SBC21: The Gospel (Part 2)

sbc21-scopeThe introduction, direction, and explanation for the baptist21 vision series entitled “SBC21: The Duties and Dangers of This Present Hour” has been laid out in two previous posts. Here are Part one and Part two of the introduction to this series.


The first blog in the series is dealing with the Gospel, Part one is available here.

So, what is the Gospel? Tim Keller argues persuasively I believe that we need to speak of it in two ways: diachronic and synchronic (the first two approaches above). The diachronic approach explains the Gospel as the Grand Meta-narrative of Creation, Fall, Redemption, and the Consummation (all of this centered on Christ). This approach emphasizes that God is remaking as very good everything that he made good in the beginning and was broken by sin through the fall, and all of this is centered on Jesus Christ and his work. This is the grand story of God rescuing humanity and remaking the world in Jesus. Ephesians 1:10 states that God’s purpose in history is the “summing up of all things in Christ.”

The second way is the synchronic approach that summarizes what the Bible teaches about the Gospel. This fits closely with Paul’s statements about the Gospel in the opening verses of 1 Corinthian 15. This approach defines the Gospel as the perfect life, substitutionary death, and victorious resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth as an atonement for sin and deliverance from death for those who turn in repentance from sin and in faith to Jesus. This group is rightly concerned over “definitions” of the gospel that leave out the cross of Christ (1 Cor. 2:2)! Paul says that this message is “most important” (1 Cor. 15:3), and that this is the message that is “passed on” (1 Cor. 15:3) to others. This message of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus is what the eyewitnesses of these events deemed as most important to pass down to future generations of believers. So, any gospel definition that leaves out the cross or the resurrection is certainly deficient in the eyes of the Apostles.

How do these two approaches fit together? Is there a way to relate them? With all of the discussion and the rhetoric on either side trying to debate what the Gospel is from “competing” perspectives what is lost is the connection between these two approaches. The reason why the synchronic way of approaching the Gospel is central to the diachronic approach is that the fate of the cosmos is tied to the fate of humanity and the kingdom is tied to the king! Creation was not broken until the King, Adam, sinned. Adam’s sin brought about the curse that broke the cosmos (and alienated all of humanity). That is also why the redemption of mankind is tied to the renewal of creation. The cosmos is screaming for the “sons of God” to be revealed (Rom. 8:19), and Jesus is the New Adam and the firstfruits of the New Creation. One cannot speak of the renewal of the cosmos apart from mankind’s redemption in Christ, because mankind was created to rule and steward that cosmos (cf. Psa. 8). Indeed, the coming of Messiah to rescue his people and judge his enemies is the catalyst to the right ordering of the cosmos (Isaiah 11). So, the message of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus to deliver humanity from sin and death is the core of God’s work in the world to make all things new.

We are grateful for our Southern Baptist brothers and sisters who came before us, fought for the Gospel, and passed it on to us. The inerrancy battles included battles over the atonement and what Christ accomplished on the cross. Our forefathers preached (and sang) a bloody cross that satisfied the wrath of God against sin. Also, in an era where evangelicalism began to debate issues like inclusivism and universalism, our Southern Baptist forbearers declared the exclusivity of Christ with boldness and clarity. They fought for these and more. We are grateful that they have passed down the Gospel to us. This first section of our vision series is about embracing our Baptist heritage and rejoicing in what they have given to us. So this post about the Gospel looks back to brothers and sisters to whom we are joyfully indebted. We want to carry on the heritage they have passed to us in the Gospel. It is also introductory for what it means to be Baptist in the 21st century. We need to believe, communicate, and live a more robust and comprehensive view of the Gospel as we move forward as Baptists in this century. We have to be gospel-centered instead of centering on something else. For too long in Southern Baptist circles being Gospel-centered has meant praying a prayer to receive Jesus as your Savior and then sharing him with others so He can become their Savior. The Gospel is MORE than that, and being Gospel-centered means not only believing but living the Gospel. The Gospel is far too glorious to explain in one post, so we will often be exploring the subject of what it means to be Gospel-centered and how that works out in our lives, churches, and ministries.

Jon Akin