This is the second post in this series. So what is it that makes me believe that the gospel that is most presented today by the evangelical church is a different gospel.... a distorted gospel? Well the answer is quite simple. They have tried to weave the gospel into an interpretative lens that sees the scripture as a legal-constitutional document. In the first post, I listed several questions that need to be answered if one is to read between-the-lines and discover what the original author was trying to communicate to the original audience.
I would like to focus on question two: What did the intended readers believe at the time of the writing and was it meant to reinforce what they believed, or was it a correction? In answering this question it is obvious to me that Jesus, and subsequently his first century followers, were trying to correct the view of scripture that held it as a legal-constitutional document, and substitute a solely redemptive view. The reason is that if one maintains the legal-constitutional reading of scripture, the preeminence of the redemptive decrees gets lost amid other corrective messages. It seems obvious that to the first century writers of the New Testament the redemptive decrees had preeminence.
Let me list some redemptive decrees found in the pages of the New Testament to be sure that it is clear what I am talking about:
- John 3:16-18 NASB "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. (17) "For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. (18) "He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
- Romans 10:9-10 NASB that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; (10) for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.
- Hebrews 9:14 NASB how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?
I could go on and on with these decrees but you should get the idea. They are decrees that if for some reason one would alter them based on something else written in another place, they would be meaningless. In a legal-constitutional reading of scripture, all passages and verses have equal weight. This is not so with the redemptive decrees. Most of the epistles are written in a way that states these redemptive decrees in the forefront. The reason is that the gospel is founded on these decrees. That is what makes it good news, and if other messages in the scripture could alter these decrees, then, the good news is no longer good news. The redemptive decrees supersede the passages of Law.
Immediately some would want to interject, but that will simply allow people to feel free to live any old raggedy way. To that I say whoa! That was not the experience of the first century saints. Here is the reason. If most did not hold a legal-constitutional reading of scripture it would be obvious that the first century saints understood that THE GOSPEL was the mechanism for transforming lives. The Holy Spirit used the gospel to change the hearts of individuals. Grace and the gospel is the transforming force that God chose from before the foundation of the world, that is, before he created anything we know today as the space-time universe, to act as the transformation force.
There are a multitude of verses that tell us that grace and the gospel is the catalyst for transformation. Most are two busy with a legal-constitutional reading of scripture and thumping the bible to see them and their absolute importance. To mention a few; "it's the grace of God that leads to repentance"... "the grace of God has appeared to all men teaching them to live godly" ...."herein is love, not that we loved God but that he love us" .... "mercy triumphs over judgment." When we adopt a legal-constitutional view of scripture these become lost platitudes, and they are ALWAYS superseded by law.
The thing that makes the gospel a different gospel and a distorted gospel is that grace is not given the chance to be the trans-formative force it is. The Holy Spirit is not allowed to have the gospel really work toward the transformation of the saint, and they are left to try to transform themselves with the law.... THAT IS NOT THE FIRST CENTURY GOSPEL!!!!!
In the next of this series, I will look at the trans-formative gospel and how it operates.