In his book, Grounded in the Gospel: Building Believers the Old-Fashioned Way, J.I. Packer has a chapter entitled “The Gospel as of First Importance.” In that chapter, Packer discusses the pastoral and formational applications of the Gospel. Many are familiar with the quote from Tim Keller that “the Gospel is not the ABC’s of the Christian life; it is the A through Z of the Christian life.” Packer writes,
“In that spirit we offer the following ‘Gospel Alphabet’–twenty-six pastoral and formative reasons why the Gospel must retain primacy as the content of Christian education” (108).
This week, we come to the letter “C”.
C is for Contextualization
Paul was determined to “become all things to all people” for the sake of the Gospel (1 Cor. 9:19-23). He knew that the Gospel could and should take on different cultural forms in different cultural settings. Yet when we export the Gospel to others, we may be guilty of confusing it with our own cultural trappings. For example, we know that some missionaries have been guilty of imposing their Western cultural forms on those to whom they carried the Gospel. Though this error could be conscious and express cultural imperialism, it is more often unconscious and reflects a lack of discernment about which aspects of our own Christianity are truly Gospel-driven and transcultural, and which are culturally driven and therefore variable. To help us avoid such an error, it is critical that we continually study the heart of the Gospel so that we may better distinguish the treasure we bear from the jars of clay in which we bear it (2 Cor. 4:7).