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Where Should We Start When We Share the Gospel?

This past Sunday at Peace of Christ church we explored the practice of “proclaiming gospel” in the 9 a.m. hour. We looked at what is at stake when making the gospel personal (personal Lord and Savior) before cosmic (Jesus is Lord of all—in Christ God has fulfilled His promise to make the world right).

When we say the gospel is “personal,” about a “personal relationship” with God through Christ, surely we are speaking truth, but IMO we are choosing the wrong starting point. Because if the gospel is personal, about my “personal Lord and Savior,” we in essence privatize the gospel. It now seems presumptive to share this gospel with someone else. If I share it with someone else assuming it applies to them as well, I seem to be presuming too much.

The gospel in the New Testament, however, is always announced as a cosmic state of affairs. God has changed the course of the world (cosmos) in Christ. It is announced in 1 Cor 15:1ff. as a cosmic state of affairs. It is a reality that supersedes any one person’s life. In Christ crucified, God has defeated sin, death and evil. He has reconciled the world to Himself. In the Son’s death and resurrection, He has begun new creation. He now rules at the right hand of God the father, bringing His Kingdom in to completion. God in Christ has fulfilled His promise to Israel to make all things right. This is the new state of affairs testified to in our history of the nation of Israel and the church and the Scriptures. A new world has begun.

Such a new world must be announced, versus shared as something personal. In the words of Stanley Hauerwas, it makes no sense to say “Jesus is Lord and that’s my personal opinion.”

But surely proclaiming such a gospel risks being coercive? It risks being that person shouting at someone through a megaphone when they’re obviously not interested. Yet our God does not come to us via coercion. He will not overwhelm us. He is love. He comes into the world to be with us, among us, and always works within the world’s fallenness (as opposed to wiping it out). He comes via a people who can recognize His Lordship and live into this new reality (read the parables of the Kingdom) as a witness to the rest of the world. The good news therefore must be witnessed to out of a life lived humbly. The new world must come in gradually with our cooperation (read the parables of the Kingdom in Matthew).

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David Fitch is a bi-vocational pastor at Life on the Vine and the B.R. Lindner Chair of Evangelical Theology at Northern Seminary.