I have heard it said that the gospel is shallow enough that it is safe for a toddler to swim in, yet deep enough to drown an elephant. We might also think of it this way: We teach our little ones how to read by first teaching them their ABCs. From there, they may move on to the basic principles of phonics. ABCs and phonics are scaled for little children to grasp the English language. But some people get advanced degrees in linguistics. Same category, different levels. The gospel is like that. The ABCs of the gospel work very well for people at all levels of their faith, including wise and old pastors and brilliant theologians, but it’s possible to explore the ABCs into their inherent complexity.
Although a small child can learn the basics of the English language, many people will nevertheless tell you that English is not the easiest of languages to learn. In the same way, even the simple gospel can be seen less simply. Suppose we use the template “God saves sinners through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ”. We could go on point by point through that simple statement and find depth along the way. God saves sinners through Jesus’ life? How so? Suddenly we are talking about Christ’s active obedience, the tension of the incarnation, the reality of temptation and the reality of sinlessness, and the like. How does God save sinners through Jesus’ death? There is a wealth of truth there, and now we are on the verge of discussing the various theories of the atonement. And since the resurrection changes everything, we are ready to talk about everything when we get to it! What sort of salvation does Jesus’ resurrection enact for sinners?
What we are glimpsing now is how a wardrobe can contain a world.
Jared Wilson, Gospel Deeps
If you read my post last week about going deeper, this post may seem like the opposite side of the argument. But, stick with me.
I love Jared’s book that this quote is from. I love the picture he paints with the idea of the ABC’s.
In our household, we have my three children who are at varying levels of learning to speak. Then there’s me. I don’t have a college degree. I like to write, but if I could I’d have Anna proofread and correct everything. Then, there’s Anna. She’s a highly qualified elementary education teacher. Not only does she understand grammar and language, she can teach it!
Anna is gracious and doesn’t get frustrated when they use the wrong pronoun or reference themselves in the third person. She helps them.
That’s how it should be in the kingdom family. Those who have found a deep truth don’t rub it in the face of someone who hasn’t, but just share.
Start with the basics:
- God loves you.
- Jesus came to set us free from the power of sin.
- Holy Spirit came to walk and guide you.
If you can move on from there, go ahead. Just make sure you exhaust the basics first.