• Steven Marsh

The Gospel of Confrontation: a Reflection on Joshua 5:9-12, Psalm 32, 2 Corinthians 5:16-21, and Luk

Introduction to “The Gospel of Confrontation”

The gospel, the good news of liberation and freedom in Jesus, confronts our misunderstanding of Scripture, Christ, grace (the sola that garnered the largest response on Reformation Sunday, 2015), faith, and glory to God. If Christians experienced the gospel that Sola Scriptura illumines, Solo Christo exposes, Sola Gratia captures, Sola Fide embraces and Soli Deo Gloria invades, might we know in mind, soul, and spirit personal liberation and freedom in Jesus? Might we then be able to speak out against the prevailing social sins of politics without principle, wealth without work, commerce without morality, pleasure without conscience, education without character, science without humanity, and worship without sacrifice?[1] Let’s be people of holiness taking seriously sin, which is not exhausted in individual acts. “Sin is fundamentally a description of our entire situation, one of separation from God, alienation from him, arising out of our own rebellion, our refusal to do his will, our insistence upon following our own wills.”[2] Our misunderstanding of scripture, Christ, grace, faith, and the glory of God is functionally demonstrated by our aversion to holiness.

Homily I The Gospel of Confrontation: Being Holy (sola scriptura) Psalm 32 [verse 7]

Being Holy (sola scriptura): Hope is the anticipation of the future as the fulfillment of God’s purposes.[3] The future is not yet, but hope requires that we believe it to be. The gospel confronts the absence of hope. Sola Scriptura…only Scripture. The Bible tells the story of salvation and what salvation looks like. The psalmist recognizes that salvation is a continual “…invitation to live a grace-filled life in response to divine forgiveness.”[4] This is holiness.

Homily II The Gospel of Confrontation: Holy Identity (solo Christo) Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32 [verses 30-32]

Holy Identity (solo Christo): Because of union in Christ, we are holy. The Gospel confronts our brokenness. Solo Christo…only Christ. Christians know that their salvation from despair, loneliness, and eternal separation from God is not accomplished through “stuff,” financial security, or merit. Only belief in Jesus Christ, the One who knows us the best and loves us the most, can save us from ourselves and all the false saviors. This is Luke’s message with the prodigal son: the Father’s love for the brokenness of the younger son is scandalous.

 Homily III The Gospel of Confrontation: Holy Belonging (sola gratis) Joshua 5:9-12 [verse 12]

Holy Belonging (sola gratia): we belong to Christ. Because of the scandalous grace of God, we are in God’s grasp and God will not let go. The gospel confronts our merit based thinking. Sola Gratia…only grace. Christians know that they cannot take any credit for their salvation. Belonging to God, our salvation, is based on the unmerited favor we receive from the One who created us, redeems us, and sustains us. This is Joshua’s story. God is always saving people and leading us into new experiences of our belonging.[5]

Homily IV The Gospel of Confrontation: Holy Purpose (sola fide)

Holy Purpose (sola fide): Our calling to God is not just one more thing on our “to do list.” You were created to become like Jesus and made to participate in God’s mission.[6]  The gospel confronts our disbelief. Sola Fide…only faith. Christians know that there is never enough evidence to prove that the Bible tells the story of salvation; that only belief in Jesus Christ, the One who knows us the best and loves us the most, can save us from ourselves and all the false saviors; and that we cannot take any credit for our salvation. Each of us must recognize the full sufficiency of faith.

Homily V The Gospel of Confrontation: Source of Holiness (soli Deo Gloria) 2 Corinthians 5:16-21 [verse 16]

Source of Holiness (soli Deo Gloria): Christians know that all praise, honor, credit, and glory must be given to God. The gospel confronts our self-centeredness. Soli Deo Gloria…only glory to God. Think about it. Our existence is not our own. The self-made person is the greatest deception and delusion humankind faces. In 2 Corinthians 5, we are taught that God reconciled the world to himself. God did not reconcile himself to the world. There is ultimate and final reconciliation in God.

The gospel confronts our misunderstanding of scripture, Christ, grace, faith, and the glory of God. Our conscience tells us these things. Peter J. Gomes former Plummer Professor of Christian Morality at Harvard Divinity School writes, “Conscience is that little bit of God implanted in us, that part of ourselves made in the image of God that tells us what we know to be true and good, to which, in our better moments, we aspire.”[7] In Christian terms, conscience is the conviction of the Holy Spirit. Let the gospel confront your absence of hope; your brokenness; your merit based thinking; your disbelief; and your self-centeredness so that you begin to experience holiness and live into your reconciliation with God in whom your identity is rooted.

[1]These are Gandhi’s seven social sins as outlined in Peter J. Gomes, The Scandalous Gospel of Jesus, (New York City, New York: HarperCollins, 2007), 122.

[2]Robert McAfee Brown, in Patterns of Faith in America Today edited by Ernest Johnson (New York City, New York: Jewish Theological Seminary. Institute for Religious and Social Studies, 1957).

[3]Donald K. McKim, Westminster Dictionary of Theological Terms (Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 1996), 133.

[4]Samuel K. Roberts in David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor, editors, Feasting on the Word, Year C, Volume 2(Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2009), 104.

[5]This concept is gleaned from Darryl M. Trimiew in David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor, editors, Feasting on the Word, Year C, Volume 2, 98.

[6]Adapted from Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Life (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2002), 320-322.

[7]Peter J. Gomes, The Scandalous Gospel of Jesus, 134.

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