“Our challenge, as communicators of the gospel, is not that God was in Jesus but that God was in Jesus reconciling the world to himself. We cannot make this faith mean anything we want. There is mystery, room for wonder, doubt, disagreement. But there are also these nasty particularities that make the gospel unavoidably abrasive, discordant, and so very interesting.”
-- from Willimon's article Jesus vs. Generic God
Kind of reminded me of this portion from the chapter "Jesus the Savior" in my book The Unvarnished Jesus (which is at final draft stage and ready to send!):
We proclaim Jesus, because there’s no way to real life, to resurrection life, except through the one man who died and came back to life under his own power. There is no salvation in or through anybody else. It’s all Jesus. And for those who may get tired of hearing about Jesus in this way, as if the gospel of Jesus’ atoning work is some sort of entry-level information that isn’t as “deep” as learning about the rapture or how to get out of debt God’s way , you’re not going to like this, but any Christian who is faithful to Christ must always be all about Jesus. Because Jesus is the center of the Christian life. And being “in Christ” necessitates a constant commitment to Jesus alone as the power to save.
But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace . . . (Ephesians 2:13-15)
There is another powerful description of Jesus, mighty to save. But look at what v.14 says, really: “For he himself is our peace.”
That’s such an easy-to-overlook truth: that Jesus himself is peace. That Jesus himself is life. Remember Jesus didn’t say, “I have the information on how to find the way, the truth and the life.” He said that he himself was the way, the truth, and the life. That nobody gets into relationship with God except through him. There are no shortcuts or passwords. It’s Jesus only.
The Bible does this to us over and over again. It takes these virtues God knows we love to depersonalize even as we spiritualize them -- peace, hope, goodness, love, etc. -- and says about them all, Jesus is those things. God is those things. Jesus is our peace. God is love. It will not let us believe we can have these virtues, these moral niceties, without being in the Person of Jesus Christ. He is those things, and to get them we must be in him.
John Piper puts it well:
[T]he gospel has unleashed a million mercies on the people of Christ, but . . . none of these is good news in and of itself. They are all good to the degree that they make possible the one great good – namely, knowing and enjoying God himself. Therefore, the gospel must be preached and believed and lived as “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6).
The Gospel is Jesus. He is the Gospel. He is what you get. As St. Augustine once said, “You ask him for your reward and the giver is himself the gift. What more can you want?”
(Cross-posted at Thinklings)