Monday Night Gospel Thoughts
I know… I know… I promised the next installment of my review of The Living Word of God. At the moment, I’m struggling with my voice as a writer because I want to write a review that is useful and profitable for my brothers and sisters, but without pretending that I know more than I do. Like Doc Holliday said, “My hypocrisy only goes so far.” The next installment IS coming, but not tonight.
Tonight, I want to talk about the gospel.
I think about the gospel a LOT. My world is shadowed and haunted by the gospel.
I read a LOT. Just this week, I read Pagan Christianity, I finished Seeking a Lasting City, I’m chewing on chapters from Kingdom Come and Celebrating the Wrath of God. Just today, I read several essays from Jay Guin’s explosively dynamic blog, NT Wright’s Easter sermon, and Phil Sanders’ latest article.
Through it all, soaking all of that writing, is the gospel. How big is the gospel? How broad? How deep? Do I know enough to be saved? Am I faithful enough? Repentant enough? Or am I one of Paul’s hearers who is “always learning, but never coming to a knowledge of the truth?”
One night recently, we were discussing 2 Pet 1. The teacher asked, “What does it mean that we’ve been given all things that pertain to life and godliness?”
Someone else said, “It means that this is it — there will not be another word from God besides what we have.”
Our teacher said, “Yes, that’s true.”
I raised my hand and said, “Unless this is the last letter written in the New Testament, that cannot be what Peter meant to say.” I continued, after a long pause, to say that what I believe Peter means is that the coming of Christ brought to us from God everything necessary for life and godliness. Peter’s not talking about verbal revelation, he is talking about the completeness of God’s salvation in Christ.
Since then, a lot of thoughts have burbled down the brook in my brain, but I’ve been haunted by the gospel implications of this question. I think the first respondent was deeply right, but that understanding was parsed out through some twisted means. Here’s what I mean:
We often place the full content of the New Testament, Matthew 1:1-Revelation 22:21, in a box labeled THE FAITH on one side and/or THE GOSPEL on the other side. This causes us tremendous difficulty, which is irrelevant if the labelling in question is valid. No difficulty is so great that we should accept as true something we think is false.
I wrote Saturday night in my teaching notes for Sunday AM (I worry sometimes about the soundness of letting ME teach, but that’s a whole other blog) the following idea:
1) The Hebrew Scriptures testify univocally to the nearness (or the expectation of nearness) of God and his active work in providing for his people. The LORD reigns!
2) In the Gospels, Jesus says, “My Father is working… and I also am working.”
3) Acts is the story of the Holy Spirit working to spread the kingdom throughout the Greco-Roman world and beyond.
4) In Revelation, Father and Son and Spirit work in indescribably perfect harmony to accomplish the divine purpose.
5) In the Epistles, the Holy Spirit works with the author to interpret who Jesus is and what he did in his life, his death, and his resurrection, and to apply that identity and accomplishment to particular situations.
Nothing NEW came after Jesus! The Epistles, even, aren’t new. They are the practical application, to broken situations, of the revelation of God in Jesus of Nazareth. The Gospel IS Jesus, the King come into his Kingdom.
So you see, I agree that no new revelation is coming (at least not before the parousia appearance of Jesus). But that doesn’t mean that I agree that:
1) “THE GOSPEL” or “THE FAITH” = the whole content of the NT
2) The “New Testament” (27 ancient and inspired Christian texts) = the New Covenant (especially as spoken of by the Preacher of Hebrews)
3) One’s salvation is dependent upon how much information about the “Christian System” or “the Primitive Order of Things” one comprehends before placing one’s trust in, rendering one’s allegiance to the God of Israel.
But I am haunted by the fact that a fair number of intelligent, studious, honorable and devoted Christians believe I am eternally damned for not agreeing with these and other points of doctrine.
What if they are right?