What is the Gospel?

IMG_20140103_074030_808Day two of discussions around faith, work, and economics with the Oikonomia Network connecting work, mission, and our definition of the Gospel through presentations by Greg Forster and Gary Breshears. Greg Forster started the group echoing last night’s IMG_20140103_080915_113challenge to expand congregants’ horizons of the role of work and economics as part of their missional endeavor.

He played a video by Mark Greene, Executive Director of the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity, at the 2010 Lusanne Conference. Greene stressed the role of work “as” mission. I found one Youtube clip to include here to give you a sense of his message.

IMG_20140103_094450_194We then moved this morning to an interactive conversation with Gerry Breshears around the Economic Wisdom Project: exploring the first (stewardship and flourishing) and fourth initiative (responsible action).

STEWARDSHIP AND FLOURISHING

  • 1. We have a stewardship responsibility to flourish in our own lives, to help our neighbors flourish as fellow stewards, and to pass on a flourishing economy to future generations.
  • 2. Economies flourish when people have integrity and trust each other.
  • 3. In general, people flourish when they take responsibility for their own economic success by doing work that serves others  and makes the world better.

IMG_20140103_083118_683RESPONSIBLE ACTION

  • 10. Programs aimed at economic problems need a fully rounded understanding of how people flourish.
  • 11. Economic thinking must account for long-term effects and unintended consequences.
  • 12. In general, economies flourish when goodwill is universal and global, but control is local, and personal knowledge guides decisions

IMG_20140103_094440_723Breshears asserts that even the Garden of Eden, while “good,” was not “perfect” or “complete” so humanity was called to participate in God’s ongoing development of creation (moving beyond subdue language in the Hebrew to focus on “fill,” “multiply,” and “care for earth” as the emphsis), so we should not be surprised that while God’s grace is sufficient, God’s “power” is extended as well in the midst of our weakness.

IMG_20140103_083331_379Breshears argues that while scripture alludes to spiritual “stuff” he believes we should not focus on “spiritual gifts,” but recognize we are given abilities that the Holy Spirit can empower for the mission of God as we dedicate ourselves to Jesus. Obviously this means abilities both within the life of the church but also in the workplace. Breshears carried the group through several definitions of work and worship, as well as key scriptures (such as IMG_20140103_083534_579Romans 12) that demonstrate that there is a close intersection between the worship of God and the “work” of the people in everyday life. Breshears included several key scriptures (1 Thess 4: 9-12, 2 Thess 3: 6ff).

Ultimately Breshears raised the challenge of “what is the Gospel?” (saved to go to heaven?) and challenged us to see work IMG_20140103_094510_070as an aspect of the Gospel. Breshears took us to Peter’s sermon in Acts 2 around the themes of  Revelation, Response, Result.

Revelation: what God did

Beginning in Acts 2: 22, Jesus is revealed as Emanuel, God with us, who died, resurrected, exalted over hostile powers and pours out the Spirit

IMG_20140103_083129_099Breshears notes that typical gospel presentations focus only on cross, death, forgiveness while Peter also focuses on resurrection, new life and power for living. Breshears notes that Wesley’s final words were “best of all, God is with us” rather than “best of all, my sins are forgiven.” Breshears believes Wesley was probably correct.

Response: what we do

Beginning in Acts 2: 32 the response includes conviction, but also confession or acknowledgement of Jesus (more a declaration), as well as repentance as both change or heart and allegiance by turning to God.

IMG_20140103_092621_049Breshears noted that Acts 2:38 includes baptism before belief… which he believes is the divinely ordained way to express and confirm a believer’s new faith and repentance. His analogy is that baptism is to Christian life what a wedding is to married life. Baptism serves as the expression and confirmation before God, family and friends, of my commitment to Jesus.

Results: what we get

Acts 2: while we get forgiveness of sins, justification via grace, we also get NEW LIFE through an imparted righteousness of grace (through faith in Christ alone) that empowers us. Of course, in a room of reformed theologians, there was a real uncomfortable feeling how empowerment can become a works righteousness rather than a relationality to God for living. But IMG_20140103_094516_405Breshears believes the key revolves around our response to the power we receive to use for good (or badly by grieving the spirit). Yet Breshears moved also to v. 42 and demonstrates that the life of the church is also a result of the gospel so that we also receive a new community of the Spirit as well as a IMG_20140103_083446_512new mission (v. 46) to take that community into the world based on a new hope of being a transformational presence in the world.

So what is the gospel? Is it a trip to heaven or is it a transformation of heaven on earth via the new community? The key for Breshears is to get past a “justification only” gospel to a larger view of salvation where we embrace conversion, regeneration, sanctification, and glorification which transforms our lives more fully. This type of view of salvation gives us a gospel that takes seriously both the opening and closing sections of the EWP, a gospel that frees us from sin but also gives us power to participate in God’s mission through both “gift” and “response.”

About Dean G. Blevins

Dr. Dean G. Blevins currently serves as Professor of Practical Theology and Christian Discipleship at Nazarene Theological Seminary. An ordained elder, Dean has ministered in diverse settings and currently also serves at the USA Regional Education Coordinator for the Church of the Nazarene. A prolific author, Dr. Blevins recently co-wrote the textbook Discovering Discipleship and edits Didache: Faithful Teaching, a journal for Wesleyan Education.
This entry was posted in Clergy, Culture, Discipleship, Economics, Leadership, Mission, Practical Theology, Theology, Vocation. Bookmark the permalink.

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