The Half Gospel (2)

Last time I made a point of saying:
And how are any of the admonitions in the NT to the various churches to live as if Christ’ death and resurrection were real any less a part of the Good News? You know: Paul’s point in making these things plain is summed up when he says plainly, “such ones as these you once were” [Eph 2; Col 1] – meaning you are now something better, and have a better purpose and objective.
There are several reasons I said this, and of course the first is that it’s the first post in a series of bloggery goodness and I had to make sure I said something worth blogging about a second time.

But another significant reason for saying this is that this is part of Paul’s Gospel which, I think, is getting lost in our “Gospel-centric” movements. I say “our” because let’s face it: I was blogging about the definition and centrality of the Gospel before it was a fad. I’m an O.G. blogger – Orthodox Gospel. Before there was T4G there was centuri0n out there giving Tony Campolo the angry eyebrows, and writing open letters to Derek Webb wondering if he has both hands on the discipleship wheel, and of course declaring that others who are far more post-medieval than I am are “clowns”. I’m a Gospel-centric guy.

But here’s the thing: I suspect some people say they are “Gospel centric” and they are in fact intellectually and academically afraid that if the Gospel means more than “God did”, they are trudging into either Liberalism or Catholicism. And these are guys who, frankly, think that people who don’t baptize babies are “churchless” and that those who do not pass the cup and the bread around every week are somehow turning their back on grace.

But the Gospel is in fact, “God did for us.” For example, take a look at what Jesus says here:
Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going. [John 14]
Consider it: Jesus is here at the last supper, and when he tells the Apostles that the reason their hearts should not be troubled that he is “going” is that he is going somewhere for their sakes. That is: the “good news” is not that Jesus goes [to his death on the cross]; it is in fact that Jesus goes [to his death on the cross] to prepare a place for the believers. That is: it is not just that Jesus does something, but that it is for us, and that somehow there is something that makes us different.

Jesus also said this:
Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. [John 15]
”Aha!” says one of those who thinks I have gone AWOL here, “You’re confusing ‘Law’ and ‘Gospel’, Frank: ‘Abide’ is a command, and this cannot be the Gospel because it something one must do. My doing is my death, if I can be so bold: only Christ’s doing is life for me, and I’ll trust him thank you very much. I’ll put my hope in His death and resurrection, and really hold your advice at arms length because let’s face it: you’re veering into the land of the doubtful here. This is not good systematic theology, and I exhort you to turn back.”

Well, before you start wielding the systematic fire hose to get me off your theological front porch, let’s see what some actual bacon-in-the-fire Protestants thought about this.
They who are effectually called and regenerated, having a new heart and a new spirit created in them, are further sanctified, really and personally, through the virtue of Christ's death and resurrection, by his Word and Spirit dwelling in them; the dominion of the whole body of sin is destroyed, and the several lusts thereof are more and more weakened and mortified, and they more and more quickened and strengthened, in all saving graces, to the practice of true holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.
That’s the WCF XIII.1, yes? And that’s what Christ is talking about in John 15: those in Him are not just “in him” but he is also “in them” so that they are no longer dead branches but branches full of new life.

Paul says it this way:
For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. [Rom 8]
I mean: that’s the book of Romans, people. This is the Reformed home court. Yet when Paul says that we do not keep the Law in order that we be righteous but that Christ kept the law in order that we might live according to the spirit of life rather than the dead flesh, somehow we start wondering what’s for lunch or how nice it is outside. Paul says here without any real qualifications that God sent Christ to fulfill the law for us in order that we can therefore walk according to the Spirit.

This is the Gospel: Christ died for our sins according to the Scripture, was buried, and was raised on the third day in accordance to the Scripture. But if it is for us, and now our sins are the things ruined and we are now in the spirit, in the true vine, headed for a place prepared for us, is it moral and spiritual beer-thirty? Can we take eternity off? Is the Gospel the good news that we have a permanent vacation?

Or should we instead say, “God loves us, and has a wonderful purpose for our lives?”

I’ll be thinking about that next week. You think about it until then, and be with the Lord’s people on the Lord’s day in the Lord’s house, because of the Gospel.

14 comments:

Frank Turk said...

Before any non-hypothetical objectors chime in, I want to point out something as a footnote:

Much of the Lordship controversy hangs on this specific point -- that the Gospel is not just done for us, but done to us so that we have a new life in which holiness and obedience matters.

You objections need to take this into account -- because so far, I haven't said anything too radical except that somehow this view of new life may actually be a way to interpret the PDL perspective.

Afte that, have at it.

Rob Bailey said...

looks like you may have read the Bible. "B-I-B-L-E,yes, that's the book for me. " A study of the Book of Romans is when my dad was saved, and then the rest of the story...

Pastor Pants said...

I'm liking this series.

Brings to mind the development of thought in Ephesians 1:3-2:10: we were chosen (1:4) [i]for holiness[/i], then we are told how that election is made effectual and then the section concludes with us being saved, not by works, but [b]for[/b] works.

It's a nice story arc - we were chosen... for works. Gives us a real sense of purpose and destiny even before we are glorified.

David said...

Bacon in the fire at beer-thirty.

My house.

Be there.

Strong Tower said...

This sudden and rapid change from pupa to imago is called metamorphosis but metamorphosis is really the whole series of changes that an insect undergoes from egg to adult.

The Pupa Driven Life.

There is an interesting phenominiminom in the justation of the human embryo, from the moment of implantation of the zygote, the zeitgeist of the womb changes. The pregnancy is controlled by the fetus as its presence and then it hormonal activity actually direct the host in the process.

But, the reality is this all is enscripted. The fetus is not in control though it does the work. It cannot produce itself, though it is through the fetus that the teleolgy of the pregnancy progresses.

The centricity of the Cross isn't to set up an either or, it is to set straight who is the source of all the means. And it is not the believer, ever. However, it has been prepared that through him God will produce His fruit.

So, if it is true that we are to work out our salvation with fear and trembling because it is he who works in us both the willingness to work and the work itself, it cannot be that we do it. Yet... we are the means, or at least part of that means through which God is doing what he is doing just as Philippians testifies, it is we who are to work for it is he who is working. It is we who are the planting of the Lord, and the tree which he has designed to produce exactly what the cross has provided. Only if the cross can fail, will the abiding fail and the fruit fail to be produced. Does he who conceives fail to bring to birth? Never.

Like the fetus, we are not passive, but we are indeed first passive. We do not create our selves and the willingness, the power, the things to do do not come from us, firstly.

The WCF also says that we are not to rest on our laurels (those bushy chairs are not comfortable anyway) but to do due diligence to make our calling and election sure. And sure enough, if it is sure, it will surely produce the dilegence to make itself sure.

While the appointed means are ours to exercise, the cross, meaning Christ's active and passive obediences, are ours because of it. The purpose of looking to it is that cross is immovable, a historic fact finished. The means given us, and their accomplishments, can be transitory because they is experiential and often fallible as many have found out after pursuing holiness as a life work only to fall in to gross sin in later life. The cross we can look to in full assurance, as a anchor, the means, not as much.

Frank Turk said...

I think you have a typo in your last sentence, ST.

But that said, I agree that we look to the cross -- but we don't look to it as simply an artifact or an exhibit in a court room. It is not a fact which stands in isolation or in some kind of theological amber or jar of preservative.

Strong Tower said...

Theological amber?

I would agree. It is not just an artifact. Or plum preserves. Although I have seen some nice necklaces.

You got me thinking of the place prepared. And it seems to go along with taking up the cross. You know Jesus said that the disciples were not able but said that they would be. That idea really must mean that there is a hands on dissection of the contents kept by many in formaldehyde.

Some Dan made the point that Christ has done it all but there is till a lot to be done. So we may be able to dis WWJD but only if we seriously consider, WN. It isn't just WHJD, as Horton might put it, but Jesus has done it so what now? He didn't just go to the cross but ascended and gave gifts including the Holy Spirit to effect something. That is what I think all the apostolic writers meant by going beyond the doctrinal expression to the pragmatic application. So there should in some sense be that in the preaching of the Gospel

Now, what that looks like in exercise, enculturated, should express gospelly to the world that what we believe is the troof.

What word? You're the Englishman. And my daughter is off to the UWyo. So who is to keep me straight. It's not like we have spell check or anythin.... oh wait.

Never mind.

Frank Turk said...

Exactly -- especially the mention of the king of all TR.

Rachael Starke said...

"He didn't just go to the cross but ascended and gave gifts including the Holy Spirit to effect something."

As a recovering ex-Baptist, I learned that something involved things like not listening to rock music,going to movies, or spending too much time with non-Christians because you might catch you some sin.

Now I'm in a part of the country that argues is just involves things like feeding the hungry, housing the homeless and being all missional and stuff.

"The cross we can look to in full assurance, as a(n) anchor; the means, not as much."

Like Frank, I agree that if the anchor is just sitting in a grassy field somewhere in front of a maritime museum, it's just a relic. But if it's at the bottom of the ocean, firmly tethered to a ship, it really is functioning as the means to the end for which it exists. And you alluded to it yourself, even as I said that I heard that as a Baptist but really didn't. One of the most essential things the cross assures us of is the active, indwelling of the Holy Spirit, Who, I would argue, is far more about things like helping me see who my neighbor really is and helping me love/him or her than whether I love listening to Robert Randolph and the Family band or what percentage of my income I'm giving to third-world countries.

David said...

Seems to me that those who troll the internets to make sure that no one is mixing works with grace are doing so because they believe that the Bible commands them to.

Shouldn't they be lost in a recursive *blip*?

Strong Tower said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Strong Tower said...

Like a legalist with a license?

Sheesh, now I won't be able to sleep at nite...

kateg said...

You know when I first became a Christian and bought the book PDL, I assumed that this is what it was going to be about. Jesus Christ lived, died and rose again for my very sins...to bring me from death to life, a life in which I am supposed to look more and more like Him. Thanks for this.

Strong Tower said...

Believers are all in the chrysalis of life. Though not all glint will prove assayed gold.


Ore ummoved a wedding band unwrought. Rather then into the crucible flung than to remain forever young being married not.