Posted by: Jonathan Stepp | December 2, 2007

4 Surprises about the Gospel

Like most pastors, I thought I had the Gospel figured out. Then I started reading St. Athanasius, St. Irenaeus, Karl Barth, and Baxter Kruger. Their writings led me back to the bible. And then I was surprised to see I had only seen the half of it. Here’s what surprises me:

1. The Son of God would have become flesh regardless of whether Adam fell or not. The Father’s eternal plan was adoption (Eph. 1:1-5) and for humanity to become partakers of the Divine nature (2 Peter 1:4) the Divine nature had to enter humanity. St. Irenaeus says “he became what we are so that we might become what he is.” Adam’s fall meant that the incarnation would be a crucifixory experience, but incarnation was a necessary part of the plan of Adoption whether humanity fell or not.

2. Jesus wasn’t born to die, he was born to live and share the Triune Life with humanity. This is basically just a corollary to point one, but it seems important to me. The Father didn’t send the Son into the world so he would have someone to beat up for our sins. He sent the Son into the world to make humanity his children , raise us to eternal life, and include us in the life of the Father, Son and Spirit (Eph. 2:1-10.) The putting to death of our sinful nature was a necessary healing that had to take place to accomplish our adoption, but adoption was the purpose of Jesus’ life.

3. All humanity is included in what the Son has accomplished. This idea makes no sense until we realize the Son’s connection to all creation. As the Son lives in the Father and the Father in the Son (John 14:11) so also the Son lives in all humanity and all humanity lives in him (Acts 17:28, Col. 1:17, Heb. 1:3.) Therefore, when he dies, all die (2 Cor. 5:14) and when he rises, all rise (Eph. 2:6, 14-15) and therefore all are made right with the Father and included in Jesus’ life (Rom. 5:18, Col. 1:19-20.)

4. Heaven and Hell are not two different places. They are two different experiences of the same place. Since we are all in the Son, seated at the Father’s right hand (Eph. 2:6,) the hell we experience is not because the Father has cast us out of his presence but because we are in relationship with him and don’t like it! As with the older son in the story of the Prodigal (Luke 15) hell is the result of being in relationship with the Father and hating it.

The world looks very different when we get the gospel straight!



  1. Johanthan, I noticed that you did not include any of the Torrance brothers in your list of theologians – any particular reason?

  2. I love Tom and J.B.’s stuff, no doubt, but it just so happens that in my journey it was the four I mention here that had the first and strongest impact. But I would definitely put the Torrances on the short list of “must reads.”

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