One of the symptoms of living in a culture where the individual is emphasized as much as it is here in the west is that everything tends to be reduced to an individual level. Marriage has been reduced to an institution that is intended to make the individual happy instead of an institution intended to reflect the glory of Christ. Other areas of life that were once thought of in terms of how they benefited society (such as marriage, raising children, education, etc.) have been redefined to find their worth in how they benefit the individual. I dare say the idea of making a significant decision today using a rationale primarily focused on others rather than yourself is just as likely to bring scorn and ridicule as it is praise and admiration.
Nowhere is this trend more damaging than as in the individualizing of the gospel message.
Now before the outcry and denunciations begin let me emphatically state something: I wholeheartedly agree that the gospel saves individual sinners. Praise God that it does since I am an individual sinner myself. The problem is that in our zeal to convince people that the gospel saves individual sinners we have inadvertently taught a gospel that stops at saving individual sinners.
The truth is that the gospel of Jesus Christ is much more glorious than that.
Beyond reconciling individual sinners to God (Romans 5:18), the gospel also breaks down all barriers and reconciles us to one another as a body (Galatians 3:28).
But as glorious as those things are (and they are glorious indeed!) the wonder and glory of the gospel doesn’t stop there. As a matter of fact, the glory of the gospel extends beyond this earth. It truly is, as John Piper calls it, a cosmic gospel.
To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, — Ephesians 3:8-11
Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look. — 1 Peter 1:10-12
In both these passages we get a glimpse of how the majesty and wonder of the gospel extends beyond beyond the individual and beyond even this Earth. Paul tells us in Ephesians that the church, formed by the gospel, is meant to display the wisdom of God to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms. Peter tells us that the gospel and the salvation it brings are matters into which angels long to look.
I find this truth staggering. Not only have I been reconciled to God, not only have I been reconciled to my brothers and sisters in Christ, but together as the church we are being held up as a display of the wisdom of God to those in the heavenly realms. God is in effect saying to the angels, “You want to see my wisdom, look at this people I have created through the gospel.” Not only that, but this salvation that has been given to us is something the angels actually long to know more about.
The gospel is more than just a means to save us. It is bigger than that. It is bigger than us. It is a grand story of God demonstrating His nature and character and reconciling to Himself a people for His glory. And this people is not just for His glory on Earth but is meant to bring Him praise among the inhabitants of the heavenly realms as well.
This is the gospel we have been redeemed by.
This is the gospel we have been called to proclaim.
Let us not shortchange the majesty of the gospel by reducing it to merely a means to keep sinners from hell. As wonderful as that truth is, the gospel doesn’t stop there.
Through the gospel, we are part of a plan to lift high the name of Jesus Christ across the entire cosmos.