On Thursday I’ll be attending an online learning event to hear from Brian Zahnd. Brian is pastor at Word of Life Church in St. Joseph, MO. I’ve been reading about him (no so much reading “him” for a while. His name has come up. And, when the learning event was offered through Ecclesia, I signed on and have been browsing some Brian Zahnd material. I thought for the next couple of days I’d highlight some of his writing and offer a brief comment.
This quote is from Beauty Will Save the World, p. 138.
Today we tend to think of preaching the gospel is something like this: Jesus died for your sins to save you from hell. Make Jesus your Lord and savior so you won’t go to hell when you die…
There are about ten sermons in the Book of Acts (depending on what you count as a sermon), and none of them make an appeal to an afterlife or center salvation on escaping hell. None of them! Rather their gospel took on the form of an imperial proclamation (which is what euaggelion actually is).
Their gospel proclamation was basically this: The world now has a new Lord. It is Jesus the Christ. The proof of this is that God raised him to life again after the principalities and powers of this age put him to death on the cross. All who believe this proclamation and confess Jesus as Lord are forgiven of their sins. Now, rethink your life and act accordingly. It wasn’t a matter of “making Jesus Lord” – God had already made Jesus Lord! It was a matter of acknowledging this proclamation and acting accordingly (which is what repentance is all about).
This gets at the soterian gospel that is found in many churches today…come to Jesus so you won’t burn in hell. This is not the Gospel that we find in the sermons or preaching occasions in the Book of Acts. It’s incomplete. A more complete soteriology would be about ushering in the reign of Christ. It’s more holistic. It’s more about discipleship than it is about an intellectual agreement with the notion that Christ died for our sins.