Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
April 1, 1971
NUMBER 46, PAGE 8a-9

The Need For A "Social" Gospel

Floyd Chappelear

In the very beginning of the history of man it was pointed out that man is a creature which depends upon the aid and comfort of others. When the God of eternity formed man from the dust he determined that "it was not good for the man to be alone" and so fashioned for him woman (Gen. 2:18). Thus begins the long winding trail of man's social existence.

It was not at all insignificant that when God punished Cain for the destruction of Abel his brother that he cursed him to be a "fugitive and a vagabond" (Gen. 4:12) throughout the days of his life. The drive to create a social order such as the one from which he was cast, however, was a strong force indeed. Cain, after "knowing" his wife built a city: a society for himself and his kind (Gen. 4:17). Yes, he remained a fugitive from the faithful, but nevertheless formed a society, because he like all other men was a social creature.

How true it is that "none of us liveth to himself, and none dieth to himself' (Rom. 14:7). We all exist within the framework of an organized commonwealth. A structure designed to lend aid and comfort one to the other. With this in mind, we are drawn to the conclusion that we need to preach more on the subject of how a man must behave within this structural arrangement. A gospel or doctrine of social behavior, if you insist. We hasten to point out that such social consciousness need not be confused with the common concept of a social gospel. We are not, nor will we be, encouraging such a view of the church but rather will consider only that part of the will of God which pertains to an individual's actions and reactions with the respect to other humans.

Neighbor To Neighbor

How interesting it is to note that six of the ten commandments (See: Exo. 20:lff) regulate man's behavior insofar as other men are concerned. Too, it must be pointed out that when asked "what is the Great Commandment?" the Lord replied, in part, "to love thy neighbor as thyself' (Matt. 22:39). This, the second, when coupled with the first embodies the whole law and prophets. Or, for the age of Christ, the epistles and gospels. In obeying this, the "royal law" (Jas. 2:8), man likens himself favorably to Deity Itself.

It needs to be pointed out that each man must not seek that which is good only for himself but rather to seek his "neighbor's good" (I Cor. 10:24). What a different world this would be if men recognized the worth-whileness of this truth. The boundary disputes (Which sometimes encompasses only a few feet of land) and every other minor disagreement of man would vanish as clean air has vanished. In connection with this the Lord said, "Love worketh no ill to his neighbor" (Rom. 13:10). Preach these things, brethren, they are sadly lacking in the world today.

Commercial Relationships

Someone once said that governments have passed ten million laws in an effort to enforce the ten commandments. And, we feel compelled to add, have failed miserably. As evidence of this we underscore the fact that not only have laws been passed but bureaus have been formed to do that which would be totally unnecessary if men would merely follow after Christ and the gospel. The first laws governing weights and measures clearly spell out the obligation of God's servant (See; Lev. 19:35, 36). Yet, men have written volumes and spent millions to say with less force what God had already said. Christians recognize the principle outlined there and live by it knowing that it is imperative for men to do all things that are honorable in the sight of God (See; Phil. 4:8; 2 Cor. 13:7; Heb. 13:18).

To list the dishonorable practices of men would take more time than we feel we are wont to spare. Stores mismark merchandise; customers disfigure the prices in an attempt to steal; and all are condemned of God.

Employer — — Employee

Another area of man's existence is that of obtaining security for himself and his family. Here again, man fails woefully when it comes to his attitude toward other men.

Masters, employers, are charged of God to render just reward for diligent service (Col. 3:25-4:1; Eph. 6:9) but too few actually do this willingly. Such masters are without the common decency we would expect of even the basest sort of fellow. Because of such taskmasters labor unions were formed and flourish. Unfortunate, in far too many cases the oppressed becomes the oppressor. It is as if man thinks that unjust treatment should be answered with treatment of like kind. Such is not the case.

The Christian must behave himself toward his employer with the same degree of Christ likeness that he would display to another Christian. His behavior should be such as to cause men to see something worthwhile in the high and noble calling to which he has pledged his name and hand. What if the master treats one unkindly? Pray for him (Matt. 5:44) that he might be delivered form the fate that eventually shall be his. What if wages are meager? Content oneself with that state (See and compare the statement of John to the Roman Soldiers, Luke 3:14), or change employers if it must be. Christians must not use force to extort even that which is rightfully theirs. Whether that extortion manifests itself in violence or an attempt at economic ruin makes no difference.

Race Relationships

Few Christians openly reject the teaching of Christ on the subject of proper treatment of one's neighbors. But brethren, we need to know the same thing the first century disciple needed to know, principally, "Who is my neighbor?" (Luke 10:29). If we be fair skinned, that Caucasian fellow, of course. But what about the black man? Is he not our neighbor? "Surely," some say, "but let's keep him on his side of town and we'll stay on our side." Those possessed by the Devil might be expected to have such views but certainly not those who live by the Spirit of God! In too many cases church buildings have been built by white men to accommodate one or two Negro families for no better reason than such men simply didn't want to have to worship God with a black man sitting in the same building, or, perish the thought, right next to him on the same pew.

When such acts are perpetrated the good white brethren justify it on every sort of ground. "After all, they would rather meet with black than with white." Or, "We won't be able to influence the white people in the community if we have a black man worshipping with us." Why not admit it? In many cases the church buildings erected by white men for black men are nothing more nor less than monuments to bigotry.

Paul had no confidence in the flesh (Racial origin, Phil. 3:2, 3), nor should we. Barriers built between brethren based on the color of a man's skin or the cut of his clothes are as evil as they can possibly be (See; Jas. 1:1 ff). If Paul could see that we are all "one man in Christ Jesus" (Gal. 3:26ff), why then cannot we see the same thing? We could if we were more like Paul (I Cor. 11:1).


Yes, it is true that man is by nature a social creature. It is equally true that man has never learned the difficult lesson of how to live within the society he creates for himself. Because of this, gospel preachers need to preach this relevant "social" aspect of the gospel. We must not rebel at the idea of a social gospel so much so that we ignore the social aspect of man. Brethren, think on these things.

— 1915 Gerard Park, Hazelwood, Missouri 63042