Links Daily Devotional

The Limits of the Gospel

“Salvation is found in no one else…” (Acts 4:12, NIV)

Call me intrigued.

The list of proposed rules change set forth last week by the USGA and R&A has the golf world buzzing. If you play the game at all competitively, you’re likely talking too.

You mean that patch of brambles off the sixth fairway might now be deemed a lateral hazard? And when you drop the ball for that penalty, you can do so from just an inch or two above the ground? These are only a couple of the possible “modernizations” of the game; if you haven’t had a chance to read them all yet, you might be as fascinated as I am.

Without Jesus, and Jesus alone, the Gospel would not be good news.What you won’t find, though, is that the limits of the game have changed. There’s still a designated teeing ground, still a cup into which the ball must be holed (at least in traditional stroke play), and still those white boundary stakes lining the course. We cannot play from wherever we wish and call it golf—that all holds.

In the classic old comic strip, Calvin and Hobbes, the boy and his tiger would play a game called Calvinball. It was a mishmash of any number of sports and games, from baseball to Capture the Flag. Almost invariably, the two would end up feuding over the rule de jur, a sudden change one or the other would declare mid-game in order to gain an advantage. A rose by any other name might smell as sweet, but a game by any other set of rules is a comic mess.

And yet this the way the world would have us play: you choose your rules, I’ll choose mine. This is fine in arenas like abstract art, perhaps—though even then a frame holds the painting in, so to speak. But what if in a quest for individual expression an architect ignored the strictures of engineering? What if in finding “creative” ways to help you reduce tax liability, your accountant exposed you to legal consequences? The unlimited has its limits.

The question at hand, however, is whether the same applies in theology, for again our world would have us think “freely.” Don’t all roads lead to God? Isn’t every religion’s righteousness of equal currency in the eternal economy?

It’s a common saw, yes, but it’s not biblical. Jesus declared that he alone was the path to the Father—to God (John 14:6). And in Acts 4:12, Peter added the same: You won’t find salvation anywhere else, “for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”

In this way, the Gospel has its limits. Without Jesus, and Jesus alone, the Gospel would not be good news. Its grace would fall subordinate to the demands of other systems or to my own best efforts at earning God’s favor (my name being one of those other names by which I can’t be saved!).

Jesus-plus puts our salvation in the hands of something or someone less than Jesus. Jesus-minus argues that he is only a man, and maybe even an imperfect one at that. Only Jesus-alone gets the job done. The Gospel—and our salvation—stop with him.

Jeff Hopper
March 6, 2017
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