The Gospel of Restoration

TASSELS – Velvet Jesus, Movement Four

I’ve been hammering this for what seems like years here at Vanguard Church: The Gospel is more than forgiveness of sins. The Gospel is more than getting your ticket into heaven at the end of this life. The Gospel is more than being declared “not guilty” because of the penal substitutionary atonement of Christ.

The Gospel is about Restoration. Restoration of Shalom.

In Velvet Elvis: Repainting the Christian Faith, Rob Bell writes,

“Shalom is the presence of the goodness of God. It’s the presence of wholeness, completeness…
For Jesus, being saved or reconciled to God involves far more than just the saving of your physical body or your soul – it involves all of you…
“To say that salvation is holistic is to acknowledge that there are many dimensions to living in harmony with God. In one sense, salvation is a legal transaction. For Jesus, however, salvation is far more. It includes this understanding, but it is far more comprehensive – it is a way of life. To be saved or redeemed or set free is to enter into a totally new way of living in harmony with God.”
(p. 107)

We need to start seeing the gospel as being bigger than penal substitution. If salvation is not about holistically restoring us, then it is a truncated gospel. God’s intention is to restore us to the way we are supposed to be. If our starting point in understanding the gospel is that we are sinners, then the gospel’s main point is simply to forgive our sins. But if our starting point is that we are not living in a Shalom relationship with God, others, and the rest of His Creation, then we have a much larger gospel.

Bell continues,

“This restoration is why Jesus always orients his message around becoming the kind of people who are generous and loving and compassionate. The goal isn’t simply to not sin. Our purpose is to increase the shalom in this world, which is why approaches to the Christian life that deal solely with not sinning always fail. They aim at the wrong thing. It is not about what you don’t do. The point is becoming more and more the kind of people God had in mind when we were first created.” (p. 108)

We need to think beyond the gospel of "sin management" (as Dallas Willard calls it).

In addition, what often gets tagged onto this smaller, truncated Gospel is this: Since our bodily life is so sinful, salvation is about getting us out of this earthly life and into some heavenly existence. For some, the main thing is awaiting “the rapture,” for others it is looking forward to some heavenly ethereal existence with God where they will be singing the Hallelujah Chorus for all eternity. But this tag-on to the gospel is Gnosticism in that it implies that material existence is an intrinsically evil thing. We need to regain an understanding of the Gospel that embraces restoration, which will make our platonic and/or Gnostic heresies fall by the wayside.

Bell nails it by saying,

“Let me take this further: If we only have a legal-transaction understanding of salvation in which we are forgiven of our sins so we can go to heaven, then salvation essentially becomes a ticket to somewhere else. In this understanding, eternity is something that kicks in when we die…
“The Bible paints a much larger picture of salvation. It describes all of creation being restored. The author of Ephesians writes that all things will be brought together under Jesus. Salvation is the entire universe being brought back into harmony with its maker.”
(pp. 108-109)

That “harmony with its maker” is the definition of Shalom.

Peace. Shalom.

That is why our Savior is called the Prince of Peace. He is the One who restores Shalom to the world.

Salvation is the restoration of Shalom. Let’s get back to the Gospel of Shalom.

Posts in this series: TRUE – Velvet Jesus
TASSELS - Velvet Jesus
NEW – Velvet Jesus


"Predicament #1: The Lack of Shalom"

Is Rob Bell a Godless Man, Condemned by God? Review of John MacArthur's The Truth War

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David said...

please pray for Ukraine, as it is in a time of political crisis as I have been posting about a bit at my blog as of late...

ps, I recommend Miroslav Volf's "The end of Memory".


michael said...

I loved the book; good post.

Anonymous said...

Rob Bell is a false teacher. Read John MacArthur's new book, The Truth War!

michael said...

No one author is capable of embracing complete truth...except God.

I enjoy MacArthur's stuff but lordship salvation has also been labeled false doctrine by many.

Every piece of teaching has to be lined up against scripture...I got that in an email from John himself.

Ted Gossard said...

Excellent thoughts here from Rob and you. We have to keep working on this for our own understanding, but also to know how to frame it when talking to others about it. And I found this helpful in that exercise. Thanks!