The Gospel is a really multifaceted thing. It’s the forgiveness of sins, the imputation of Christ’s righteousness, the sanctification of our souls, all of that stuff. But there’s more to it than that. From Genesis to Revelation, the Gospel has a redemptive-historical element in addition to the objective and subjective personal elements. Given the storyline of the entire Bible, the Gospel is a story of God dwelling with His people. I think it’s this redemptive-historical aspect of the Gospel that helps us (or, helps me, at least) really start to grasp just what it is that God has done for me in Christ.
Of course, the Bible starts with a scene in which God is dwelling with His people. He is in the Garden with Adam and Eve because sin has not yet corrupted the relationship between God and man. However, post-Genesis 3, this is no longer the case. Humanity is banished from the Garden, and thus from the unbroken fellowship with God. The story of humanity throughout the rest of the Old Testament essentially consists in Israel’s reeling from this banishment and God’s promise that their relationship will be restored one day. Indeed, we see shadows of that restoration from later in Genesis onward. God condescends to Abraham as He covenants with him, He meets Moses at Sinai, and He presides in His Temple. But, all of these things are shadows of what is to come.
We see the very beginnings of what is to come in the life of Christ. In Christ, God “became flesh and dwelt among us,” a living, breathing Temple in our midst. The “God dwelling with His people” theme finds a climactic fulfillment in the episode of the Transfiguration (Mt. 17, Mk. 9, Lk. 9). The Father meets the Son (and a few choice compadres) on a high mountain in a display which reminds us of God meeting Moses in Exodus 34. We see the disciples then falling on their faces in the midst of divine glory. However, instead of rebuke (or something like it), Jesus says to them, “Rise, and have no fear” (Mt. 17:7). This is a marked shift with regard to what happens when sinful humans find themselves in the midst of a holy God. Michael Allen helpfully notes that, “this event points to the way in which the gospel economy makes possible the transition from Genesis 3 and Exodus 34, wherein sinners cannot enjoy the unmediated presence of God, to Revelation 21-22, wherein we are promised a world full of that glorious divine dwelling. With this turn, those who cannot see can even be touched, and those who peril are told to have no fear. Thus, the gospel is fundamentally about life with God, and by extension, we might say that the Scriptures are fundamentally about life with God."
This understanding of the Christian life, informed by this element of the Bible’s metanarrative, is something that, at least for me, helps do away with reluctant obedience to God’s Law. It’s something that helps me see things like tithing not as something I merely have to do, but something that draws my affections closer to the Lord, for the Gospel is fundamentally about life with God, and if that’s the case, then everything we do is a part of that communion. The Triune God is the Holy One in our midst (Hos. 11:9). One in completely transcendent relation to His creation, but One who condescends to commune with His creatures. There’s tremendous significance there for both me and you, for in condescending to us, God shows us that we matter, that this world matters, and that we are loved far more than we could imagine.