God Is the Gospel
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“For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: The righteous will live by faith.”—Romans 1:171
Many people are under the impression that the Gospel of God is about acknowledging the fact that we are a sinner and accepting Jesus Christ as our Lord and Saviour so that when our time comes, we will go to heaven. This is wonderfully true, but it is not the Gospel, rather a consequence of the Gospel.
If we look at the Gospel as being about forgiveness and going to heaven as the primary objective, we will not understand what the objective is for today, tomorrow, and every day thereafter. Paul writes a very comprehensive exposition of the Gospel to the Romans, and interestingly never mentions going to heaven. The whole point of the Gospel is that we might be reconciled to God and restored into a right relationship with Him so that the righteousness of God, revealed in His Son, may be appropriated and experienced in our lives.
The righteousness of God is the moral character of God, which includes His love, kindness, compassion, patience and justice. These we respond to in worship and admiration, but it becomes far more personal than that, because the righteousness of God was intended to be intimately connected with the human race. Genesis 1:26 says, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness…” When God created us, we were designed to be a physical and visible moral expression of what God is like. God is love, and we are intended to be loving. God is kind, merciful, and just, which we were created to be.
Propositional truths about God’s righteousness had already been given under the Old Covenant, and the character of God revealed in the Ten Commandments. Under the New Covenant, the righteousness of God is no longer in propositional form, but is written in our hearts by the indwelling of His Spirit that comes to us by faith in Christ. Faith in Christ is not a passive belief, but an active experience of the presence and working of God in our lives. Paul writes, “God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”2 In Romans 8:16 he says, “The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.” These are experiential and bring us into a relationship of love and dependency on God.
The Gospel of God is … about the here and now. It is about living every day with faith in Christ and our reconciliation to God with the experience of His working in our lives, so that we may increasingly reflect the image in which we were created.—Charles Price
The final and highest good
“One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to inquire in his temple.”—Psalm 27:4
Protestants have viewed the doctrine of justification (by grace alone, through faith alone, on the basis of Christ’s blood and righteousness alone, for the glory of God alone, as taught with final authority in Scripture alone) as “the heart of the biblical gospel.” … What does it mean? … What is good about being justified by faith alone? Or more broadly, why is the gospel, which has justification by faith at its heart, good news? Now this question is seldom asked, because being forgiven for our sins and being acquitted in court for capital crimes and being counted righteous before a holy God is so manifestly a happy situation that it seems impertinent to ask, Why is it good news?
But I believe we must emphatically ask this question. … The reason this must be asked is that there are seemingly biblical answers that totally ignore the gift of God himself. A person may answer, “Being forgiven is good news because I don’t want to go to hell.” … Or a person may answer, “I want to go to heaven.” But then we must ask why they want to go to heaven. They might answer, “Because the alternative is painful.” Or “Because my deceased wife is there.” Or “Because there will be a new heaven and a new earth where justice and beauty will finally be everywhere.”
What’s wrong with these answers? It’s true that no one should want to go to hell. … In heaven we will be restored to loved ones who died in Christ, and we will escape the pain of hell and enjoy the justice and the beauty of the new earth. All that is true. So what’s wrong with those answers? What’s wrong with them is that they do not treat God as the final and highest good of the gospel. They do not express a supreme desire to be with God. God was not even mentioned. Only his gifts were mentioned. These gifts are precious. But they are not God. And they are not the gospel if God himself is not cherished as the supreme gift of the gospel. That is, if God is not treasured as the ultimate gift of the gospel, none of his gifts will be gospel, good news. And if God is treasured as the supremely valuable gift of the gospel, then all the other lesser gifts will be enjoyed as well.
Justification is not an end in itself. Neither is the forgiveness of sins or the imputation of righteousness. Neither is escape from hell or entrance into heaven or freedom from disease or liberation from bondage or eternal life or justice or mercy or the beauties of a pain-free world. None of these facets of the gospel-diamond is the chief good or highest goal of the gospel. Only one thing is: seeing and savoring God himself, being changed into the image of his Son so that more and more we delight in and display God’s infinite beauty and worth.—John Piper
Published on Anchor September 2017. Read by Reuben Ruchevsky.