Wednesday, September 24, 2008

What Is the Gospel?

I'd strongly encourage you to check out this brief three-post series by Greg Gilbert, addressing the question, What Is the Gospel?

I've often repeated something I once heard from John Piper: being a good theologian is all about making good distinctions. And I think Greg helps advance the discussion by doing just that.

Even though many are asking, "What is the gospel?" Greg rightly discerns that there are actually two distinct questions being asked here:
  • What is the gospel? In other words, what is the message a person must believe to be saved?
  • What is the gospel? In other words, what is the whole good news of Christianity?
Greg goes on to distinguish between the Gospel of the Cross (i.e., the narrow sense of “gospel”) and the Gospel of the Kingdom (i.e., the broad sense of “gospel”). The former, he argues, is presented in the NT as the gateway/fountainhead/see of the latter. The only and infallible means to have the broader gospel blessings is through the narrow gospel foundation.

And he makes this crucial point:
To proclaim the inauguration of the kingdom and the new creation and all the rest without proclaiming how people can enter it---by repenting and being forgiven of their sins through faith in Christ and his atoning death---is to preach a non-Gospel.
See the third post especially for a number of implications that follow from this. What follows is the barebones outline--though you'll want to go and read the whole thing.

1. It is wrong to argue that "the gospel" is the declaration of the kingdom.

2. It is wrong to say that "the Gospel of the Cross" is not the gospel, or less than the gospel.

3. It is wrong to say that "the Gospel of the Kingdom" is somehow gospel-plus, or a distraction from the real gospel.

4. It is wrong to call a person a "Christian" simply because they are doing good things and "following Jesus' example."

5. It is wrong ever to say that non-Christians are doing "kingdom work."

6. The ultimate goal of any mercy ministry---whether done by an individual Christian or a church---has to be to point the world back to the gate.

7. Many in the emergent church---for all their insistence about how astonishing and surprising their gospel is---have missed entirely what really is astonishing about the gospel.

8. Evangelistic, missiological, and pastoral emphasis in this age belongs on the gospel of the cross—on the fountainhead, the gateway of the broader gospel of the kingdom.