I came across this substack email by Anthony Bradley recently, and given that today was a “review” day for our Band study, meaning that we’re not reading a particular chapter in the Bible today and should instead be looking back on what we read, I thought this seemed like a good point of reference from which to share a couple of thoughts.
The main point that I took out of what Bradley wrote was that The Gospel Coalition’s movement had failed because it focused on preaching the Gospel only. I don’t know the specific details here, but Bradley and others that he quotes suggest that those who purport to belong to the the Coalition, those that have focused solely on preaching the Gospel, have also failed in at least two great ways:
First, they have failed in the sense that they have turned a blind eye to the sin of the church around them. The issues of our day, such as sex scandals or abuses in the church have gone unaddressed, they say. Or other cultural issues such as those raised by Black Lives Matter or Covid are woefully unaddressed.
Second, the article seems to say, preaching the Gospel only gives a sense of how to be liberated from our sin, but doesn’t give us a sense of how to practically live. It is woefully wanting in this regard.
I don’t intend to try to defend any of the people that are being associated with The Gospel Coalition. I don’t know them. I don’t follow their work that closely, so I can’t really say. Bradley and those that he is quoting may be dead on in these regards.
But the part that struck me in this article is similar to a thought and a discussion that we have had quite frequently here where we live and work. Our discussion has been: Which Gospel do we want to preach?
Wait, what do you mean? There’s one Gospel, right?
Well, yes. In one sense that is right. But in another sense, we frequently lack completion in the Gospel that we preach.
On the one hand, the Gospel that is frequently focused on and preached in our churches today is the Gospel message that we see focused on through Paul’s writings in the New Testament. We speak of Christ’s death and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins. And that is true. It is an amazing reality to be forgiven of our sins. It is incredibly good news that God has loved us and has given us forgiveness.
But very often, we stop there, and I think that the impression that our stopping gives is that this is the end of the message. Even for those that have read through the Bible many times, they will still focus on the fact that God came to earth in the form of Jesus to give himself for us. To save us. Because he loved us.
Do you see a pattern in the discussion?
God is serving me.
Hang on. I think we need to back up because we’ve missed something along the way. Are we really saying that God is doing everything He is doing just to raise me up? Just because he wants to give me forgiveness?
Yes, His grace has come to us freely. Agreed. We haven’t deserved anything. Agreed. But God is doing something significantly more, and if we ignore these other things that He is doing, I think that we end up with situations like what we see here. We end up with people saying that the message of the forgiveness of sins doesn’t give us a way to live.
And they would be right. It doesn’t.
But what does give us a way to live is the more full and complete picture of what God is doing. That Gospel that I have explained above, which again, let me be clear, I do believe is good news and is Biblical, is an incomplete telling of the story.
I believe that the New Testament is nothing without the Old Testament. We need to back up to the time of the Old Testament, to the time of the Israelites, to be able to understand the context of the story. You see, God was the King over His people, the Israelites. They had prophets who spoke to them from God, their King, but they didn’t have a human king. They were a people unlike every other people.
The Israelites, though, looked around themselves and said that they wanted to be like the other peoples around them. They liked the lives that the others were living. As we frequently do today, they even thought that those lives, which were sinful in so many ways, were what they wanted to participate in, how they wanted to live. And what that led to was a rejection of God as their King and an embrace of the idea that they wanted to be like the other nations around them. They wanted a king who is a human, just like those other nations.
God allows it. He says that the people have rejected Him and, with many warnings, He allows them in the direction that they want to go.
And the Israelites pay the price. They are eventually destroyed and carried off into distant lands. This was God using the might of these other nations to punish and swallow up the Israelites, sending them out of the land that God had promised them.
But God wasn’t done. As Jesus came, what did he preach and speak about the most? The Kingdom of God. God’s Kingdom was being reestablished on the earth. Jesus came announcing, proclaiming, and demonstrating the Kingdom of God. And this is what Jesus called the Gospel. Very simply, the Gospel of the Kingdom.
Living as subjects of the Kingdom of God gives us the way to live. It shows us the direction. In fact, the King, Jesus himself has given us instructions on what we should be doing until he returns. We can decide to reject those instructions and then claim that we don’t have a way to live, but that doesn’t mean, by any means that we don’t have a practical way forward. We absolutely do. Not only in obeying commandments and avoiding sin, but in proactively moving forward, a purpose and a reason for doing what we’re doing, and thus we should make decisions and take action based on those purposes.
The Gospel of the forgiveness of sins is part of the Gospel of the Kingdom, but it is only the first step. It would be as if we saw the front door of the house, and the only part of the house we could see was that door, but we say, “Here is the house!”. We’re only looking at the door. The door is amazing. The door is marvelous, but it is still only the front door.
God has given us forgiveness of sins through Christ because that was the payment to bring us into the Kingdom. Jesus’s first proclamation and preaching told the people to repent and believe for the Kingdom of God is near. If we repent and believe, the Gospel of forgiveness of sins, we have come to the front door, but a mansion awaits. Christ has given us access to an incredible house.
However, it is HIS Kingdom. It is HIS. It is not ours. We are, in one sense, subjects to the King, and in another sense, His children. And Jesus has given instructions to his servants / children while he is away.
And yet, he is returning! And he has work for us to do in the meantime. And all of this should speak directly to the practical realities of the Gospel on our daily lives. If we live in the Kingdom of God instead of the kingdom of America, or the kingdom of the world, or the kingdom of the church, or the kingdom of Ryan, we see how things should be and we work for change. We see injustice and we work for justice. We see unrighteousness and we work for righteousness. We work for it because we have a purpose. We dedicate our lives to it because we see the overriding flow of eternity through the time that we are living now and we want our lives to have a purpose within that flow.
My reply and perspective, then, to Bradley article, is that we must see what he is saying, but then we must look at the true story that God is telling and realize that there is a big missing piece to our message. We have thought that the story was about us, the forgiveness of our sins, when in fact, the story is about Christ and his Kingdom. Our part becomes much clearer in the context of the bigger story and the Gospel of the Kingdom.