Do The Four Spiritual Laws Explain Why Sin Separates Us From God?

Last Tuesday I started writing about the Four Spiritual Laws, a tract that has been used in evangelism for decades. On the whole, the principles in this tract present the Gospel fairly adequately, so I wouldn’t categorize it exactly as false teaching. God may have used it to bring some of you to faith in Jesus Christ, and I don’t want to disparage that blessing. Nevertheless, I would say that this tract does give an inadequate presentation of the Gospel.

Actually, I’d guess that most of us came to Christ though inadequate presentations of the Gospel. The Holy Spirit works though His Word even when people mishandle His Word. Isn’t it marvelous that He uses our imperfections to accomplish His perfect work of saving His elect?

Acknowledging the Holy Spirit’s power and grace to work though flawed presentations of the Gospel doesn’t mean that we should use those means once we grow in doctrinal understanding. Nor does it mean that we shouldn’t examine the tools we use in evangelism. For that reason, we have good reason to question the statements we find in the Four Spiritual Laws to determine if they offer the best Gospel presentation. And the second Spiritual Law most assuredly ought to be questioned.

Last week I argued against the first Spiritual Law and its premise that God created us for the purpose of having a personal relationship with Him. The authors of the tract, I’m sorry to say, build on that faulty assumption in their introduction of the second Spiritual Law. This Law says that man is sinful and separated from God, so we can’t know Him personally or experience His love.

Okay, they correctly assert human sinfulness. I have to applaud them on that count. Many seeker friendly churches won’t even go that far these days, so I rejoice in their boldness to outright identify that sin is universal to all humanity (Romans 3:23).

They go on from there to explain that sin separates us from God’s holy presence and condemns us to eternal destruction, offering a partial quotation of 2 Thessalonians 1:8-9. Again, I give them credit for saying more than a lot of Gospel tracts say regarding sin and its consequences, but they still sort of skate over the issue.

By merely making allusions to God’s holiness and eternal destruction, the writers of the Four Spiritual Laws neglect two key elements in the discussion of sin: God’s holiness and His wrath.

Few people even understand the concept of sin in present-day culture. As psychologists redefine sinful behaviors simply as addictions (and even insist that certain sexual perversions are actually normal and healthy), we excuse more and more of our sins. We imagine that He turns a blind eye to some of our actions while He celebrities others.

These imaginings keep people from seeing Him as a holy God who feels anger at the mere thought of sin. The Four Spiritual Laws fail to explain that that, because God is perfectly holy, no sin can enter His presence (1 John 1:5-7, Hebrews 12:14). This avoidance of directly confronting the discrepancy between human sinfulness and God’s absolute holiness can lead prospective converts to think lightly of sin. And to think lightly of God.

The fact of the matter is that almost all people see themselves as basically good. Because of this errant view, they believe they can earn God’s favor through their own merits. Jesus spent a large portion of His earthly ministry refuting self-righteous attitudes, even to the point of saying that the righteousness of the Pharisees wasn’t enough to save anyone (Matthew 5:20).

None of us fully understands how holy God is. I’m not advocating that we expect those we evangelize to have a thorough grasp on the concept when not even the most mature believer really gets it. At the same time, the Four Spiritual Laws minimize both human sinfulness and God’s holiness to such a degree that people come into the church without really coming to Christ.

It would be more beneficial to begin evangelism by emphasizing God’s holiness and then introducing human sinfulness. Only when people glimpse that their sin violates His perfection can they begin to sense their need for a Savior.

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