The Gospel is God
The topic of the Gospel of God in Christ brings us to the halfway point in the list of trademark truths set forth in John Piper’s book, Doctrine Matters: Ten Theological Trademarks from a Lifetime of Preaching (Minneapolis: Desiring God, 2014). Continue reading . . .
The topic of the Gospel of God in Christ brings us to the halfway point in the list of trademark truths set forth in John Piper’s book, Doctrine Matters: Ten Theological Trademarks from a Lifetime of Preaching (Minneapolis: Desiring God, 2014).
So, what is the gospel? Piper contends that “God in Christ is [both] the price and the prize of the gospel. The prize of the gospel is the Person who paid the price, God in Christ. In other words, the gospel is the good news that God in Christ paid the price of suffering, so that we could have the prize of enjoying him forever. God paid the price of his Son to give us the prize of himself” (77).
This notion of God as the prize of the gospel is one of the more important themes in Piper’s overall theology. It is the focus of his excellent book, God is the Gospel. So I want to be crystal clear on what he means.
Perhaps the best way to do this is to look closely at 1 Peter 3:18. There we read, “Christ suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God.” The price is found in the first half of the verse: Christ suffering in our place, the righteous standing in the stead of the unrighteous and thereby fulfilling our obligation, paying our debt, and enduring our penalty. The prize of the gospel is in the second half: it was all designed so that we might get God!
If you ask the question, ‘What is the highest, deepest, most satisfying, all-encompassing good of the good news?’ the answer of Scripture is: God. God known, God enjoyed, God experienced in loving relationship with his redeemed people. “All the other gifts of the gospel,” says Piper, “exist to make this one possible. We are forgiven so that our guilt does not keep us away from God. We are justified so that our condemnation does not keep us away from God. We are given eternal life now, with new bodies in the resurrection, so that we have the capacities for enjoying God to the fullest. Test your heart. Why do you want forgiveness? Why do you want to be justified? Why do you want eternal life? Is the decisive answer: ‘because I want to enjoy God?’” (83-84).
Jonathan Edwards put it this way:
“The redeemed have all their objective good in God. God himself is the great good which they are brought to the possession and enjoyment of by redemption. He is the highest good, and the sum of all that good which Christ purchased.
God is the inheritance of the saints; he is the portion of their souls. God is their wealth and treasure, their food, their life, their dwelling place, their ornament and diadem, and their everlasting honor and glory. They have none in heaven but God; he is the great good which the redeemed are received to at death, and which they are to rise to at the end of the world. The Lord God, he is the light of the heavenly Jerusalem; and is the ‘river of the water of life’ that runs, and the tree of life that grows, ‘in the midst of the paradise of God.’
The glorious excellencies and beauty of God will be what will forever entertain the minds of the saints, and the love of God will be their everlasting feast. The redeemed will indeed enjoy other things; they will enjoy the angels, and will enjoy one another: but that which they shall enjoy in the angels, or each other, or in anything else whatsoever, that will yield them delight and happiness, will be what will be seen of God in them” (“God Glorified in the Work of Redemption, by the Greatness of Man’s Dependence upon Him, in the Whole of It” [a sermon on 1 Corinthians 1:29-31; 1731], in Wilson H. Kimnach, Kenneth P. Minkema, and Douglas A. Sweeney, eds., The Sermons of Jonathan Edwards: A Reader [New Haven: Yale University Press, 1999], 74-75).