Editor's note:

In “Rethinking Evangelism,” Dallas Willard gives fresh insights and thoughtful takes on many terms and phrases from the evangelical lexicon. Today, we’d like to share his explanation of “The Gospel” with you. 

—Renovaré Team

The Gospel

In today’s presentation of the gospel, Jesus’ death is primarily presented as a ransom that deals with guilt and the effects of guilt regarding our standing before God. But there is more to life than guilt. Once you have been forgiven, you still have to live. Jesus is about the redemption of actual life from actual sin. It is by entering into his life, which is still ongoing on earth, that we are delivered from actual sin. The New Testament is absolutely clear on this. You just take Colossians 3, Philippians 3, 1 John and Titus 3. All make it clear that the righteousness which is by faith is a matter of being delivered from the evil that is around us in action and that we are in danger of falling into ourselves.

Faith in the living Christ raises us above merely being delivered from the consequences of sin. We need a doctrine not only of justification but of regeneration. We need a picture of our life in God that does not leave most of our life untouched. What has happened today is that we’ve reduced salvation to justification. We’ve reduced the saving work of Christ to his death on the cross. So what relevance has the resurrected Christ? None! Apparently, we would have gone to heaven even if Christ had never risen from the dead, because the payment was made in full on the cross. At that point, we would have all gone to heaven because God could not have found anything against us; it would have all been forgiven. Nothing else would have been available to us to make us ready for heaven, so that we would be comfortable when we get there! I shudder when I think of many people who are professing Christians today winding up in heaven; I don’t know what’s going to happen to them. I think they could not be very happy in heaven if they have not gotten acclimated here.

Starting Soon: The 2018-19 Renovaré Book Club

How do we read for transformation, not just information? Choose books that stir the soul and have an enduring quality. Then read with God and others at an unhurried pace, attentive to what the Holy Spirit wants to teach. The Renovaré Book Club is designed for transformative reading. It runs October 2018—May 2019.

Learn more >

Excerpted from the Winter, 2001 issue of Cutting Edge magazine, a Church Planting quarterly newsletter produced by the National Church Planting Task force of Vineyard USA. All issues are available on-line at the VineYardUSA web site. Used here with permission from dwillard.org.