This was posted at In Light of the Gospel:
Are you clear on the gospel?
April 27th, 2009 by JHG
D. A. Carson’s recent editorial for Themelios is well worth your read. In it, makes a fundamental distinction about the gospel that is being lost in our current theological climate. Carson explains:
It is this: one must distinguish between, on the one hand, the gospel as what God has done and what is the message to be announced and, on the other, what is demanded by God or effected by the gospel in assorted human responses.
This is fundamental. The gospel is about what God has done and not about what I have done. Growing up, this was confused by saying that gospel is believing on Christ. Now this is confused by saying that the gospel is life. The current situation is a reaction to the former. We (at least in evangelicalism broadly speaking) have moved from describing the gospel as conversion to describing the gospel as a way of life. Both are mistakes.
After explaining that the gospel is the “good news” about what God has done in Christ, Carson clarifies what the gospel is not:
By contrast, the first two greatest commands—to love God with heart and soul and mind and strength, and our neighbor as ourselves—do not constitute the gospel, or any part of it. We may well argue that when the gospel is faithfully declared and rightly received, it will result in human beings more closely aligned to these two commands. But they are not the gospel. Similarly, the gospel is not receiving Christ or believing in him, or being converted, or joining a church; it is not the practice of discipleship. Once again, the gospel faithfully declared and rightly received will result in people receiving Christ, believing in Christ, being converted, and joining a local church; but such steps are not the gospel.
In conclusion, Carson reminds us:
Failure to distinguish between the gospel and all the effects of the gospel tends, on the long haul, to replace the good news as to what God has done with a moralism that is finally without the power and the glory of Christ crucified, resurrected, ascended, and reigning.