Monday, August 31, 2015

Making the Gospel Visible

If Kevin Vanhoozer is right (and I think he is) in saying—"The church is the place not only where the gospel is heard but also where it is seen" (Faith Speaking Understanding, 170)—then surely we ought to give attention to those parts of discipleship or body life that highlight most brightly the visibility of the gospel. Doesn't it follow? Surely it does.

And so we should ask: in what parts of discipleship does the Gospel shine most brightly and visibly? I think the answer, if Scripture is allowed to be our guide, is simple and straightforward: the Lord's Supper, and Christian marriage. Yes, that's right. The Lord's Supper, because it is the Gospel made visible (and tasteful, and tangible, and fragrant) in the corporate, communal life of the fellowship of the redeemed. And Christian marriage, because it too makes the Gospel visible (as Ephesians 5 teaches) in a most poignant manner, in the form of a living parable that points to the greatest of all stories.

There are other ways no doubt that the Gospel becomes visible to disciples in process of becoming "little Christs" (as C. S. Lewis put it) and to a watching world. But I believe the Lord's Supper and Christian Marriage are the two main ways set forth by the Bible for making the gospel perceived with bodily eyes as well as the eyes of the heart. And so I also believe these two ways ought to be underlined in discipleship.

To this we should also add a cruciform life, where the sufferings of Christ for the good of others are seen in the lives of his members (e.g., Gal. 6:17). It is certainly significant, but I don't include it alongside the other two because suffering is more or less visible depending on calling and circumstances. In other words, in any given week or month, you may or may not see much suffering for Christ in the lives of Christians in a given church. But you should always see the Gospel made visible in marriage and the Lord's Supper.

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