Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Near-Disaster of the Simple Gospel

Last semester I submitted an essay on the purpose of Paul's epistle to the Romans, in which I took the view that the driving (but not the only) purpose behind the letter is the delineation of Paul's grand eschatological vision of God's redemptive purposes for humanity and the cosmos, fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Last week, I submitted an essay on the cross in the apostolic kerygma in Acts. Very interesting. One cannot but be struck by the redemptive-historical schema that the apostles adopt in kerygmatic settings - as is also true for the didactic material in many portions of the epistles. Anyhow, there is a cogent challenge here to the preaching of the church today to present this grand vista, expressed in the following quote from William Still:

You will notice I have not spoken of the ministry of the Gospel but of the Word of God, and this I do advisedly. It is not that I want to avoid the word 'Gospel', but because I want you to be very sure what I am talking about. I am not talking about a set of fundamental doctrines of the Word of God, systematic or otherwise, nor any formulation of doctrine (sub-Apostolic, Patristic, Reformed or Modern) culled from the Word of God, but the whole Bible itself. In evangelical circles the danger that the Gospel may be equated with the mere rudiments of the Word of God has become almost a disaster, for these rudiments are only the beginning of the Good News. There are profounder things by far in the Bible than what is called 'the simple gospel', although they issue from it. Indeed, in a sense, those who proclaim almost exclusively forgiveness of sins and justification, only make known the preliminaries to the best Good News, which is not that our sins are put away and that we are justified in God's sight, wonderful though that is, but that God wants us for Himself and to that end brings us to the birth in Christ. After all, the death of Jesus, for all its wonder, is a means to an end, which is not merely that we might be right and clean but that we may be His, which involves personal relationship in love. The Work of the Pastor, 62-63.