The Gospel of the Gospel Coalition

The Gospel Coalition is an association of pastors and theologians around fidelity to the gospel and a commitment to make that gospel known and to support pastors and churches in gospel-shaped ministries. So, when the two major architects of TGC edit a book (The Gospel as Center) that expounds its principal statements on principal ideas, the one on gospel is to be seen as a center piece of the whole.

In general, TGC is known for its “confessional” (though not in the sense of the Reformed confessions specifically, or the Lutheran confessions specifically) and “evangelical” approach and therefore its gospel is nothing other than a robust commitment to a reformed soteriology. The “confession” is then the alliance of these Christian leaders around TGC’s “confession,” and this book contains chapter length discussions of TGC’s principal statements. (After the jump I have clipped their “Gospel” statement.)

If the movement is about the gospel, then “What is the gospel?” statement by Bryan Chapell expresses the heart of TGC. This chp weaves into it a marvelous story of the gospeling of his brother, David, and how that gospel restored the marriage of his parents.

First, Chapell defines gospel somewhat as follows (and I have added the numbers): “the message that God has (1) fulfilled his promise (2) to send a Savior (3) to rescue broken people, (4) restore creation’s glory, and (5) rule over all with compassion and justice. So he argues “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Tim 1:15) is a good summary of the gospel.

Then Chapell breaks the gospel chapter into three parts: What God requires, he provides; what God provides, he perfects; whom God perfects, he uses. This summary itself shows that the gospel is about provision, perfection and use — that is, God works to provide the means of salvation, he accomplishes that perfectly in his people, and he uses those people in his mission. Chapell’s gospel — like TGC — is thoroughly “soterian” (it is about how God saves us). [The same is seen in the chp called "The Plan" by Colin S. Smith.]

First, what God requires, he provides: he discusses God’s image, God’s holiness, God’s justice, God’s righteousness, God’s love, covenant faithfulness, faith in Christ and rest in Christ. These are articulate, traditional, biblically-shaped observations. It is shaped much more by holiness than love, though love is clearly present, and that means Christ is depicted as a satisfaction-bringing sacrifice for our sins and guilt, a double imputation … in other words, God provides what humans need to be restored to holiness. The proper response to what God has done is “simply believe in Jesus as their Savior” (121), but here he emphasizes that our faith does not save; Jesus saves. And the whole of the Christian life is a dwelling in Christ, a resting in him.

Second, what God provides, he perfects: there is a teleology or eschatology at work in the gospel provision: eternal life. This is secured by union with Christ in his death and life, and family privileges. Chapell expounds this with some very important soteriological categories in the assurances of our adoption in Christ: unchanging status, perpetual protection, personal power, spiritual growth, spiritual security and eternal inheritance.

Third, whom God perfects, he uses: this is the least developed of his sections, and it deals with individuals, corporate (church — more Israel, please), and the overall redemptive purpose.

This chp is overall a good sketch of a redemptive/transformative model of salvation in a reformed key, so I would call it a “soterian” gospel. The provision-perfection theme shows the continuity of the work of God — a kind of perseverance of the saints or an ordo salutis that says the justified will be sanctified. He equates the gospel the with the ordo salutis.

I have some concerns, and none of this will surprise those who know what I have written in The King Jesus Gospel. In that book I argued we have equated “gospel” with the “plan of (personal) salvation” and in so doing have taken one part of the gospel (its saving benefits) and made it the whole, and in so doing have also knocked out bits that deserve far more attention — namely the Storied nature of the Bible coming to its fitting completion in Jesus as the King, Lord and one who saves. Furthermore, this tends to make the whole thing about what God did for us, for me instead of what God is doing to establish is rule in this world. What Tom Wright calls “God becoming King.” So, any gospel that is driven by soteriology is going to miss these things, and this chp by Chapell does just that.

1. There is some tension between the statement (below) and this chp, not that the chp disagrees but that the chp reframes the whole in such a way that elements are not as present in the chp as they are in the statement. If my summary is sufficient above, you can read it and see the statement below and see the tensions.

2. I’d like to see Chapell flesh out “faith” more because the NT directives to gospel preaching are to repent, to believe and to be baptized — not to avoid confess in Romans 10:9-11. Repentance is inherent to a proper gospel response; so is baptism.

3. Chapell’s is mostly a Pauline framing of the gospel, and it is a Pauline soteriology framing the gospel, and it lacks interaction with 1 Corinthians 15:3-5 (the statement below is framed by 1 Cor 15 more), and it lacks discussion of how the gospeling sermons in Acts fit into the gospel, and there is a noticeable lack of reflection on the Gospels as the gospel because, well, Chapell frames the gospel through Pauline texts. These are method elements I consider fundamental to defining gospel.

4. Christ in this chp is mostly Savior and Lord; there’s not enough about his life and teachings and the kingdom of God he preached; there’s much more to be said about the Story of Israel coming to completion in Jesus as Messiah/King, though he does have some good stuff on Lordship. So, this chp could be bathed in the Gospels as gospel and in the Story dimension of the Bible — and not just the story about how people get saved.

Here is TGC’s “Gospel” statement:

The Gospel We believe that the gospel is the good news of Jesus Christ—God’s very wisdom. Utter folly to the world, even though it is the power of God to those who are being saved, this good news is christological, centering on the cross and resurrection: the gospel is not proclaimed if Christ is not proclaimed, and the authentic Christ has not been proclaimed if his death and resurrection are not central (the message is: “Christ died for our sins . . . [and] was raised”). This good news is biblical (his death and resurrection are according to the Scriptures), theological and salvific (Christ died for our sins, to reconcile us to God), historical (if the saving events did not happen, our faith is worthless, we are still in our sins, and we are to be pitied more than all others), apostolic (the message was entrusted to and transmitted by the apostles, who were witnesses of these saving events), and intensely personal (where it is received, believed, and held firmly, individual persons are saved).

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than forty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • Rick

    I am finishing the book, and have appreciated it overall, but as you noted, this chapter was lacking. I may be mistaken, but I am not sure 1 Cor. 15 was even mentioned.

    But again, the other chapters have been stronger.

  • James Petticrew

    Roger Olson is blogging through his book and I think I share his concern at the purpose behind this book, or how it may be used.

    The Gospel Coalition are defining the Gospel from the perspective of Reformed/Calvinistic theology. Fair enough. The worry is that in their talk about restoring the Gospel to its central place in the church, in its mission, in evangelical institutions if they use their definition of the Gospel, many streams of evangelicalism will be by default excluded and accused either implicitly or explcity of not being “gospel centred” because they don’t hold and expound this Calvinistic expression.

    So if this group wants to centre their churches, mission institution etc round their definition I have no problem if they start using their definition to call “big tent” evangelical organisations and institutions to be “gospel centred” in their terns I think what they are doing is deeply worrying.

  • Chris

    I like much of the TGC…let me restate that…I like much of TGC…

    but they are very aggressive with their evangelical calvinism. I know many arminian or wesleyan evangelicals desire to be gentle etc in their response to groups like TGC or Piperites but I don’t think that will stop this. In the end…I see groups like TGC pushing so hard on this in a polemic way that it is gonna force a street fight. TGC folks sometimes seem to want to be the evangelical pope.

    hope I am wrong. but i am annoyed:)

  • Joey Elliott

    Scot,

    I have patiently been reading your comments on the so-called “soterian” gospel of many who would identify themselves with the Gospel Coalition, through various posts, and I am very excited to read the King Jesus Gospel. I am now very intrigued and convicted about learning more what it means to articulate and live the whole counsel of God by fully understanding the Story Gospel and Jesus as King, not just Savior (and not just Lord).

    And maybe after I read it, I will have a better understanding of your heart and concern with this “soterian” gospel, as clarified by the efforts of the Gospel Coalition and others.

    Right now, though, I read your concerns as anti-pastoral. I’m sorry if that’s a poor reading. But I can only hear you say something to the effect of that you “believe the gospel to be personal and salvation to be one key component, but…” so many times. In other words, I need to hear you not just acknowledge the power of the gospel for salvation, but celebrate it. Instead of “Yes, but..”, what about “Yes, and!”? As a church member, not a pastor, the pastoral implications I receive, and then to a smaller extent that I extend in leadership and discipleship within the church, from the “soterian gospel” are life-changing. Just unbelievable. Everything that Chappell is saying and you repeat before offering your concerns above, is the element of the gospel that he and we believe speaks to the human condition in a transforming way. So we are going to proclaim it. To the Christian and the non-Christian. It does lead to salvation, and to holiness, which does lead to more authentic love of neighbor and concern for the poor, etc. It is the means by which God changes the heart of stone. It is the hope that allows us to endure suffering and pain. I trust you agree with this and have experienced it all, as I have.

    So I desperately need to understand why it is such a concern that this gospel is being clarified and proclaimed in a more cohesive way to a generation of believers, and why not including more of the “Storied” gospel is a bigger problem than only including it. And I know that you don’t only include it, but it just seems your repeated concerns about only including the soterian part shows a complete disregard for the transformative pastoral implications of it in people’s lives. And in some cases, it shows a disregard to a good balance of both that just doesn’t happen to be coming through in one chapter in a book. In my current opinion, the implications of the gospel of salvation are more pastoral than the implications of the reality that Jesus became King. But that is where I am anxious to be stretched. I think Matt Chandler’s new book, The Explicit Gospel, is going to offer a good balance between what he calls the gospel from the ground (personal salvation) and the gospel from the air (story gospel). If this is so, people are on the ground not in the air, so at some level I feel like it is more important for that gospel to be proclaimed and to be right. Hence the heart of the Gospel Coalition.

    I am personally convicted that the Story needs to be more included, and as I said, I have big expectations that your book offers the church a profound encouragement and charge to do this. I just hope to hear more encouragement and even celebration about what many who would identify with the Gospel Coalition are doing to advance the kingdom of God through gospel-centered (Jesus came to save sinners) churches and communities.

    And I hear the concern about all this being so Reformed at its core. On a theological level, I understand why the Gospel Coalition as an academic organization would be a problem. It would just give people something to agree or disagree with, which would be divisive through and through. But it’s not that. It is a group focused on building up the ministry of the local church through a robust theology of the gospel. If you visited churches that identify themselves with the Gospel Coalition, and you saw arrogant, naive, “High Calvinist” believers who neglect and even are hostile to the Story of “God became King” message and hope of the Gospels, and as a result were not evangelism-focused, biblically illiterate, and overall just cold and unloving, then of course, I understand and share your concerns. But I don’t think that will be the common atmosphere in these churches. I know it is not in mine. At mine, the “soterian gospel” is being proclaimed and demonstrated, lives are changing, God’s kingdom is advancing through an extensive focus on local and foreign missions, and small communities are meeting together and loving each other through daily struggles and joys. And it is wonderful! So what’s the problem?

  • http://www.dranthonybradley.com Tony

    I’m new here. Can someone explain what “chp” is?

  • http://adammclane.com adam mclane

    Than you for this post, I’ve seen TGC referred to and I never quite understood where they were coming from.

    My “rub” with TGC is a bit simpler. I don’t like that they’ve branded their way of thinking with the word “Gospel” because it implies that anyone who doesn’t agree with them is somehow not engaged with the Gospel.

  • scotmcknight

    Joey, off to class…. but if you read King Jesus Gospel you will see that I do expound the the gospel (ahem, Jesus of the gospel) saves, and this is good news indeed (see pp. 51-53), but in a post like this I”ve got to focus on the tension I’m finding and not spread the post into a 10 page essay that includes all I like — I agree with the soterian dimensions of the gospel but when it neglects the christological, I point that out. It is not good news to tell only one part of the gospel… and I’m urging us to embrace it all, beginning with the Christology. I find the great news of the christology creates the great news of salvation. Indeed, the pastoral dimension of this is to draw people to Jesus, who is King/Messiah, Lord and who saves. Salvation is not the first or the only pastoral dimension; it begins with christology and theology proper.

    Chandler’s next.

  • Mark

    Scot,

    Something that bothers me about TGC definition of the gospel is that it makes absolutely no mention of the kingdom. In fact, on their website The Gospel is article number six in their confession and article number ten is the Kingdom of God. Article six does not even contain the word ‘kingdom’ at all. How is it possible to separate kingdom of God from gospel (Mark 1:14-15)? I find this very disturbing from a ‘coalition’ for ‘the gospel’. Do you think it is possible to have a detailed statement of the gospel, as article six is, without even mentioning the word ‘kingdom’?

  • Ben R.

    Scott, if the whole book is about the gospel (as center) and your concerns about the gospel are addressed in later chapters, then aren’t you narrowly and unfairly critiquing the gospel here by only addressing this one chapter? You admit this to a degree up front but still continue on anyway.

    P.S. Thanks for your concerns and work in this area which I think those of TGC share.

  • Ben R.

    Looks like you addressed this in 7 lol

  • http://www.twocities.org Dave Moore

    Scot,

    Paul preached Christ and Him crucified, not simply the way to get to heaven. The gospel is more powerful and makes sense when it is tied to the Person who made it all possible.

    Dave

  • http://prodigalthought.net ScottL

    Tony

    Chp = chapter

  • http://prodigalthought.net ScottL

    Dave

    What Paul addressed to the Corinthians in 1 Cor 1 & 2 was not about salvation. He was addressing how the power and wisdom of God are displayed in the foolishness of the cross, and that reality will deal with the division and mess in Corinth. This only really made sense to me last week and I preached on it this past Sunday.

    I share more here – http://bit.ly/HiCY1a

  • Daniel F. Wells

    Scot,

    Thanks for the post, and I love much of what guys like you and Wright say about Jesus and the gospels, but I think you are misreading Chapell. You state yourself that Chapell includes things like “restore creation’s glory” and “rule over all with compassion and justice.” It seems that the eschatalogical and kingship motifs are strongly included.

  • Joey Elliott

    Scot,

    So, Christology & soteriology; story gospel & soterian gospel; Person & work of Jesus – both/and. Amen! I like what I hear you saying about Christology as a necessary first step to soteriology. That makes perfect sense. Obviously it is the Jesus of the gospel that saves, and so people need to see and understand who Jesus is first (Person), and then will see and understand what He did (work), and believe, and be saved.

    I think though, that Chapell and others have a more robust Christology to your standards than you give them credit for, and don’t separate them the way you imply. They proclaim the Person and work of Jesus very profoundly, I think. At least I believe it to be playing out that way in local church ministry from my experience. If your main concern is bad or lack of Christology, there are many who are so far off on the Person of Jesus that they’ll never get the work of Jesus right, and could even, then, be leading many astray. That is certainly not where the Gospel Coalition is at.

    @Chris #3 – to say that TGC is “aggressive with their evangelical calvinism” is to completely misunderstand them. Just because someone holds unapologetically to theological tenets and is bold in proclaiming them does not mean that they are aggressively pushing them on others. They are just celebrating what they believe the Bible to say about the gospel. You can be bold and gentle at the same time, which I trust you would find them to be with more exposure. To disagree with their theological tenets is a different conversation than what I understand Scot to be initiating, and from what I can tell, way less important. In other words, you can be boldly “calvinistic” and still hold the balance that Scot is calling for. Hopefully, that is what he is encouraging, not a abrupt change away from Reformed theology, which is not likely at all, as it surely isn’t with those who are bold in their arminism.

    I just don’t want to see this conversation become a slam on TGC, or “New Calvinism”, or “NeoPuritans” just because there is disagreement with their theology.

  • Rick

    Joey Elliot #12-

    “to say that TGC is “aggressive with their evangelical calvinism” is to completely misunderstand them. Just because someone holds unapologetically to theological tenets and is bold in proclaiming them does not mean that they are aggressively pushing them on others…I just don’t want to see this conversation become a slam on TGC, or “New Calvinism”, or “NeoPuritans” just because there is disagreement with their theology.”

    Amen

  • http://bookwi.se Adam Shields

    Rick and Joey Eliot,

    I am all for holding unapologetically to your theological tenants. What I see as a problem is when groups (and I think the TGC is doing this) present their tenants as the whole tent of Christianity.

    You can affirm your own theology without excluding the rest of the church.

    I want TGC to succeed in in refocusing their part of the church on Christ. But I want them to do it in a way that does not communicate that the rest of the church has less of Christ than they do. I am pretty sure that they are not explicitly trying to do this. But language has power and when the focus of your language is often against another part of the church (instead of upholding Christ or against sin or against satan) then people get upset when they are mischaracterized.

    That holds just as true for those that mischaracterize TGC as it does for TGC mischaracterizing others.

  • Jeff

    Having read King Jesus Gospel – I am in tune with Scot on this. One passage that really struck me more recently is in the first “gospel sermon” in Acts 2 and where Peter actually ends his sermon (which we rarely think about): The end of the sermon, the focal point of the sermon, is v.36: “This Jesus whom you crucified is both Lord and Christ (Messiah; the new King).” The point of the gospel, the “good news,” is that God, in Jesus, has become king and brings salvation to his people – so that they can live out their lives free from the concerns of the world (Mt. 6) and become Christlike servants – showing the world, through loving sacrifice, that Jesus is truly king (1 Pet. 2:21-25). If Jesus really is king, what do we need as his people? Nothing. We can be filled to all the fulness of God and live sacrificially (this is a challenge of faith, of course). I do appreciate Keller’s work in this area (especially in ch. 2 of his Meaning of Marriage). I think Keller is more focused on living out the gospel in the way McKnight seems to focus (not just as soterians).

    What I would love to have seen more of in McKnight’s book is a fleshing out of the practical implications of Jesus as King as the focal point of the gospel. There wasn’t a lot of this, it seemed to me. How does this perspective really differentiate a disciple’s life from those who are focused on soteriology?

  • C

    I’ll admit I started reading this ready to jump in and find everything wrong with TGC’s gospel. I was surprised, though. While they do stand on the soterian/Calvinist side of things, I actually found their statement here more measured and less rigid than I thought.

  • Rick

    Adam #17 and C #19-

    Regarding TGC, where/how did you get this negative perception of it/them? Is it certain individuals associated with it? Is it some stance they have taken in a hostile way? Is is something else?

    I am sincerely asking the question.

  • http://www.wired4truth.info Douglas Kofi Adu-Boahen

    I fail to see what is so distinctly ‘reformed’ or ‘Calvinist’ about what was reviewed…

  • Joshua

    I don’t know if anyone’s mentioned this (I don’t have time to read through the discussion right now), but Roger Olson is blogging through the whole book, chapter by chapter (though with a slightly different perspective than Scot). Olson’s primary concern and criticism is that TGC appear to exclude anyone who disagrees with them as truly Evangelical (a usual concern of Olson about the neo-Calvinists in general).

  • Steve, Winnipeg, Canada

    I am definitely in TGC’s target audience. I like most of their stuff and admire some their leaders.

    I am pretty Calvinistic but I do cringe when I catch a whiff of a ‘non-Calvinists are real Christians’ sentiment. That being said, that sentiment I have observed to be rare.

    But what is wrong with being convinced of a certain view/perspective/tradition of Christian? And what is wrong with boldly teaching it or persuading others towards it?

    I have not yet read ‘The King Jesus Gospel’. I did, however, listen to Scot’s three lectures delivered at Regent College in February. I enjoyed these lectures and was impressed by them. I did hear him say several times that he wishes everybody could be an Anabaptist or something to that effect. Of course he does, why wouldn’t he wish that? What’s wrong with Calvinists doing the same?

  • Steve, Winnipeg, Canada

    Oops! I meant to write: “I am pretty Calvinistic but I do cringe when I catch a whiff of a ‘non-Calvinists are NOT real Christians’ sentiment.”

  • Robin

    Joshua,

    It seems that most of the dust-up between TGC types and others stems from three things:

    1) The issue between Greg Boyd and multiple reformed leaders several years ago regarding whether Open Theism represents a serious departure from Christianity.

    2) Young Calvinists picking fights with young Arminians, or especially Roger Olson. It seems like he has complained many times about Piperites trying to pick fights over whether Arminians are works-based or some similar argument.

    3) Piper’s specific writing against the New Perspective on Paul and N.T. Wright’s presentation of it…whether of not NPP undermines the soterian gospel.

    On this last point it is interesting to note that some people are committed to the NPP, yet still in close fellowship with TGC types (Doug Wilson) while among other NPP folks the disagreement has created a chasm of fellowship.

  • Robin

    At least these are the disagreements I have witnessed that seem to generate the most heat here at Jesus Creed.

  • Robin

    Sorry, looking back comment #24 should have been directed at Rick.

    Again this is just my opinion, being a TGC guy and having watched what gets Jesus Creeders ire raised over the past couple of years.

    This also explains why TGC guys that don’t pick fights with other evangelicals (like Tim Keller) are admired though they hold the same theology and sign all the same TGC documents.

  • Rick

    Robin #26-

    Thanks for the feedback.

    I think you may be right: the negative views about a certain few (such as Piper), overshadows the more positive views about the others.

  • Bev Mitchell

    Annoyed is definitely not too strong an emotion (Chris #3) but perhaps too weak (Adam #17; Jeff #18; Joshua #21). We would not be far off the mark to use the analogy of groups with reasonable, moderate, more inclusive ideas (even ideologies) having to work with the non-inclusive folk in their ranks. Recent and ongoing national and world history furnish sufficient examples of how this works. The reasonable, moderate folks in the group treat the issue too delicately for way too long. The non-inclusively inclined (purists) are usually much more aggressive, practically by definition as well as by temperament. The result of the genteel approach is often much worse than a street fight. Though rarely tried, early, aggressive and potentially healing intervention (thank you Scott and Roger) is probably the best approach. Unfortunately, Church history gives us little reason to expect a non-messy resolution to this clash of wills (we do have the example of Wesley and  Whitefield however). Fortunately the Holy Spirit is not absent and, indeed, is certainly at work. We can pray that he will not be too much resisted.

    We all need to remember that when irony begins passing over our head, we should consider giving ideology a time out! Or, a serious review!

  • http://bookwi.se Adam Shields

    @Rick,

    I do think personality has something to do with it. I respect and pay attention to Keller a lot more than Piper even though I think that theologically they don’t have much difference in large part because of they way they do things.

    But I think this is more than just personality. The Elephant Room is a fairly good recent example. MacDonald was pretty strongly condemned for actually doing what the conference seemed to be about to me (talking about theological issues outside of the small room of Evangelicalism). And it was condemned mostly by TGC people. To the point that MacDonald resigned from the TGC because he thought he was becoming a distraction to the work of the TGC. Now I actually really respect MacDonald for doing that (and for not making a big deal about it.)

    But that is the type of in-house criticism of the rest of the church that I don’t like. And I will say that Keller’s name was on a lot of the public criticism.

  • Rick

    Adam #30-

    I disagree that The Elephant Room is a good example.

    The original concept was: “The purpose of The Elephant Room is to unify the church on essential truths and overcome the polarizing of others that comes from using differing methods.”

    As Justin Taylor phrased it:

    “It’s important to note that the Elephant Room’s purpose/vision page were changed at least three times during the course of the controversy. When the Elephant Room: Round 1 took place in the spring of 2011, the whole purpose was to unite brothers in the gospel who agreed on the essentials (gospel, Trinity, authority of Scripture) but disagreed on the non-essentials (ministry philosophy, methodology, music, etc.). But note very carefully the original purpose for the Elephant Room: Room 2: Getting brothers together who believe in salvation by grace alone through faith alone but normally don’t interact, is what the Elephant Room is all about. In other words, the clear message was that everyone of the participants is united in the gospel as brothers—despite the fact that one of the participants has historically held to modalism…”

    Inviting Jakes put that “essential truths” aspect in question. The fact that certain questions were not asked at Elephant Room 2 only added to the frustration.

    So the problem was not that the TGC was too restrictive on secondary issues. The problem was that many of them were to lenient and silent on an essential belief (not to mention the properity gospel issue that further complicated things).

  • tim e

    hi Scott,
    This may be a bit cynical of the soterions, but in the xmas issue of xianity today, Michael Horton did a piece on the gospel and says (subtly) the big problem is God’s wrath. I see mostly in the gospel coalition a focus on wrath as the real underlying issue in their gospel. It does not appear that Jesus came to save us from the devil, the world and ourselves…all I hear is Jesus came to save us from the Father’s wrath. This taints everything. What kind of a gospel is that?

  • tim e

    sorry Scot,
    i always spell your name with two s’s,,, i know, it is only one!

  • Daniel F. Wells

    #32 – e

    If Jesus did not came to save us from the Father’s cup of wrath (Luke 22:42), then why celebrate Maundy Thursday? The whole point is that Jesus drinks the cup of wrath so that we may drink the cup of blessing.

  • C

    @ Daniel F. Wells #34

    Where does it say the cup “of wrath?”

  • Daniel F. Wells

    @ C #35

    Luke 22. Jesus offers the cup of blessing/new covenant to his disciples, but in the garden he asks for another cup to be taken away from him. OT, intertextual background is very clear on the nature of this cup (Isaiah 51:17-23 for starters).

  • C

    @ Daniel F. Wells #36

    Fair enough, I suppose. But a Gospel where “the whole point” is God’s wrath doesn’t make much sense to me. As I read the Scriptures, it seems framing the story in terms of life and death is a great deal more accurate and useful. That is:

    Life submitted willingly to Death in our place. But Sunday we learn Death’s ultimate victory–killing Life himself–was its utter defeat.

    Take even the last supper. Blood, to a first-century Jew, meant life (for example, the word “lifeblood”). See John 8: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” (vv. 53-54)

    It began with us grasping at life, at equality with God, ending in death. It ended with Christ “who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:6-8)

    Bonhoeffer in CREATION AND FALL (1937, tr. 1959):
    “Christ on the Cross, the murdered Son of God, is the end of the story of Cain [the first murderer], and thus the actual end of the story. This is the last desperate storming of paradise. And under the flaming sword under the Cross, mankind dies. But Christ lives. The stem of the Cross becomes the staff of life, and in the midst of the world life is set up anew upon the cursed ground…What a strange tree of life, this tree on which God himself must suffer and die—but it is in fact the Kingdom of Life and of the Resurrection given again by God in grace; it is the opened door of imperishable hope, of waiting and of patience…The tree of life, the Cross of Christ, the middle of the fallen and preserved world of God, for us that is the end of the story of paradise.” [pp. 106-107]


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