A while back, a prominent Reformed pastor cautioned Tim Keller that he was using the word “Gospel” to describe what was actually the work of the Holy Spirit. It sounded really spiritual at the time. Plus it was bold to challenge – even semantically – the functional pope of Biblical Evangelicalism.
But the grace-skeptics reincarnate this challenge daily. Is it the Gospel that is our peace or is it Christ who is our peace? The Sunday School answer, as we have learned, is always “Jesus.” It’s always more spiritual to say “Jesus is the answer” than to say anything else.
And then the kicker . . .
Anytime someone preaches radical grace, the impulse of every devout person is to put some cautions on it. We simply can’t let that message ring out. If you are at all religious, there is an impulse in you to nit-pick the delivery of the gospel when it is being flippantly tossed to needy beggars. Jesus was always shocking his followers with the status of those to whom he showed incredible grace. It is important to see that, when it comes to preaching God’s promise, we need to let the message ring out without semantic cautions.
Of course, the theologically-minded readers of the blog are going to feel a rise in their blood pressure. “Is he saying semantic precision doesn’t matter?” No. I’m not saying that. I am saying that the demand for semantic precision is usually indicative of our intolerance for no-strings-attached grace rather than any kind of spiritual impulse.
Paul in Ephesians 2 writes, “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 expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near.“
So, Christ is our peace. Christ makes peace. And Christ preaches peace.
Did Christ preach peace or did he preach himself? The answer: Yes.
But shouldn’t Paul say “Christ” any chance he gets? I guess he didn’t know we would be keeping track.
If I come back with a glass of water and you say, “Where did that water come from?” and I say, “The faucet,” then what will you respond? Will you snicker to yourself, roll your eyes and say, “You silly guy, it wasn’t the faucet, but rather the well in the backyard.” Then I will say, “Well, yes, of course, and before that it came from the rain. But I am momentarily more concerned about quenching my thirst than providing a dissertation on the source of H2O.”
(Of course, if a thirsty beggar were scooping a muddy puddle to his lips, that would be a situation where some explanation of water sources might be important. But even then it would probably be more effective to offer him some tap water rather than lecture him on the stupidity of his choices.)
Go forth and pass out as many glasses of water as you can. The water that comes from Christ “will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
People who are thirsty for grace are usually more receptive to this water than those who are thirsty for extra-biblical semantic precision anyway.