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?

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About Nick Gill

orphan-poet-adoptee-soldier-prodigal-servant-husband- counselor-desperate seeker after my Father's face "I feel my body weakened by the years as people turn to gods of cruel design. Is it that they fear the pain of death, or is it that they fear the joy of life?" - Toad the Wet Sprocket

Posted on 25 March, 2008, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. Wonderful thoughts brother.I like it when you make us think.Keep up the great posts.I love reading your blog.I hope you and your family had a wonderful Easter.I hope you have a blessed week.

  2. The idea that we have to be right about “everything” is a terrifying one. Particularly because I can’t even get anyone to define exactly which things I have to be right about! Those that try and define that can’t agree on what should be on the list and don’t agree as to what should be believed about those things.Maybe Sylvan has a preparation course for the heavenly entrance exam.

  3. Tim,This is why I wake up at night haunted by thoughts of the gospel.They can be so high-handed and smug as they shift the authority of Scripture onto the authority of their opinions of Scripture.People tell me, “Study for yourself and be confident in your understanding.”I’m a post-modern who is still convinced that Truth exists! I believe it exists, but I’m really skeptical about my own ability to know it. But since I believe it is out there, I’m forced to listen. When someone tells me, “I know the truth, and you’re not in it,” I’m immediately skeptical of MY metanarrative, not theirs.So I wake up at night and pray. I ask God to help me keep trusting him because I “damn sure don’t trust myself” as the Boss sang.I read someone yesterday who said that if David Lipscomb truly was baptized simply to obey God, he is lost. I mean, I think that a baptism of simple obedience without demand of reward is one of the most honorable things in creation, but WHAT IF I’M WRONG?in HIS love,Nick

  4. Cheryl Russell

    Hello Nick. I understand where you are coming from. But, I think that the heart of the matter, is a matter of the heart! I am going to be wrong, but God knows my heart. I take comfort in trusting that even though my brain might fail me, my heart is what God is most concerned with. He knows that you love and respect Him. He knows that you want to obey Him and understand His will more clearly. The blood of Christ will take care of the rest.It is always amazing to me that God used people who were imperfect, folks like me, and you. I can’t think of a single one who was perfect. I don’t think we should be concerned with having all the right theology, but with loving God, and loving others.We should not underestimate the Holy Spirit in us, the Grace of God, and the Redeeming Power of Christ!

  5. Dear Cheryl,

    I pray that you are right. I know it is awesome how the Bible shows us how normal all of our heroes of faith really were.

    I’m trying really hard to trust HIM and not myself.

  6. Good thoughts… and congratulations on your move. I am proud of you!

  7. Are you worried about being right or having them say you are right?

    You seem like someone who longs for acceptance and wholeness who worries that they won’t accept you which will leave you broken.

    Let me just say that you ask all of the right questions and your understanding is a beautiful thing. I love reading your thoughts because they humble me because you embrace the simplicity of it all.

    From your writings I would say that Jesus has made you whole, whether or not you want to embrace that truth or not is another discussion.

    God bless you Nick. You are a champion for the cause spreading wisdom in the blogosphere that this one guy really appreciates.

    You have my acceptance and then some.

    God bless.

  8. nice blog by the way.

  9. Darin,

    Thank you. This is the kind of discussion I need; someone to help shape my understanding with their own.

    Like my “Who Am I?” descriptor says, I’m an orphan. I’ve always longed for acceptance. God is the Father I’ve never had on earth.

    As I’ve grown, though, I’ve come to understand the importance of the community of faith. So it is to the community that I bring my study, my devotion, my prayer and reading, the fruits of my personal life before God.

    When certain members of the community (devoted, educated, studious, Scripture-loving members) teach that as long as I passionately disagree with their understanding on certain matters, I cannot be a member of God’s community, I must respect and take seriously their experience, their wisdom, their understanding.

    Sometimes, taking them seriously generates a crisis of faith.

    How do I embrace and cling to that truth, that Jesus has made me whole, in the midst of those who clearly believe that I still lack something?

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