This is an ongoing blog series where upon completing a sermon series, I mention a few things I myself learned that may or may not have made it into the final draft of the series.
Last year when I was planning my sermon series for the 2016 calendar year, I decided to spend the Fall talking about practical holiness. As I began putting together those sermons, I hit a wall very early on. The problem was that I could not talk about practical holiness without first helping my congregation develop a fuller understanding of the mystery that is the gospel. Therefore, a 12 week sermon series on holiness as described in Romans 12-16 became a six week series on “What is the Gospel?” followed by another six weeks in Romans 12-16.
I finished my first six weeks in the gospel last Sunday. I very roughly structured the series on the five (or six) major atonement theories. I tried to pick one passage per theory that I thought defended that particular theory well. So very roughly the six sermons went like this:
2 Cor. 5: The Gospel and Ministry of Reconciliation
Romans 1: The Satisfaction Theory
Ephesians 2: Ransom Theory
Colossians 2: “Christus Victor” And the overthrow of the Rulers and Authorities of our World. (This is the only one online currently and you can listen to it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xJbo9DCG4WY)
Romans 8: Recapitulation Theory
1 John 4: Moral Influence Theory
With those in mind, after spending the last couple months doing some deeper thinking about the core of our Christian faith and revisiting both the the events of Jesus’s life and how the epistles interpret them, here are some things I learned. These are not things I knew all ready but things I genuinely realized.
- Yes the Wesleyan/Holiness tradition has major qualms about the “wrath of God” and maybe rightly so. But unfortunately for us God’s wrath is all over the epistles. Even Jesus in the gospels does his fair share talking about it. With that said, I still don’t believe God was so angry that God needed to watch a Quentin Tarantino (or even, *cough* a “Mel Gibson”) movie to suddenly be okay with it all. But God is angry at the sinfulness of the world and Jesus came as a solution to it. There is no way to be biblical and not to address the wrath of God.
- The epistles don’t concentrate on the cross nearly as much as we do today. In fact, in most of the epistle passages listed above almost all the events of Jesus’ life are mentioned or alluded to in some way. The incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection, ascension, Pentecost and Jesus’ second coming all appear together almost all of the time. In the epistles the gospel is not about the cross but about the entire “Christ event.” If we want to talk about salvation in a biblical way we must talk and give equal emphasis to all of them.
- With that said, I was surprised at how often Pentecost and the Holy Spirit itself comes up in talking about the gospel. The good news according to the epistles is not just about forgiveness on the cross but about the release of the Holy Spirit into the world to equip and enable us to live holy lives.
- The ransom theory is extremely difficult to defend in any biblical way. Going in I knew that the Old Testament provided very little evidence that Satan somehow controlled the entire cosmos. But I was sure the New Testament at the very least alluded to it. I was wrong. The New Testament does not in any way teach it. Ephesians 2 comes the closest but it doesn’t even mention Satan by name. It talks about the “ruler of the prince of the air” which was actually a title for Caesar.
So those are some thoughts about the gospel. They are things I genuinely learned in the last couple months. I hope to do this from here on out with all my sermon series. I also hope to back date one to the minor prophets which I spent the summer preaching through.
In completely unrelated news this here blog post is apparently my 200th!!! Here is a picture of an anniversary cake to celebrate.