a called out people.
And yet much denominational literature is filled with the teaching that the Church must Christianize the world. One paper says, “There is still much work that needs to be done in this world in order to bring all mankind to Christ.” That’s false teaching. It is our duty to bring Christ to all the world, and to preach the Gospel to every creature (to evangelize)—but it can never be our duty to bring all the world to Christ (to Christianize)—for Jesus says in Matthew 7 that the majority of men will reject Him.
God’s purpose in this age is not primarily to improve the social and moral order of the world, but to form His Church, the Body of called-out believers in Christ. Acts 15:14 says, “Simon hath declared how God . . . did visit the Gentiles to take out of them a people for his name.” The primary task of the Church in this age, is to preach the Gospel of salvation to all men; to offer them eternal life in Jesus Christ; and to gather a remnant of true believers and teach them the ways of God. Those who are taught the ways of God will be concerned about the suffering of humanity, and will offer relief and rehabilitation, but this will not be the only and primary concern.
Many teachers today promote the idea that the church is merely an agency for world-betterment. They talk about bringing-in the kingdom, and making the world a fit place in which to live, and that sort of thing. The world was filled with social ills in Paul’s day, but he made no attempt to free the slaves. He didn’t even try and reorganize society. He had no idea whatsoever of interfering with politics. The message of the Church is not a message of social reform, but a a message of personal redemption in Jesus Christ.
3. The Social Gospel Declares that all Men are the Children of God
One prominent preacher says, “The basic constitution of Christianity is that God is our Father, and that therefore all men are brothers. The world is a human family, with God as Father . . . please note . . . we do not offer you a brotherhood of Christians only.” Now if God is the Father of all mankind, and if we are all His children, then we must all be inherently good. If all men are the children of God, then there is no kingdom of evil, there is no devil, and there is no Hell. There’s no need for a place of punishment when all persons are basically good and are the children of God. One preacher says, “I believe all of us are more godlike than we really know. It’s merely a matter of bringing it out. What a man requires, is not regeneration in the old sense, or a change in nature, but simply an awakening to what he really is.” This man is saying that we are all godlike—all we have to do, is to wake up, and see how godly we are!
From this same false reasoning, these men also conclude that sin is not a personal evil, but a social evil (the consequence of improper social conditions). They say, “Clear away the slums; give the drunkard a new house; see that every boy and girl gets a free public education—and everything will be all right; sin will disappear.” The Bible, however, does not teach that if we give people enough soup and enough soap, they will be all right. Some of the most brutal crimes ever committed have occurred in the most educated and civilized parts of the world. It’s true that our Lord might disapprove of the slums—but He wants us to spend our time facing the real problem, the slums of the human heart!
The fact is that all men are not the children of God. The Bible teaches that there are really two brotherhoods in this world. There are those who are “in Adam.” and those who are “in Christ.” The New Testament most clearly teaches that men are not the children of God by their first birth, but that they must be converted and born again, before they become children of God in the true sense of the word. The Bible says in John 1:12, “To as many as received him (Christ), to them gave he power (the right) to become the sons of God.” Galatians 3:26 says, “Ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.” In 1 John 3:10 we read “In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil; whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother.”
Jesus, in telling the Parable of the wheat and tares, says, “The good seed are the children of the Kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one.” Jesus clearly says that there are two distinct classes of people in this world. The one class He calls the children of God. The other, He calls the children of the devil.
All men are creatures of God, in the sense that God made us all, but nowhere does the New Testament say that all men are the children of God. If all men are brothers (merely because God created them), then they are brothers not only to human beings, but also to prairie dogs, tadpoles, Texas rabbits, and in fact, any creature you can name. The only brotherhood of man taught in the Scriptures, is that of the household of faith—those who have been born again, purchased by the blood of Jesus at Calvary. Therefore (in view of the fact that men who have never been converted to Christ are not the children of God, but are on the road to eternal perdition), it is clear that the supreme duty of the Church is not to remove mere outward social conditions, but to win men to repentance and to a personal faith in Jesus Christ.
4. The Social Gospel Emphasizes the Building of a United Super-Church
The prophetic Scriptures indicate that in the end of the age, there will be a trend toward centralization in every area of human activity. In politics, this means a world government; in religion, it means a world church. Religion is even now shaping up into a world organization. The demand for a one-world religion is growing in the minds of many Catholic and Protestant church leaders alike. The goal of the ecumenical movement from its very beginning, has been the formation of a united church body, into which Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox groups should finally merge.
The word “ecumenical” is used much in our day. It literally means “world-wide in extent,” and when used in connection with church unity, it simply speaks of the bringing of all professing Christians throughout the world into one great religious organization. The Councils of Churches are functioning as instruments for the building of this future united church.
The Bible predicts an ecumenical church and a world political leader in the last days. The cries for these two men are heard on every hand today. In the political realm, the fear of an atomic war is bringing on the cry for a united world. We are told the civilization is doomed, unless all nations unite under one federal head. This is leading to the beast out of the sea, the Antichrist. Revelation 13 says that he will be a man of marvellous appearance, a kind of president over all the earth. All the civilized world will wonder after him, and do homage to him, and in his pride, he will speak great and blasphemous things against God. In the religious realm, men are deploring the differences that exist in the denominations within christendom, and as a result movements are on foot to form a union of churches. Church leaders say that division is the scandal of Christianity, and that it weakens our churches, and so the cry goes out for church union and world brotherhood. You may remember that the Pharisees and Sadducees were divided in their religious beliefs too. Acts 23 says that one group believed in the resurrection and the doctrine of angels, whereas the other did not. When Jesus met with so much opposition among the people, and saw all the religious controversy, why didn’t He unite all those different groups into one federated movement, and become the president of the new society Himself? Church union always involves compromise at the expense of the purity of the faith. I trust that together we can say, “Our faith is in the living God; our hope is not in the United Nations; we don’t believe that education is the solution to our problems; our hope is in the second coming of Jesus; we accept what the Bible teaches about Him. Even so come quickly, Lord Jesus.”