This last post this week on “what is the gospel?” will look at the gospel as God’s work in the world for us vs. the gospel as what God has done for me. The latter I will call hyper-individualism, because that is exactly what it is. It operates, to borrow an image from Donald Miller’s Blue Like Jazz, as if this world is a movie in which God has appointed me as the central actor (or actress). The former examines the work of God as a universal and cosmic thing in which we get to participate (to be sure as persons).
So, if we look at Romans 8:21 we see that it is the “creation itself” that also will be liberated; if we look at Col 1:15-20 we see that all things hang together in Christ and that Christ is to have the supremacy… and then we merely need to grab some images from Isaiah and tie these into Revelation to see that God’s work is designed to restore the cosmos into its perfected and intended order. The center of that concern of God’s work is humans, and that needs perhaps to be emphasized. But, still, the final visions include the cosmos.
So, let’s begin with the divine telos of it all: where everything finds its proper place before God. The gospel is the power of God to restore it all, it is the effective working power of God to restore it all, to make things new.
This is where we have to begin if we want to understand the gospel: we begin at the End. And, then we go right back to the beginning to see that God’s work was to take the swirling tohu va-bohu and turn into pristine order (the “formlessness and void” was ordered). Then we see the Created Order as it ought to be (Gen 1-2), and then the Fall when the tohu va-bohu begins to creep back into the order.
With these two bookends: Telos and Creation/Fall, we see that the gospel is designed to restore the mess made of it all by the Fall.
This is the big picture of the gospel and we are summoned by God to take part in this process.
Hyper-individualism is the most selfish thing we can do with the gospel. To turn what God is doing in this world exclusively into what he is doing for me is to turn God upside down and stand ourselves up in God’s place. The gospel is not about me, but about what God is doing — and the “me” comes in as part of what God is doing. This difference is not a little matter.
The gospel is the staged drama of God’s work and we get to take part; God is the central character and, to quote someone more famous than Donald Miller, “all the world’s God’s stage” (well, I fudged a bit). Hyper-individualism casts God from the Cast and writes in our name at the top.
Next week I’ll begin to look at the six moments of the gospel.