Tuesday, February 8, 2011

No Cross = No Gospel

Don't Call It a Comeback: The Old Faith for a New Day (Gospel Coalition the Gospel Coalition)I mentioned elsewhere that I recently got the book Don't Call it a Comeback. It is essentially a compilation of articles written by various pastors, authors and theologians, each chapter dealing with a different facet of evangelicalism.

As the author of What is the Gospel?, Greg Gilbert displayed a love for the gospel and a realization of the need for the cross to be at its center. It is these same things that he brings to his chapter, "The Gospel: God's Self-Substitution for Sinners."

Gilbert doesn't mince words, often dealing with unpopular truths. Many people want to believe in a feel-good "gospel" that primarily promises them comfort, ease and affluence. The message of the Bible is nowhere near this pleasant though.
"In the face of the worst cultural prejudice imaginable, (Paul) fixed the entire gospel squarely and immovably on the fact that Jesus was tacked to a stauros and left to die. If he had been trying to find a surefire way to turn first-century people off from his 'good news,' he couldn't have done better than that.
"So why did he do it? It's simple. He did it because he knew that leaving the cross out, or running past it with a glance, or making it peripheral to the gospel, or allowing anything else to displace it at the center of the gospel would make it, finally, no gospel at all."
The reason that a real gospel must have the cross at its center is the fact that each one of us is unmistakably a sinner. And when Gilbert speaks of sin, unlike many, he doesn't minimize what that actually means:
"Throughout Scripture, sin is not simply falling short of one's true meaning or purpose, nor is it merely a broken relationship or external systemic corruption. Rather, it is a personal, blameworthy transgression of the law of God and a rejection of his authority as Creator and King."
In light of this truth, I found quite Gilbert's treatment of "the gospel of the kingdom" to be especially helpful. So many today seem to want to separate "the gospel of the kingdom" from the "gospel of the cross." We are told that "the gospel" is primarily about the coming of Christ and the inauguration of his kingdom, over which he will rule with all righteousness. Gilbert pleads with readers not to follow in the footsteps of those who would make such a stark division, pointing out that the only way into the kingdom is through the cross.
"So by all means, preach about the kingdom, talk about Jesus' conquest of evil, write about his coming reign. But don't pretend that all those things are glorious good news all by themselves. They're not. The bare fact that Jesus is going to rule the world with perfect righteousness is not good news to me; it's terrifying news, because I am not righteous! I'm one of the enemies he's coming to crush! The coming kingdom becomes good news only when I realize that the coming King is also a Savior who forgives sin and makes people righteous--and he does that through his death on the cross."

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