Use today to catch up on any readings you might have missed in our month-long series. We begin a new series in Hosea on Monday.
If you’re up-to-date, have a think about what our month-long series has meant for how we might understand the gospel.
So what is The Gospel?
As we’ve seen, the gospel is much bigger than just individual salvation – it can’t be reduced to a mere “transaction” between you and God. Yes, Christ died for your sins – but he did so as part of this big story throughout history. Although each of us as individuals must respond to God’s offer of forgiveness, it’s not in the first instance an offer between God and an individual. It’s first and foremost God creating a people of his very own who will bear his image to the world. Christ died and rose again as a representative of that people, defeating sin and death, and making it possible for them to have new life.
God now calls each of us to belong to that people – to repent of our sin and become part of the people of God (symbolised by baptism) – so that Christ’s death and resurrection counts for us, too. And, having done that, he calls us to get on board with the purpose of God’s people: to bear God’s image to his world. (Which, by the way, is a good reply to those who want to be “solo Christians” – not wanting to be part of the people of God. Being included in God’s people is how Christ’s death and resurrection become yours.) Ultimately, it’s being a part of God’s renewal of all of his creation – of which Jesus’ resurrection is the start, the firstfruits, of what God will bring about in the age to come.
If we reduce the gospel to the “sinner’s prayer” (as important and indispensable as it is), we can easily overlook the rest of this story. It’s a bit like saying that a marriage can be summed up by a set of vows between a husband and a wife. Sure, they’re vitally important; you’re not married without the vows! But in the grand story of a couple’s life together, they represent the means of entry into a lifelong relationship, which is far bigger and all-encompassing than a moment in which a commitment was made.
So don’t throw out your old gospel tracts! (Each of us does need to admit we’ve rebelled against God, ask for forgiveness on the basis of Jesus’ death and resurrection, and commit ourselves to a new life of obedience, with God’s help.) But realise that they’re the wedding vows, not the whole romance.
To think about
How has your understanding of the gospel become broader during this series?
I recommend Tom Wright’s Simply Good News.