The Gospel of John Webster

In a sermon on Psalm 95 (“Belonging to God”), John Webster provides another telling of the gospel.  The advantages of this encapsulation over mine are that a) it overviews the salvation history which culminates in the gospel of Jesus the Messiah, b) it frames salvation as a covenant between God and humanity, and c) it at least mentions that human salvation is the necessary step on the way to the renewing of the cosmos.

“In his work of salvation, God grasps hold of human life and binds it to himself; and as he does so, he sets apart for himself a people who will be bound to him, and who will be the sign of his reconciliation of all things to himself. That work of salvation, Scripture tells us, begins with Noah, as God delivers a little body of people from the flood of destruction which sin has unleashed upon the world. It continues in Abraham, who is the father of all those who are to be in covenant with God. It is made firm as Moses stands at the head of God’s people on Mount Sinai and seals their covenant with God. It continues through the life of Israel. But it finds its culmination in the life of one man. That one man is Jesus. In him and as him, God deals once and for all with us covenant-breakers. In Jesus, God himself faces the full extent of our hostility, our hatred of himself. Onto him the whole of human rejection is loaded; all our wickedness, all our vanity and folly, all our disobedience—it is all laid on him. He takes it onto himself; and as he does so, he takes it away. He, God himself in the person of his Son, takes away the enmity between us and God and makes peace by the blood of his cross. He reconciles us to God and so restores us to the covenant and to fellowship with God. And the people of that covenant, the new covenant, are the Church—gathered around the presence of the risen Jesus Christ, filled with God’s Holy Spirit, made by God into God’s own people.”

Later in the same sermon Webster explains the wonderful security of being in covenant with God:

“…The life of the people of God is under God’s care. God’s people are God’s sheep. But they are not a scattered, helpless flock, exposed to all manner of peril. They are in a deep sense safe. They are pastored by him, nurtured, guided and protected by him. By him—notice: directly, in person—he cares for his people. He himself, in the person of his Son Jesus Christ, is the great shepherd of the sheep. There are, of course, human under-shepherds, pastors who try to do what they can. But in the end it is his care, God’s pastoring of God’s people, which is what really matters. Whatever good human pastors may do is simply a pointing to the pastoring of God; their task is merely to testify, to bear witness to the fact that God holds his people in his hand, and will not allow them to perish.”

-John Webster, Confronted by Grace

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