What New Doctrine is This?

In light of the revival of evangelical doctrine and piety over the past several years within Evangelical circles, I often hear the charge of “novelty.” For example, “They are on that ‘gospel kick. They will get over it.'” “All this talk about the Gospel is just another theological fad that will come and go,” etc…

Perhaps for some individuals, all this “Gospel talk and emphasis” is some what of a fad, the next “Evangelical circus show.”

But, for those, like myself who toiled slavishly for years under the weight of a legal spirit, coming to know Christ (or rather be known by Him, cf., Gal. 4:9) is exactly as Francis Schaeffer wrote,

    “…when a man does learn the meaning of the work of Christ in the present life, a new door is open to him. And this new door then seems to be so wonderful that often it gives the Christian, as he begins to act upon the knowledge of faith, the sense of something that is as new as was his conversion.”

This “newness” that Schaeffer speaks of is not to be confused with novelty. Rather, it is the joyful response of a sinner whose eyes have been graciously opened to the reality that however vile and unholy he has been, he is now adopted into God’s family, wrapped about with cords of free grace, covered in perfect righteousness and allured by the enticements of unconditional love.

The charge of novelty arises from a legal spirit, from one who is ignorant of the mystery of the gospel.

By faith, the believer comes to see Christ as being his treasure, his righteousness, his covenant, his all for his debt and duty. He comes to find holiness more lovely and sin more deplorable. He comes to find love constraining his heart to delight more and more in the Savior and in service to others.

The charge of novelty arises from a legal spirit, from one who is ignorant of the mystery of the gospel. Ralph Erskine was no stranger to the charge of novelty in his day. Men like Ralph Erskine and Thomas Boston, who held to the unconditionality of the Gospel, were falsely charged by those of a legal spirit with leading people to licentiousness and for introducing novel doctrines.

In response to these charges, Ralph Erskine wrote,

    “Now-a-days (1726) the gospel is brought under much disparagement, under much suspicion, as if it were some new dangerous scheme of doctrine, as the Athenians said of Paul, Acts xvii. 19. Yea it was said of Christ, What new doctrine is this? Such is the natural bias towards the law as a covenant, and so natively does a church and people fall into it, even after and under profession of sound principles, that when evangelical doctrine comes to be revived in any measure, it is still branded with novelty,” (John Brown of Whitburn, Gospel Truth, p. 69).

Those who are strenuous and zealous advocates for gospel-truth need not despair over the charges of novelty. For as one zealous gospel-advocate put it, “Let us not be deterred from gospel principles…it is better to be under the reproach of men for following Christ, than to be under the curse of God for forsaking him.”

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