Dr. D.A. Carson – Biblical Studies Symposium at Liberty University – One Focus of the Gospel: John 3

The Biblical Studies Symposium hosted Dr. D.A. Carson on February 20th, 2012. Dr. D.A. Carson addressed students and faculty in the Towns Alumni Lecture Hall at 7:30pm with „One Focus of the Gospel: John 3.

Notes from the Symposium:

What is the Gospel?

First and foremost it is news. It’s good news. The question is: What is it news about? Because it’s news, you have to remember that the first thing you do with news is you announce it. „Preach the Gospel, if necessary use words,” as if you are announcing the Gospel by living a certain way.  That’s like telling a newscaster on the 11 o clock news tonight, „Tonight, deliver the news. If necessary, use words. That’s ridiculous. What you do with news is announce it. That is why there is such a huge emphasis in the New Testament on announcing it, on preaching and declaring, on explaining. That’s what you do with news.

But what is it news about?

It is first and foremost news about our God, our Maker and Judge has done supremely in Christ Jesus and especially in Christ’s cross and resurrection, to reconcile rebels to Himself. Now you can fill that our and say, „What has He done at the cross and resurrection and what does it mean to be reconciled back to God?

  • When you start asking: What is the shade of this „bringing rebels back to God”, then you start bringing out different dimensions. For example there is what might be called a „legal dimension„- How can guilty people be declared just before this God who is perfectly holy? That brings you into some fundamental issues of what the problem is. The problem is sin. You can’t get agreement on what the good news is unless you have the bad news.
  • You don’t know what the good news is supposed to fix until you know what the bad news is in the first place. So that means you’ve got to figure out what the bad news is from Holy Scripture to see what the good news is. The Gospel is the good news by which God reconciles sinners to Himself. Now you’re into substitution. Christ dies for the ungodly. The justice of Christ becomes ours. Our sin becomes His. He expiates our sin. He propitiates God. He cancels our sin, He turns God’s wrath away by absorbing our guilt in His place. All that has to do with my standing before God.
  • But supposing salvation was just bound up with standing before God. How would that transform me? Then you realize that salvation, the good news that brings about salvation is not just about how people become just before God; it’s also how they get transformed. And now you are in new birth language. Power of the Spirit. It’s not just that God declares us just on the basis of what Christ has done; He transforms us so that we have the power of God to give differently.
  • And thus, the notion of a powerless Gospel is in the Bible incoherent. Paul says that the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation, unto wholeness. But, it’s not an isolated thing. The Gospel so transforms us that men and women are brought together. There is a relational component to what the Gospel does. Not the Gospel itself. The Gospel IS what God DOES.  What God does supremely in Christ Jesus to reconcile guilty sinners back to Himself but part of what He does out of this Gospel, through this Gospel, is to reconcile people to each other as well as to Himself. So there is a relational component to all of this, as well.
  • There is also an eschatological component to it. It is not only what He does for us now, but ultimately the restoration of rebels to Himself is so complete that we will have resurrection bodies in a new heaven and a new earth on the last day, all achieved on one little hill, outside of Jerusalem 2,000 years ago.

The Gospel of God centers on Christ. It’s the good news about Christ Jesus, about what Christ has done in Christ Jesus to reconcile sinners to HImself. And everything that flows out of this, in terms of the way we act, our concern for justice, our hopes for the future, resurrection existence, personal relationships and above all that, we ourselves have been reconciled to this God- all, all was achieved through what God did on the cross and in Jesus’ resurrection and all that flows from those great events.

There would be a lot of ways to get to biblical passages to show you the sweep of this Gospel. One way, for example is to study 1 Corinthians 15, where most of these components are built in. If you are interested in a sermon just on that passage to try to explain it, you can find it on the Gospel Coalition website. This evening I want to direct your attention on John 3 and talk about one component of this Gospel, however it is tied to a lot of other components. John 3:1-21  will talk about this new birth component.

As far as we know, this is the first time in history when the expression born again was used. I have not found it in any earlier source, greco roman, nor jewish. I think Jesus coined it. What did He mean?

Dr. Carson continues to outline what Jesus meant by born again…..(66 minutes)

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