What Is the Gospel?
Note: The following lines are the final words of an article titled "The Place of Law in the Gospel of Glory," just submitted for publication with the Confessional Presbyterian Journal as part of their "sic et non" series exploring debated issues within Reformed circles. With this article I bow out of the discussion indefinitely in order to focus on other projects.
The gospel is “Lord Jesus Christ,” with all that this title means, and all three names used in it, in the context of the promises and actions of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. More fully, the gospel is the good news of the glory of God in Jesus Christ by the Spirit for us and in us. This is the gospel, and this is the Christ, to which the Scriptures of Israel bear witness. He is the scopus of the Torah, and its glory. The gospel is the good news of his ascension in glory seen as the decisive heavenward movement of his redemptive accomplishment, which has yet to climax in the fullness of his future union with his Bride. It is the good news of who he is now, and of our secured life in him in the heavenlies now. It is the good news of the unfailing, loving gravitational pull of our future in him, in whom the glory of God is beautifully manifest and in whom we presently grow, by his Spirit, from glory to glory. It is the good news that we will be like him, not that we will become him; that we will always need him, but that we will always have him. It is the good news that we are accepted in him, justified because of the righteousness of Another, received to his Table and Temple, one with his people, and loved by him, fully. And as the Spirit has his way within us, the gospel warms us with the peaceful assurance that, yes, one day our love for him and in him will finally be unmixed, unqualified, unhesitating, perfected. It is the wonderful announcement of every holy desire satisfied, both God’s and ours, of our deep existence to the praise of his glory, and the end of frustration’s gasps.
How does this gospel relate to the promises of the law concerning God’s blessings upon the obedient? If we use the law’s promises, and not only the doctrine of justification, to summon Christians to the blessings that obedience yields, have we confused law and gospel?
The promises of [the law], in like manner, show them God’s approbation of obedience, and what blessings they may expect upon the performance thereof; although not as due to them by the law as a covenant of works: so as a man’s doing good, and refraining from evil, because the law encourageth to the one, and deterreth from the other, is no evidence of his being under the law, and not under grace. (WCF XVI.6)
On the whole, then, my plea is that we recover a vision of salvation as part of the biblically muscular, robust, thick, wide, comprehensive, panoramic eschatological vision: the new creation. This is not one option among others. This reflects a commitment to read the gospel of Christ in terms utterly controlled by the telos of our creation in God’s image: to glorify God and to enjoy him forever. This is but another way of thinking through how eschatology precedes and contextualizes soteriology, for we are now construing the “gospel” as the Spiritual gift in the present of the fullness of what we are for, the fullness of life in Christ.