Two lenses on the Gospel

Isn’t it strange that the writers of Scripture can talk about the gospel using such a variety of language? John highlights the way Jesus spoke about “eternal life.” Matthew, Mark, and Luke highlight the way Jesus spoke about “the kingdom of God.” Paul talks about “justification.” So are there three gospels?  Why the difference in language?

The Bible uses multi-faceted language when talking about the gospel because it is important for us to have both a small and large view of the gospel, a zoom-in version and a panoramic version. Let me explain: if you bring together all the different ways the Bible talks about the gospel, you can essentially express the gospel in two ways:

  • God  Man – Christ – Response

The classic expression of the Gospel is that God is holy and righteous. Man has sinned and rebelled against God, thus deserving God’s righteous punishment. Christ, being fully God and fully man, has paid for our punishment and substituted himself for us. Then we have to respond in repentance and faith to what Christ has done to be restored to a right relationship with God. That is the Gospel. It’s our only home. It’s personal. It’s about you and your relationship with God. This, as Matt Chandler would say, is what the gospel looks like on the ground as the Spirit of God converts and transforms individuals.

But there is another way to look at the Gospel. It’s a bigger lens, if you will. The gospel is:

  • Creation – Fall – Redemption – Restoration

This is the message of the entire Bible in a succinct summary. God made the world good. Man rebelled and fell into sin that separated man from God. Though the covenants in the Old Testament and ultimately through the death and resurrection of Christ, God is redeeming the world. Finally, one day all things will be renewed in a new heaven and a new earth. That’s the gospel. That’s the grand story of the Bible. God has decided to transform the universe by the cross of his son. This, as Matt Chandler would say, is what the Gospel looks like from the sky.

The reality is that these two ways to look at the gospel are ways of expressing the one gospel.  So which “lens” do you prefer? If you prefer to look at the gospel from the big lens, remember that this grand story of Scripture from creation to restoration is actually a story that demands a personal, individual response. Likewise, if you prefer to look at the gospel from the “small lens” in what I call the classic expression of the gospel (God-Man-Christ-Response), remember that the gospel needs to be worked out in the rest of your life, not just your private life. The gospel is a message that saves not just individuals, but ultimately the whole creation, and so we need to be about the business of the kingdom of God as we “flesh out” what the gospel means for us not just as individuals, but as a New Covenant people of God and agents of his kingly rule on earth. So then…enjoy!

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