The Gospel-Driven Life #3: Getting the Story Straight

This week Dan is guest blogging through The Gospel-Driven Life by Michael Horton. purchase from Amazon UK purchase from Amazon US

Chapter 4 – Getting the Story Straight

In this chapter, Horton emphasises telling ‘credible’ (i.e. correct) news. ‘We not only have to get the gospel out; we have to get it right.’ (83)

Getting the gospel wrong is common; even the disciples got it wrong (84-89). There are a number of popular misconceptions of the gospel. ‘Example after example confirms the point that the heart of apostolic preaching was that God had fulfilled his promise to the patriarchs and prophets in his Son’s death and resurrection. Although there are allusions to this remarkable story in popular preaching and evangelism today, one wonders if it can be said that it forms the central content.’ (90-91) The examples Horton gives ‘all share in common … a tendency to identify salvation (hence, the gospel) with our own experience of conversion rather than with the news of Christ’s objective work in history.’ (91)

The popular misconceptions are: first, ‘the gospel as an invitation to have a personal relationship with God.’ (91) However, ‘the gospel does not offer the possibility of a personal relationship with God, but announces a different relationship with God based on Christ! Instead of enemies, we have been reconciled through Christ’s sacrifice (Rom. 5:8-11).’ (92) Second, that salvation is equal to ‘asking Jesus into your heart’. However, ‘I am the one, rather than Jesus, who needs to be relocated!’ ‘Salvation by asking Jesus into your heart typically assumes that the Good news is merely something that God offers, but the hearer is then commanded to do something—however small—in order to actually make this salvation effective.’ (92) ‘The most important criticism of this definition of the gospel is that it is not found in Scripture.’ (93) Third, ‘making Jesus your personal Lord and Saviour … is another expression that is not found in Scripture. In fact, the Good News is so good precisely because it is simply an announcement of what is already in fact the case …’ (93) ‘Faith receives; it does not make. (93)

Horton traces the shift in the church’s teaching priorities from drama (the Bible story) to doctrine (a couple of decades ago in conservative evangelicalism) to doxology (experiential worship) to discipleship (wanting to ‘do’ as a reaction ‘against the ambiance of slick consumerism and entertainment, as well as doctrinal lectures’ in the church). Horton challenges the reader to ‘go back before the doctrine to the story that justifies it. And this story is not only told from the pulpit, but enacted and ratified in baptism and the supper. We respond to it together in common confession, prayers, and praise. Instead of settling on any one of those points along the way (doctrine, doxology, discipleship), we must keep each of these as coordinates in vital connection with each other.’ (97) When Paul wrote to established churches he began with the story (Rom. 1:1-4). ‘There seems to be this reasoned argument from the story to the doctrine to the practice, yet with no compulsion to draw thick lines between them.’ (98)

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3 thoughts on “The Gospel-Driven Life #3: Getting the Story Straight

  1. Really interesting; I’m currently reading Tom Wright’s response to Piper on justification, and he seems to be making exactly the same point – the Gospel is not primarily about _us_ – it’s about God’s renewing purpose for all of creation; of which we are a part.

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