The Third Spiritual Law: Right, But Incomplete

This is the third Tuesday I’ve written about The Four Spiritual Laws, a popular evangelism tool that Christians have used over the past 50 years. This tract doesn’t contain false teaching per se, and it can be helpful in presenting the Gospel. So I don’t condemn anybody who uses it to open a conversation with an unbeliever.

But as I’ve demonstrated here and here, The Four Spiritual Laws fall short of giving a fully orbed explanation of why people need Christ. In many respects, it offers a man-centered theology in place of a theology that revolves around the Lord Jesus Christ. I’ve been writing this short series to help you develop a more complete understanding of the Gospel that you can in turn utilize in witnessing to others.

The Third Spiritual Law states that “Jesus Christ is God’s only provision for man’s sin. Through Him alone can we know God personally and experience His love.” It quotes Romans 5:8, 1 Corinthians 15:3-8 and John 14:6 to substantiate its point.

I’d agree with most of this section, and I think the writers chose their Scriptures well. Nothing in this section falls outside the bounds of orthodoxy.

So why do I deem this Spiritual Law unsatisfactory? In short, I believe it skims the surface of Christ’s atoning work on the cross. I believe it fails to paint a full picture of what His death, burial and resurrection really accomplished.

Okay, I know that evangelism doesn’t involve taking someone through an advanced seminary course on the propitious effects of the crucifixion before they can be saved. I came to Christ through a thin explanation of the crucifixion myself, and I believe the Lord used it.

But I came to the Lord almost 50 years ago, at a time when American culture supported Christianity. Back then, most people had at least some understanding of God’s judgment at the time of death. Whether or not they actually believed that He would judge them, they had a basic awareness of the concept. Consequently, they would understand the idea that Jesus died to assume responsibility for their sin.

Things have changed since 1971. Two generations have grown up in a society that knows very little of the Bible and cares even less. Sometimes I’ll watch Jeopardy! and be shocked that otherwise highly educated contestants can’t answer basic Bible questions. Therefore, I fear that the Third Spiritual Law assumes a greater understanding of the atonement than most non-Christians these days have.

The Third Spiritual Law never directly mentions the cross, nor does it explain that the shedding of blood is necessary for the forgiveness of sins (Hebrews 9:22). People these days most likely have no idea Who Jesus is, making it difficult for them to understand how His death could atone for their sin in the first place.

As a result, explaining Christ’s work on the cross requires a fuller discussion of the fact that He took the sin of all who believe upon Himself. In doing so, He became the recipient of God’s wrath — wrath that we rightfully deserve. As I said earlier in this series, the writers of The Four Spiritual Laws needed to better establish the doctrines of God’s holiness and human sinfulness in the previous two Spiritual Laws.

By offering a brief and superficial presentation of the atonement in the Third Spiritual Law, this tract risks producing false converts who don’t understand the power of Christ’s death, burial and resurrection. Again, I realize that nobody has a fully developed theology when they first receive the Lord, but I firmly believe that they need some understanding that Jesus died in their place. Only in seeing that He bore their punishment can people truly come to saving faith.

The Four Spiritual Laws do present the Gospel. But the Third Spiritual Law doesn’t present the most crucial element of the Gospel as completely as it should. I wish it did.

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