The most-read blog this past half year (with well over 6,000 readers) was Re-Discover the Forgotten Gospel. So, what is the full Gospel? This is a serious very practical question for Protestants today. Here is a very serious biblical answer, set forth in serious doctrinal format of ten theses to be defended. But first this summary:
To preach only salvation for eternity is to present only half the biblical Gospel. The rest is God’s grace in sending the Spirit to make our lives better now with what the Spirit produces, his Spiritual fruit of changed emotions in our lives. By grace, we are saved eternally and by grace, we can live better now.
Thesis 1: Jesus proclaimed that the Holy Spirit influences the human spirit (John 3: 6). The key verb gennao has the first definition of begot, like Abraham begat Isaac. The second definition is “the influence exerted by one person on another, as a teacher on pupils.” (The Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, Bauer, Gingrich, Danker, 1958, p155 1.b.). To influence is to change. Jesus promised that his Spirit “will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you (John 14: 16).
Thesis 2: Paul distinguished between two kinds of spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians 12. In the first verse, he sets out to instruct the readers about spiritual gifts. The first kind is the different ministries that are manifestations of the Spirit for the common good of the congregation. The second kind is what Paul urges as the greater gifts, specifically the love, faith and hope of 1 Corinthians 13.
Theses 3: Love and faith are among the nine listed fruit of the Spirit in Galatian 5: 22-23. These are representative, not definitive. Hope certainly belongs as such fruit.
Thesis 4: The fruit produced by the Spirit is more than virtues to be pursued but are changed human emotions, like love, joy, peace and patience. Emotions are the affective aspect of consciousness that are expressed in physical changes to the body.
Thesis 5: The Spirit supernaturally changes human minds and bodies so that they experience emotions of greater love, joy, peace and patience. To some this interaction of the supernatural with the natural would be called miraculous.
Thesis 6: Paul distinguishes between our sinful Old Nature and our New Nature in Christ. Luther describes how “the Old Adam in us should by daily contrition and repentance be drowned and die with all sins and evil desires, and that a new man should daily emerge and rise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever.”
Thesis 7: Classical theology distinguishes between justification (being made righteous before God) and sanctification (being made holy before God). A common but false understanding is that the good works of sanctification make us righteous before God. But sanctification is the result of justification in Christ, not the cause.
Thesis 8: The 16th-century concept of sanctification is better translated by Paul’s concept of becoming more Christ-like. As we are being sanctified, we are being drawn closer to God by the work of the Spirit.
Thesis 9: The life of a believer is experiencing growth in the Spirit. A typical sequence is Exploring Christ, Growing in Christ, Close to Christ, and Christ-centered. How does such movement happen? There is no one basic pattern beyond being in a fellowship of believers gathered around God’s Word and sharing experiences.
Thesis 10: How the Spirit stimulates such movement is a unique story individual by individual. Telling and hearing those stories is the basic act of the fellowship of the Holy Spirit present in every congregation.