Gospel: Restoring Humanity, Not Rescuing from Creation
Posted on February 10, 2020
The goal of the gospel is not to rescue people out of the created world. It is to gradually purify the created world of sin and restore human furnishing — not just human furnishing, in fact, but furnishing for all of creation. The creation itself, Paul writes, is groaning for redemption (Rom. 8:22). When the curse is removed, creation itself will be restored to its full, incomparable splendor.
Man in full
This means that the gospel restores to man is full humanity. I don’t mean by this that when man fell into sin, he became less than a man, but he did become less and what God intended for humanity. He became shattered, denuded, and miserable.
But he didn’t lose his divine image indelibly inscribed on him. The fall was an act of apostasy, not just an act of rebellion. Man is created with an ineradicable desire to worship. If he doesn’t worship the Triune God, he will worship something else, like creation or himself. This is what produced ancient paganism. The pagans turned away from God, but they couldn’t turn away from their desires for what God intended them to enjoy. They abandoned God’s house and moved into the Devil’s house, but they had to take the furniture with them. They wanted to enjoy this world but enjoy it in a way that God never intended. God won’t permit that. This is why all sinners eventually become miserable. God doesn’t give them the satisfaction of flourishing in ways that he never designed.
Wealth and sex
Wealth, for example, is inherently good. The Bible states plainly that God gives us the power to get wealth (Dt. 8:18). Wealth shouldn’t be used only to plant churches and finance missionaries, though these are essential. It’s also legitimately used to enjoy the Good Life, good life as God intends, of course. Certainly wealth can be abused, and often is abused. When it’s transformed into an in itself, it leads to greed, covetousness, and destruction, including self-destruction. Humans cheat and lie and kill for wealth. Wealth alone doesn’t satisfy, and it was never meant to satisfy. Wealth obtained in God’s way satisfies. Wealth gained legitimately never satisfies. God won’t allow it.
The pagans turned away from God, but they couldn’t turn away from their desires for what God intended them to enjoy. They abandoned God’s house and moved into the Devil’s house, but they had to take the furniture with them.
The same is true of sex. Its function isn’t just pro-creational. It’s also for human delight, human furnishing. God’s sexual plan limits it to marriage: one man for one woman for one lifetime. When we turn away from God, however, and see sex as an end in itself, and seek its delights outside his will, we never achieve permanent satisfaction. There’s immediate satisfaction, and permanent damage (1 Cor. 6:15–18). Why? Because God wants us to enjoy this world in his way, and not some other way. When we covet what’s beyond God’s gracious designs for us, he pays us in dissatisfaction. How does God do this? Note Calvin Seerveld’s riveting words:
[T]he Lord eats away stealthily at that which a person has and wants more of (like the fellow in Luke 12:18). If you covet your neighbour’s wealth, God punishes you with the insatiable discontent of the miser. If you covet sexual satisfaction with your neighbour’s spouse, God will spoil the joy one know[s] in erotic troths (cf. Proverbs 6:23–29). If you covet a career success and becoming well-known, God the moth will eat away the fabric of your respect for others and punish you with the reputation of riding roughshod over your fellow workers….
Confidence in our God-rigged universe
We live in a God-rigged universe. God is the house, and we can never beat the house. The house always wins. God has arranged the universe so that all of those who introduce viruses to destroy the system end up destroying themselves. “Whoever digs a pit will fall into it, [a]nd he who rolls a stone will have it roll back on him” (Pr. 26:27). Divine wisdom declares, “But he who sins against me wrongs his own soul; [a]ll those who hate me love death” (Pr. 8:36). In fighting against God, man combats himself.
Why no anxiety
Incidentally, this is why we need never be concerned that the chaotically sinful world is spinning out of control. When we see rampant political conflict and international terrorism and anarchic sexuality and pervasive chemical addictions, we might get the impression that the world is doomed. But the world isn’t doomed. This is God’s world, and it’s a good world, and he will purge all the sin out of it. He rigged the universe so that only he would win. The apostates can wreak a lot of havoc, but in the end it’s they, not God’s good world, that are doomed.
When we appeal to unbelievers (and even wayward Christians), therefore, we don’t simply say, “You’d better give up your sins and trust Jesus or he’ll judge you.” That, of course, should be declared, and it’s true. But we should also say that if they persist in their path, they’ll only destroy themselves. Jesus said to the unconverted multitude,
Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Mt. 11:28–30)
Jesus alone furnishes true rest and delight. To his disciples he offers these inspiring promises:
“The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” (Jn. 10:10)
“These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.” (Jn. 15:11)
The appeal of the gospel to unbelievers is the appeal to return to what it means to be fully human. 
 Calvin Seerveld, Take Hold of God and Pull (Carlisle, Cumberland, England: Paternoster, 1999), 49–50.
 Gordon J. Spykman, Reformational Theology (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1992), 70.