The Heart of the Gospel

I have started reading The Christ of Every Road, by E. Stanley Jones. What a gem! It is out of print and hard to find, but I highly recommend it. Here’s a sample:

Christ lived, he died, he rose, he gives himself in experience—these four facts stand together and constitute our gospel. To lose any one of the four is to lose the gospel. This is a self-evident fact.

To take the first three, but stop short of the fourth, is the supreme tragedy of present-day Christian living. We emphasize his life, his death, and his resurrection. The consequence is we have an objective gospel. It lies in history—not in us. And because it lies in history and is objective the characteristic of Christian living is dimness, a sense of far-away-ness, unreality. “I believe it, but I do not know it; I remember Christ, but do not realize him; to me it is all dim and unreal.”

It is true that we may find the Christ of the Emmaus Road joining us now and again, and while he is with us our hearts do burn within us and we do recognize him in the breaking of the bread. But soon he is gone. He leaves us with a beautiful memory, but that beautiful memory turns to an inner ache, for he seems so fleeting, so furtive, so unsubstantial, so unavailable. This is true of all pre- Pentecost experience.

Even the Christ of the Emmaus Road is not sufficient. For while he is triumphant, he is still in history. He must become the Christ of every road, especially the Christ of those inner roads of personal life and experience.

 The sixth chapter of Romans vividly describes the potentialities of the Christian life in view of what Christ has done for us by his life, his death, and his resurrection. Our hearts beat faster as we hear it. But they turn cold within us when we see that on the very heels of this description of the sixth, the seventh chapter ensues with its litany of defeat and despondency and death. Why this appalling contradiction? The reason is not hard to find—the Spirit is not mentioned in the seventh chapter. He is not a working factor there. It is pre-Pentecost. But the eighth chapter ensues, and there the Spirit becomes a living factor—he is mentioned nineteen times—the whole spiritual climate changes. The litany of defeat turns to a litany of victory, and the happy soul wings its way through those abounding verses. The eighth chapter is normal Christianity.

 We have no business to be living subnormal, unhealthy anemic spiritual lives and call them Christian. They are sub-Christian. Our greatest difficulty is not antiChristianity, but this sub-Christianity. It takes the historical facts of Christ’s life—his life, his death, his resurrection—but not the living fact of Christ. To take the first three and miss this is, I repeat, the supreme tragedy of present-day Christian living.

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