Thursday, May 6, 2010

Jesus is Lord IS Good News

Jason Hood has an excellent post where he critique's the idea that "Jesus is Lord" is not gospel:

"Michael Horton, for instance, is critical of the idea of featuring a gospel proclamation of, “Jesus is Lord”: “There are many passages in the Bible that teach us that ‘Jesus is Lord’ is not in fact good news.” A statement like this can be found in interviews with Horton on the web; he particularly goes after N. T. Wright. Greg Gilbert of IX Marks Ministries recently published a small, readable book on the definition of the gospel.

“[T]o simply say that ‘Jesus is Lord’ is really not good news at all if we don’t explain how Jesus is not just Lord but also Savior. Lordship implies the right to judge, and we’ve already seen that God intends to judge evil. Therefore, to a sinner in rebellion against God and against his Messiah, the proclamation that Jesus has become Lord is terrible news.” What is the Gospel?, 105.

This is not untrue, but we must be careful not to push Jesus’ lordship to the margins of gospel definition. Gilbert actually risks doing just that when he titles the section just quoted, “Jesus is Lord Is Not the Gospel.” There are two problems, as I see it, with that language.

(1) By saying “Jesus is Lord is not good news” on the basis of Gilbert’s logic that Jesus’s lordship is not universally good news, we run the danger of making our definition of gospel subjective. God’s gospel is always the gospel, whether I find it to be good news or not.

Many of the people who heard the good news preached by Isaiah, the Psalmist and the Israelite women, John the Baptist, Jesus, Paul, and on through church history, did not find it to be good news, either because they rejected it, or because it was too good to be true, or because they were in crummy moods and stuck on their earthly circumstances. But the good news was of course still good news.

(2) My hope is that these brothers do not mean that we are to limit “gospel” to a description of salvation apart from Jesus’ lordship. But some do. And a phrase like “Jesus is lord is not the gospel” runs the risk of picking and choosing what parts of the gospel you’ll take, and which you’ll leave off.

We cannot really substitute “Jesus is Lord” with “Jesus is Savior,” “Jesus redeems,” or “Jesus saves.” Many passages teach that those who reject his lordship in word and deed will prove to have been saying “Jesus saves” in vain. So even “Jesus saves” is not always good news, in the sense that it is terrible news for those who reject him and his lordship. But the Gospel is still the Good News.

Picking up on Gilbert’s title (which is just one glitch, I think, in an otherwise helpful book): in the sense that “Jesus is Lord is not the Gospel” (because it’s not the whole story), “Jesus saves” is not the gospel, either. But phrasing it that way is unhelpful and misleading!"

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