What is the Gospel?

For years I lived with a presumption that I was going to heaven. For me the cross was an impersonal key that ensured my safe passage. Jesus died and rose again. He made me right with God. That was enough. I had stopped at a misguided and clinical view of justification. I had no idea that it involved a personal reconciliation with the Lord and a new life and relationship with Him.
What more could there be? God had already shown me His unmerited grace. I never considered that He wanted me as anything more than a piece of eternal furniture. In my mind’s eye God sat on His mighty throne, it was that way now, and it would be that way in the future. There was a clear divide between me and Him. If I knelt in the pews, it was beyond the rail and was not coming any closer.
And yet:
“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of
God! And that is what we are!”
1 John 3:1
I assumed that distance from God was normal. When I read the Bible, I saw the work of the gospel as legal, simply clearing the charge that sin brought against me. And this is of course a vital part of how God saves us. The Apostle Paul clearly used legal terminology in his gospel arguments. However, I had stopped short of the crucial question: “So what now?” What does this mean? Is there another side to this coin? I considered myself forgiven because Christ had taken my guilt, but I was still kneeling in the pews with Him at a distance. There was no renewal, no healing, no restoration.

J.I. Packer wrote that adoption is “the highest privilege that the gospel offers, higher even than justification. Adoption is higher because of the richer relationship with God that it involves.

The theology of adoption has received little in the way of attention or theological writing in modern times. Perhaps this is because it is the benefit of being justified by and before God, not the ground of it.  Put simply, we have stopped short, not considering from where it is that God raises us to such an honour as to be called His children, but that is what we are. “You wear His name, you live in Him, you are saved by Him, and you are altogether His(Spurgeon, Adoption: The Spirit and the Cry).

Where are you? Have you personally encountered the love of the Father? Or is He far off? Come and see what great love the Father has lavished on us. He sent His Son, who will not leave you as an orphan, but is preparing a place for you in the Father’s house. Orphans live in orphanages without parents. Children live in homes with parents. The Father calls you His child.  That is who you are when you truly experience the reality of Christ’s justifying work.

  • Bible reflection:     
    • Galatians 4:1-7
    • 1 John 3: 1-2