The Social Gospel
by Joseph Franks
This was the final straw. After Jesus taught many parables, and presented this last word, the chief priests and the elders of Israel gathered in the palace of Caiaphas, the High Priest, to plot how they might kidnap and murder Jesus. (Matthew 26:3-5)
What made them so violently angry at the miracle man who loved, fed, healed, and taught with such meekness and divine authority? What made them hate the Messiah, who was sent from God, the one for whom they had prayed and waited for centuries?
These religious holy-men loved the “Jesus Concept” but they despised the “Jesus Calling.”
In this text, Matthew 25:31-46*, Jesus presented three truths regarding the Son of Man:
First, the Son of Man was coming in glory. He would not come in humility as he came the first time. At his next coming, angels would be attending his descent, and loud trumpets would be heralding his coming. It would be an awesome spectacle for all to behold as the King of kings took his place on his regal and rightful throne.
Second, the Son of Man at his next coming would gather and separate. He would divide and discriminate. All nations would be brought before him; then some would be placed on his right, while others found their place on his left. Those religious people in Israel at that time had grown accustomed to thinking they would surely be the “sheep” gathered at the King’s right hand. After all, were not they the Chosen People, the Holy Nation, and Kingdom of Priests? Consequently, they concluded all other nations and ethnicities would be woefully gathered on the King’s left; as pagan peoples, they had no right to the promises made to Abraham, Moses, and David. However, as of late, Jesus had been making it quite clear they were mistaken. The Messianic Kingdom would not be based upon ethnic-national-Jewish-Gentile considerations; there would be different criteria in God’s discriminatory scheme. Yes, in the Son of Man’s Kingdom, there would indeed be some Jews found therein, but there would also be many men and women from every tribe, people, tongue, nation, and ethnicity. The Son’s of Man’s Kingdom would be a multiethnic one. There would be a gathering. There would be a separation. There would be a divine discrimination that took place, but it would not be one based upon familial heritage or the color of one’s skin.
Third, the Son of Man would recognize his “sheep” by their serious, but less-than-perfect- pursuit of keeping his two great commandments. Instead of being characterized by unchecked idolatry and self-love, they would be people internally transformed, and this would cause them to show forth love for God and love for their neighbors. Kingdom citizens would be those who cared, not only for the spiritual well being of those in their midst, but also for the emotional and physical well being of their neighbors. They would be those interested in ministering to the hungry, thirsty, lonely, naked, unsheltered, and imprisoned. They would be those interested in loving the sort of people so cherished by Jesus.
When Jesus had finished his teaching, many in the crowd were filled with rage. Friends, the questions must be asked:
- Do you find yourself guilty of not loving God and loving your neighbor as you ought?
- Do you find yourself guilty of breaking God’s most important laws – his first and second greatest commandments?
- Do you find yourself discomforted and not so righteous?
- Do you find yourself guilty of making too much of ethnicity and family heritage?
The answer is surely, “Yes.” This author is no exception. I find myself filled with self-love, and it transcends my affection for God and those neighbors created in his image. Frankly, this is your condition to, for there is not one righteous, no not one. There is none who has shown sufficient charity, like Jesus Christ, each and every day from the inside-out. Many have tried. Many have succeeded far more than me and you. But none has kept God’s Law perfectly, and all are found sinful and wanting.
Therefore, two more questions need to be asked:
- Will you see your sin, see your Christ, repent, and bear fruits of repentance? Will your delight in your Savior and Lord and seek his justifying and sanctifying grace? Will you rest in his obedience and seek to obey him? Will you Sabbath in his sacrifice and the become a living sacrifice to those who are hungry, thirsty, lonely, naked, unsheltered, and imprisoned?
- Will you be so filled with self-righteous worship that you deny the teaching of the Son of God? Will you go on your way unaffected by his ethical expectations? Will you still think you will enjoy paradise while discounting his call to care for those who are so distressed in this world.
According to the Spirit-inspired Gospel writers, the Social Gospel is part of the Son’s Gospel. No man is saved by doing good works. No man is saved apart from the substitutionary merit of Jesus Christ. Yet, all who are truly saved, who are citizens of the Kingdom of God, they should be proving themselves by their Christ-honoring love for those suffering about them.
* Matthew 25:31-46 When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”