Monday, October 1, 2012

Michael Horton - What is the gospel?

Michael Horton answers the question - What is the gospel? Having watched innumerable YouTube videos of Christians attempting to answer this fundamental question, I found Horton's comments to be among the more profitable and rare. Among his uncommon and worthwhile observations are:
  • The gospel is not good advice.
  • The gospel never tells us something to do, the gospel tells us about something that's been done. (Amen, brother!)
  • You can't do the gospel.
  • If we confuse law and gospel we'll make our selves partly our own saviors.
I have provided a complete transcript of Horton's short video below along with teth's commentary.

BEGIN TRANSCRIPT----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

"The gospel is one of those words that is easy for us to take for granted, because we handle it so often, that it becomes a catch-all for all sorts of good things. And that’s a danger because it’s a very precise term." (Michael Horton) 
I could not agree more. In fact, I would add that the term "gospel" has been so liberally thrown around in Christianity that most Christians do not have the foggiest notion of what it actually means. (I Cor 15:3-4) For those who question this assertion, I would point them to the who's-who of erudite Christendom on YouTube who, upon having this question "teed-up-high," completely miss the ball upon executing their evangelical power-stroke.
"Gospel is not equivalent to 'whatever is good and important in Christianity.'  Gospel is a very particular word or kind of speech in the bible." (Horton)  
"From Genesis to Revelation the gospel is God’s promise of a Son who will crush the serpent’s head, forgive the sins of his people, raise them from the dead, and give them everlasting life, solely on the basis of his grace for the sake of Christ." (Horton)  
Very good, brother Horton. I really like this affirmation and especially the phrase "solely on the basis of his grace for the sake of Christ." Very good.  
"Now, euangelion is simply good news. Particularly associated with military battle. So a runner would return to the capital from the battlefield with the announcement, the euangelion, of success on the battlefield. So it’s a victory report. It’s sort of like the headlines that we’ve all heard about for World War II being concluded, 'Victory in Europe.' That is exactly what the gospel is and that’s why it’s not just good news because of its content it’s good news in the form of its delivery." (Horton)
The gospel is "a victory report." Amen. It seems like Horton really gets the point and is imparting this truth with clarity.  
"It’s not good advice. The gospel never tells us something to do. The gospel tells us about something that’s been done." (Horton)
That pretty well shoots the well-meant offer (WMO) of salvation to all of humanity right in the foot. If the gospel is a take-it-or-leave-it offer, then it is definitely offering you a choice to do something to acquire eternal life. Horton says "the gospel never tells us to something to do" and he is right about that. I wonder if he is consistent on this point or if he, like so many others, makes a good profession and shortly thereafter is found affirming something that is in direct opposition to it? (Matt 16:16,22)
"We hear people say today, uh, you know, 'We need to live the gospel. We need to do the gospel.' But actually we need to do the law. You can’t do the gospel." (Horton) 
I'm not entirely comfortable with Horton's assertion that "we need to do the law." It is not that I disagree with this statement, it is that I'm not entirely sure what he means by it. Giving him the benefit of the doubt based on what little he does say and my own belief that we should walk in obedience (John 14:15), I can go on to affirm that the gospel is a done deal. It is the proclamation of a finished work, not participation in a continuing work.  
"That’s a category mistake. It’s the most fundamental, basic theological mistake that you can possibly make to confuse the law with the gospel. The law is good. Doing things, doing what God commands is absolutely important. But it’s not the good news. It’s not the gospel and if we confuse those two things we’ll make ourselves partly our own saviors." (Horton) 
The confusion of law and gospel is a very common mistake indeed. So common, in fact, that it has necessitated the building of thousands of seminary institutions to accommodate the great demand for such foolishness among God's people.  
"Uh, we are saved. We do not extend Christ’s incarnation. We do not contribute to his redeeming and reconciling work in the world. We are the ones who are redeemed and are telling everyone else about it. We are witnesses to his redeeming work, not extension of it" (Horton)  
Very good comments.  
"So that’s what I would say, we need desperately today, greater clarity about what we mean by the gospel. We’ve got gospel music, and gospel crusades, and gospel tracts, and gospel this and gospel that. What we need is more concentration on the gospel itself, and stop trying to fill up that basket with anything and everything that we think is interesting." (Horton)  
I would ask brother Horton to consider the man-made institutions of religion intended to instruct men in biblical truth. Is it possible to assert that such institutions have increased the right division of law and grace among God's people or have they so convoluted the two as to make most Christians unable to discern one from the other? Are the preacher-boy by-products of these institutions right-dividers of law and grace or primped and polished power-mixers who pride themselves on dead languages and antinomies? A sober answer to that question is in order.

But as for now, I'll take a moment to be thankful that even a presbyterian Calvinist can hit a good lick once in a while. 

Well done, brother Horton.

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