A Gospel of Work

The biblical idea of the “gospel” is more than simply the individual salvation of men and women. Rather, the gospel impacts everything, including our work. This more robust idea of the gospel can be seen through a four-chapter biblical narrative: (1) Creation, (2) Fall, (3) Redemption, and (4) Fulfillment.

Chapter 1: Creation

In the first chapter of Genesis, the writer recounts the six days of creation. According to this Book of Beginnings, God created all things very good. When God originally placed Adam and Eve in the Garden, he ordered them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Genesis 1:28). God had also delegated to Adam the task of naming the animals (Genesis 2:19). With these tasks, God gave meaningful work to the first humans. Theirs was creative work because they were made in the image of God, who is Himself the ultimate Creator. Therefore, meaningful work for Adam, Eve, and their descendants through the millennia was an integral part of God’s intention and design for the human race and flowed naturally out of His own creative work. Jesus confirmed that “work” was good when He rebuked the Jews with these words, “My Father is working until now, and I am working” (John 5:17).

Chapter 2: The Fall

When Adam and Eve partook the forbidden fruit, sin entered the world. Not only did their disobedience sever their fellowship with God and get them booted from the Garden, but all aspects of God’s created order also suffered the Fall’s deadly effects. Although God designed us for work, the Fall profoundly impacted the difficulty by which we get our daily sustenance. Rather than fruit for the taking, we battle thorns and thistles. There’s a lot of sweat in the daily grind. Human work was profoundly affected by the Fall.

Chapter 3: Redemption

One day early in Jesus’ earthly ministry, he unrolled the scroll of Isaiah and read the prophetic words that outlined his ministry of redemption. Jesus quoted that he came to proclaim good news to the poor, liberty to the captives, and recovery of sight for the blind. He also read that He came to set at liberty those who are oppressed, and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor (Luke 4:18).

Paul the Apostle’s view of redemption explained in Colossians led him back to Christ’s lordship over all creation.  And moreover, someday “all things” will be reconciled to God through Christ the Coming King. Jesus’ sacrifice on Calvary set in motion the potential for all things to be made new again. Indeed, Jesus came “to seek and to save that which is lost”. But He was about more than sin management. The gospel that Christ proclaimed is cosmic in scope. A primary purpose of Jesus’ work on the cross was the salvation of people. But He also came to resurrect thriving cities and neighborhoods. This view of the gospel reframes our responsibilities. No longer is our gospel narrowly defined as getting people into heaven, but redemption impacts our calling for the here and now.  Not only are people to be redeemed, but all creation is on God’s heart. This means that we are called to play a role in the redemption of art, ethics, conscience, family and marriage, health, history, work, leisure, imagination, ecology, academics, worship, language, relationships, and more – for God created all and He desires that all creation again more fully reflect who He is.

For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now” (Romans 8:2-22).

The practical implications of this principle are legion.

This view of the gospel implies that sexuality should not be avoided by Christ’s ambassadors of reconciliation, but sanctified.  Emotions should not be repressed, but purified. Medicine should not deal only with the physical world, but be transformed to become life giving. Politics should not be declared off-limits, but reformed. Art ought not to be pronounced worldly, but claimed for Christ. Relational conflict should not be forfeited to those in power, but redeemed by Jesus’ reconciling agents.  And the workplace must not be despised as a necessary evil, but engaged to conform again to God-honoring excellence. Jesus’ work of redemption made possible for all creation to be what it can be once again.

Chapter 4: Fulfillment

In chapter one, God created everything as it was intended to be. Chapter two is a sad story of the Fall that impacted all things with results that we still experience to the present day. In chapter three, Jesus came to reconcile creation – “all things in heaven and on earth” – so that all things can be what they once were. Finally, chapter four is a future vision of how all creation will someday be.

John’s Revelation describes, “a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and first earth had passed away” (Rev. 21:1). God’s unfolding drama that began in a Garden will end in a City in a new garden. Death shall be no more. There will be no more mourning, or crying, or pain. God’s created order will return once more to its intended state.

With this four-chapter approach to the gospel, every follower of Christ can contribute powerfully to the purposes of God in his or her work. Armed with a perspective that God is reconciling all things to Himself, ambassadors of reconciliation spread throughout the workplace play a dramatic role in this unfolding drama.

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