It was inevitable that while reading Michael Horton’s follow up to Christless Christianity, titled The Gospel Driven Life, I would run into more thoughts to enhance the post from yesterday.
In it, Horton captures the idea of 1 Corinthians 15 in an more overarching manner and describes it as this:
The Good News is that God has fulfilled his promise [this would go all the back to Genesis 3:15] that he made to Israel and to the world by sending his Son for the forgiveness of sins and the inauguration of his new creation. (pg 89-90)
He then expounds some popular notions about what the Gospel is that miss the point:
- Having a personal relationship with God
- Asking Jesus into your heart
- Making Jesus your personal Lord and Savior
The first option doesn’t work because everyone already has a personal relationship with God, so this is not what Christ accomplished on the cross. Everyone already has a relationship with God and that is part of the problem as we are the guilty party standing in front a holy judge. The gospel is the opening up of the possibility of a different type of relationship with God. But again, this follows from the proclamation of the Gospel, but isn’t the content of the Gospel itself.
The second option fails because as Horton notes, the main problem is not that Jesus is not in your heart, but rather that you are in Adam rather than in Christ. We are the ones, rather than Christ, that need to be relocated. This whole idea operates on the assumption that you as the individual need to make one small step in order to make the salvation offer effective for you. While you do need to exercise faith, this faith is itself a gift of God (Ephesians 2:8-9). Also, this idea never appears in Scripture, so while it may contain some truth when unpacked, it is nonetheless not the Biblical model in any way.
The last option fails because your salvation does not depend on any thing you proclaim, and the gospel is good news because it is a proclamation of something that is already the case. Christ is already the Lord and Savior, that is not something you can make him, even in a subjective sense of “for you.”
It is a blow to our spiritual ego to be told that everything has already been done. Yet that is the glory of the gospel! That is why it is Good News. Imagine what would have happened if God had waited until Israel made God Lord and Savior before he liberated them from Egypt! It was because he had elected Israel, set his love on her, and had mercy on her as he heard her cries under severe oppression – in other words, because he was already Lord and Savior – that he fulfilled his promise. (pg. 93, emphasis his)
Another ramification of this idea is that we are not co-redeemers, or co-agents of the gospel. The reconciling work of Christ on the cross has already been completed, it is not something we help to accomplish. We are to be witnesses of that fact so that God can work through the announcement of the death, burial, and resurrection of his Son. But it God who works, for he is the main character in this story.
Perhaps the best Biblical expansion of the Good News is found in Isaiah. It is also no coincidence that in my daily Bible reading, Isaiah 53 was the prophets chapter for today. Rather than close with any more thoughts of mine, I will simply offer the NET dynamic translation of this passage.
“Look my servant will succeed! He will be elevated, lifted high, and greatly exalted-
(just as many were horrified by the sight of you) he was so disfigured he no longer looked like a man;
his form was so marred he no longer looked human – so now he will startle many nations.
Kings will be shocked by his exaltation, for they will witness something unannounced to them, and they will understand something they had not heard about.
Who would have believed what we just heard?
When was the Lord’s power revealed through him?
He sprouted up like a twig before God, like a root out of parched soil;
he had not stately form or majesty that might catch our attention,
no special appearance that we should want to follow him.
He was despised and rejected by people, one who experienced pain and was acquainted with illness.
people hid their faces from him; he was despised, and we considered him insignificant.
But he lifted up our illnesses, he carried our pain;
even though we thought he was being punished,
attacked by God and afflicted for something he had done.
He was wounded because of our rebellious deeds, crushed because of our sins;
he endured punishment that made us well; because of his wounds we have been healed.
All of us had wandered off like sheep; each of us had strayed off on his own path.
but the Lord cause the sin of all of us to attack him.
He was treated harshly and afflicted, but he did not even open his mouth.
Like a lamb led to the slaughtering block, like a sheep silent before her shearers
he did not even open his mouth.
He was led away after an unjust trial – but who even cared?
Indeed, he was cut off from the land of the living; because of the rebellion of his own people he was wounded.
They intended to bury him with criminals, but he ended up in a rich man’s tomb
because he had committed no violent deeds, nor had he spoken deceitfully.
Though the Lord desired to crush him and make him ill,
once restitution is made, he will see descendents and enjoy long life,
and the Lord’s purpose will be accomplished through him.
Having suffered, he will reflect on his work,
he will be satisfied when he understands what he has done.
“My servant will acquit many for he carried their sins.
So I will assign him a portion with the multitudes, he will divide the spoils of victory with the powerful,
because he willingly submitted to death and was numbered with the rebels,
when he lifted the sin of many and intervened on behalf of the rebels.”