Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.
I first came across this little yellow book during my freshman year of college. It read on the cover, “Have You Heard of the Four Spiritual Laws?” If you haven’t, they are summarized as this:
Bill Bright, founder of Campus Crusade for Christ, is credited for writing the Four Spiritual Laws back in 1952. It has since become the primary tool for campus ministry in evangelizing due to its simplicity and transferability. Anyone can use the book to steer conversations to hit the “major points” of the gospel, equipping even the newest of the faith to reach the lost. In the right setting, the Four Spiritual Laws can be helpful, but it is not the entirety of the gospel. We must be careful to teach believers the whole gospel and all its details and depths first before we can utilize a tool to help simplify the gospel. A brief appraisal of the Four Spiritual Laws may serve helpful in widening our gospel understanding and help us to properly apply this tool faithfully.
The first law, “God loves you and offers a wonderful plan for your life.”, is a precarious opening to the gospel presentation. God does love the world; this first point was established from John 3:16: “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son…” We know that God makes the sun shine and makes it rain on the just and the unjust alike (Matthew 5:45). But the love that God has for the world is different from the love God has for His own chosen people. Whom God predestined (yes, we Presbyterians believe in predestination) “he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified” (Romans 8:30). It is His chosen people that He rescues and will keep until the end. This cannot be said for the rest of the world.
God does offer a wonderful plan for our lives. This comes from John 10:10: “… I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” But considering the context of the passage, Jesus was referring to His sheep who hear his voice and do not listen to the thieves and robbers (John 10). These sheep are the chosen people of God, whom God has given ears to hear and hearts to follow. When we evangelize to someone, we do not know if he or she will receive and believe the gospel. For all we know, the next person we share the gospel to may be a lost sheep of God that Jesus is bringing into the sheepfold. But to position God’s love and wonderful offer as the first law above the rest is misleading. Those who have not received Christ are enemies of God because they cannot please God in the unregenerate, corrupted flesh (Romans 8:8). If they are still in their sins, God’s wrath is still upon them. Consider the message Jesus started His ministry with: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 4:17). Placing this law as the first law sets the trajectory for the rest of the gospel presentation as this: it’s about you and what God can do for you. Notice how the rest of the Spiritual Laws have this reoccurring theme – His love for you and wonderful plan for your life. That is the antithesis of the gospel message. It is not about us. It is about Him.
The second law, “People are sinful and separated from God, so we cannot know and experience God’s love and plan for our lives.”, is true but grazes the hard truth of sin’s consequences. Unrepentant sinners do not just miss out on God’s love and plan for their lives; they go to hell (Matthew 25). It would be helpful here to explain why sin is deserving of such a cruel punishment. Sin is not just simply breaking the rules of God. It is a far deeper villain. As the serpent whispered lies into Adam’s and Eve’s hearts, they wanted to be like God, not as they were as image bearers (Genesis 1:27), but in standing (Genesis 3:5), Creation becoming Creator. They were deceived to thinking the fruit was the path to becoming like God, and God’s prohibition was suppressing their true potential. This is what plagues the human heart. We don’t trust God or His goodness. We don’t want to be near God or obey Him. We would rather overthrow Him and be our own gods, and that is heresy and deserving of death. Christians cannot circumvent the reality of hell to avoid offending hearers. “God desires all people to be saved to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:4), but “how shall we scape if we neglect such a great salvation?” (Hebrews 2:3). We carry the message forth. God is the one who saves. Let us say it as it is, with tears in our eyes and trembling voices, the terrible destination for all revolting and rebellious people.
The third law, “Jesus Christ is God’s only provision for our sins, and through him we can know and experience God’s love and plan for our lives.”, gets closer at the gospel message. It must be said that Jesus Christ is the only provision, because this is where Christianity begins to separate itself from other world religions. He is the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Him (John 14:6). God put forward Christ, His Only Son, identical in divine nature, perfect and spotless, as the ultimate sacrifice for sinners, so that anyone who believes in Him will be justified before God. Christ died for us while we were yet sinners in order that, by grace through faith, we may be saved that no one may boast or attain salvation by his or her own effort. Christ did not remain dead but after three days, he was raised to life. Those who are baptized into Christ are united not only with him in a death like His, but also in a resurrection like His (Romans 6:5). If death has no dominion over God, neither will it for us who are in Christ (Romans 6:9-11). Once we were enslaved to sin. Now we have been set free under the power of His grace. Jesus ascended to Heaven and is seated at the right Hand of God, preparing for His second coming. No one knows the hour when He will come again, but when He does, He will judge the world, and the Kingdom of God will finally be completely established, where His children will dwell with God forever. While we wait for His return, the Holy Spirit given to us transforms our hearts day by day, so that we may be presented to God, holy and blameless. This is the good news of Jesus Christ.
It is not enough to know, which is what the fourth Spiritual Law attempts to explain: “We must individually receive Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord in order to know and experience his love and plan for our lives.” After hearing the bad and good news, the hearer must choose what to do with them. He cannot simply hear and be saved. He must believe or reject this news. It would be helpful here to emphasize what “Savior and Lord” means. It is easier to believe that God saved him from destruction, but it is far more difficult to surrender his life to God as his Lord. Simply confessing with his tongue and yet living a life unchanged is not the mark of a true believer. The call to the faith is the call to obedience. There must be a “putting away of sin” and a “putting on of Christ.” We must ask him to count the cost of discipleship: pain, loss, persecution, betrayal, scorn, various trials, and even life itself. Praying a prayer does not make one a Christian. Even experiencing God or going to church is not the sure mark of a Christian. It is the whole-hearted surrender to follow, love, and obey Christ, even unto death. Salvation is a work of God. Let us not attempt to sell cheap rip-offs of the gospel and deceive our brethren to thinking they believe in the true God. The gospel does not need our help to entice strangers, as if the good news is not “good enough”. We are to herald the news, and any attempt to make the gospel more palatable to the public runs the risk of diluting and even straying from the true message. Let us be faithful to the gospel, not the Four Spiritual Laws.