How big is the gospel?
As Justin Taylor has noted, there’s a lot of discussion going on right now about how to define the gospel.
Here is a summary:
- At T4G a couple of weeks ago, Mark Dever argued, “We must distinguish the gospel itself from the implications of that gospel. Otherwise the message of God’s fully sufficient work in Christ will be mixed and confused with human works…. Never substitute good works for the good news of the gospel.”
- Soon after, an article came out in Leadership Journal in which Tim Keller describes one gospel with three components: incarnation (manger), substitution (cross), and restoration (crown). The article is not yet online. Note that Keller includes what Dever calls implications, but as part of Christ’s work (not human works):
In the person of Jesus, God emptied himself of his glory and became human (incarnation). Through the work of Jesus God substituted himself for us and atoned for our sin, by grace, bringing us into fellowship with him in the church (substitution). At the return of Jesus, God will restore creation and make a new world in which we can enjoy our new life together with him forever (restoration).
- At 9Marks, Greg Gilbert responds to Dever:
Doesn’t the New Testament sometimes use the word “gospel” to refer to the whole message of good news that God is proclaiming to the world? (Think of Jesus proclaiming “the gospel of the kingdom,” for example. Isn’t he using the word there in this broader sense? See also Romans 2:16, Galatians 3:8, Colossians 1:5, 2 Timothy 1:10, and Revelation 14:6, for possible other examples.) And doesn’t that good news, that gospel, include not just the promise of forgiveness of sins through Christ, but also the promise of reconciliation between human and human, of the resurrection of the body, of the renewal of the world, of the consummation of the kingdom, and of all the other benefits the Bible describes—all of them through and because of Christ?
- Jonathan Leeman responds to Gilbert. One commenter observes, “There are real tensions between Mark’s talk at T4G and Tim Keller’s talks at Dwell.”
- Also, Tullian Tchividjian – a man I wish I had met at T4G or Dwell but didn’t – has a helpful post reflecting on the discussion.
This is an important issue, and it’s worth taking the time to think through the issues. A couple of speakers at Dwell recommended The Kingdom of Christ as a helpful book. Keller also made mention of Simon Gathercole’s article “The Gospel of Paul and the Gospel of the Kingdom” in God’s Power to Save (probably easier to order from Amazon UK).