Dallas Willard said that one of the main impediments to people becoming disciples of Jesus is having an emaciated view of the gospel.
Here’s the “gospel” I heard from Christians before I became a Christian (#1):
“God saves you from the punishment for you sin. That punishment comes from God. God in Christ enters the human story to take that punishment for you as your substitute. When you trust Christ as your substitute, you will be saved from hell (i.e. punishment).”
Here’s the gospel I learned from Jesus as a Christian (#2):
“God saves you from sin and death. That salvation comes from God. God in Christ enters the human story to heal and redeem humanity as our substitute. When you trust Christ as substitute, you will be saved from death and sin.”
Notice the differences in these gospels:
In gospel #1, the problem Jesus saves us from is internal to God, i.e. God’s own sense of justice.
In gospel #2, the problem Jesus saves us from is external to God, i.e. sin and death
In gospel #1, Jesus is how God saves us from God.
In gospel #2, Jesus is how God saves us from God’s enemy.
Gospel #1 emerges from a (mainly) Reformation emphasis on Paul’s teaching (and legal metaphors) to explain how Jews and Gentiles are reconciled together in Jesus (i.e. justification by faith).
Gospel #2 is how the Gospels understand the gospel (mainly) and the Early Church as well.
In gospel #1, judgment is punitive and retributive.
In gospel #2, judgment is corrective and restorative.
In gospel #1, God’s wrath is against sinners.
In gospel #2, God’s wrath is against sin.
In gospel #1, God’s justice must be satisfied, i.e. “justice” wins.
In gospel #2, God’s love never fails, i.e. love wins.
In gospel #1, salvation is forgiveness of guilt.
In gospel #2, salvation is healing, liberation, reconciliation, reparations, justice (and sure, also forgiveness).
Getting the gospel right makes all the difference for our discipleship. What’s in your gospel?
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