Wednesday, April 21, 2010

About the "Gospel"

Last week, I read a post and commented on it, that proposes that the Gospel has three "centers", being a triad (does this make sense geometrically or theologically?)  I would propose that a thing can have only "ONE" center. The other centers beside Christ's atonement were said to be "repentance" and "transformation".  In thinking about this, Lutherans think really, really hard about the proper distinction between law and gospel and in this "repentance" is according to law and "transformation" would also be "law", not "gospel".   What is gospel, then?  Gospel is the announcement of God's kindness to you, through Christ.

A little devotion from Luther that came into my hands yesterday:

"I don't reject God's kindness.  If we receive God's approval by obeying laws, then Christ's death was pointless."  Galatians 2:21.

Wanting to receive God's approval by our own works though the law is so wrong that the apostle Paul calls this throwing God's kindness away.  It shows not only ingratitude--which is extremely bad in itself--but also shows contempt because we should eagerly seek God's kindness.  Instead, we shove aside kindness, which we receive free of charge.  This is a serious error.  Consider Paul's argument, 'If we receive God's approval by obeying laws, then Christ's death was pointless.'  Paul confidently declares that either Christ's death was pointless, which is the highest blasphemy against God, or Christ's death was essential, and through the law we can have nothing but sin.

Some teachers categorize various kind of righteousness using distinctions they have made up in their heads.  If these teachers try bring these ideas to theology, they should be kept far away from the Holy Scriptures.  For these people say on kind is moral righteousness, another is righteousness of faith, and they describe others I don't even know about.  Let civil government have its kind of righteousness, the philosophers have theirs, and each person have his own.  But we must understand righteousness the way the Bible explains it.  The apostle clearly says that there is no other righteousness than through faith in Jesus Christ.  All other works, even those according to the most holy laws of God, do not offer righteousness.  Not only that, they are actually sins.

Our sins are so great and so far away from righteousness that it was necessary for the Son of God to die so that righteousness could be given to us.  When discussing theology, don't call anything righteousness that is apart from faith in Christ.

If we tack on things to the Gospel, like your repentance should be there and your improved life and deeds for the community should be there (which they should be, but freely), then we have taken away with one hand what we were trying to give with another.  Now you can't know if it is for you, and if your repentance or transformation is good enough.  The way to deal with this is with a proper law/gospel distinction/application.

Not surprisingly, the post on the triad of the Gospel completely forgot to talk about forgiveness of sins.  I don't want to pick on the writer, but it should be a lesson in what happens when when the Gospel becomes a triad of centers.   Whenever there is need for a "full" gospel, whatever is added on to the forgiveness of sins, will be taking away from forgiveness of sins.

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