The 10 gates: models for explaining the gospel
Rediscovering the Ten New Testament Gates
John Driver identifies ten complementary models of the atonement (what was accomplished through Jesus' life, death and resurrection). He uses the metaphor of a variety of different gates that lead to the one cross of Christ:
- The deliverance gate
- The suffering gate
- The leadership gate
- The martyrdom gate
- The transformation gate
- The cleansing gate
- The service gate
- The peace gate
- The forgiveness gate
- The family gate
Driver writes about entering the kingdom of God through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, symbolized by the empty cross. The image he employs is the cross surrounded by a wall in which there are ten gates. A person first sees the cross through one of those gates. Over time that person has the opportunity to walk around and see the cross from different perspectives. Someone may first start following Jesus, taking his lead as a servant, or as someone who brings peace, before discovering a reassurance of the forgiveness of sin. At what point is that person a Christian, a disciple? That may be difficult to answer precisely -- and the timing may be less important than helping people access the good news of Jesus without requiring them first to adopt only one interpretation of the cross.
Driver reminds us that in the New Testament there are at least ten ways of describing the significance of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.
- The deliverance gate speaks of Christ's victory over the powers of darkness. Colossi ans 2:15 says that Christ defeated all powers and forces, letting the whole world see them being led away as prisoners when he celebrated his victory. For an example from the life of Jesus see the story of the man with many spirits (Legion) in Mark 5:1-20. People who are struggling with issues of sin, addiction and the power of evil (personal or corporate) may find this gate relevant to them.
- The suffering gate focuses on Christ's suffering for us, and meeting us in our times of suffering. 1 Peter 2:21-25 talks about Christ setting an example by suffering for us. Mark 5:24-34 illustrates Jesus bringing healing for a sick woman. In John 11 we read about Jesus grieving with those who were lamenting the death of Lazarus. It's through this gate that people who are experiencing personal suffering in their lives may first connect with Jesus.
- The leadership gate holds Jesus out to us as a representative person, pioneer, forerunner, leader and first-born, as 1 Corinthians 15:20-22 teaches. Luke 7:1-10 gives us the story of the centurion (Roman officer) who is inspired by Jesus' capacity to lead. People who have a calling in terms of leadership may identify with this image of Christ.
- The martyrdom gate reminds us of how Jesus laid down his life for us, as Jesus says in John 15:13. Revelation 12:11 shows people who were given courage to give up their lives, inspired by the sacrificial death of Jesus. For those who are fearful for their lives in a violent society the martyr-witness picture of Revelation 1:5f can show them how to live in the face of violence -- and even empower them to die for their faith.
- The transformation gate connects our new Christian life with the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. Zacchaeus, according to Luke 19:1-10, was transformed by his meeting with Jesus, in a way that changed the lives of those around him. Romans 12:1f reminds us that we are to go on being transformed. Our experience of God in Jesus can give us new goals, new hopes, and new dreams, helping us transform the world around us, praying "Your Kingdom come, on Earth as in Heaven."
- The cleansing gate gathers up the richness of Jewish Old Testament symbolism: the removal of 'uncleanness' through the shedding of blood. In this case, we're not talking about animal sacrifices. We're talking about the symbolic offering of Jesus as a way of dealing with sin and shame, as expressed in 1 John 1:7-2:2. Another more accessible symbol of cleansing is baptism, as expressed in 1 Peter 3:20f. Perhaps the most powerful stories of cleansing from the gospels would be Jesus' interactions with lepers, people whose skin diseases led to them being shunned as 'unclean.' Those struggling with shame can find in Jesus the chance for a new start, a clean page to begin again.
- The service gate captures the life of service we own to the One who purchased us from the slave-market of sin, as Galatians 4:5 teaches. Philemon gives a practical example of a slave who was learning what it meant to be a follower of Jesus. The earliest creed of the early Christian community was 'Jesus is Lord.' The life, death and resurrection of Jesus shows us the true nature of religion: service! See also James 1:27 and Isaiah 58 for what constitutes real religion -- the religion God approves of. The service gate may be good news for people who are searching for purpose, direction, calling, and affirmation of their commitment to serving others.
- The peace gate reminds us of how God turns his enemies into friends -- as Colossians 1:20-22 teaches. Don Richardson, a Canadian missionary, found that the Sawi people of Irian Jaya responded to Jesus as the sacrificial peacemaker, because of their custom of 'peace child', in which warring chiefs would exchange their sons as a 'peace child'. Jesus lived this out in this life as he crossed boundaries to make friends with people who had been excluded as outsiders. The early Church discovered the good news that following Jesus was available to people from different cultures. Christ has broken down every wall, says the writer of Ephesians. People struggling with broken relationships, or who feel alienated from God, may find this aspect of the cross the most powerful to begin with.
- The forgiveness gate speaks of the marvellous new relationship we have with God when we accept that the death of Christ has dealt with the impact of our sin. God doesn't treat us according to a list of our virtues and faults. Instead God regards us with grace, undeserved mercy. There is nothing we can do to earn that unconditional love. Romans outlines this approach to the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, reminding us that God's acceptance is received through an attitude of trust in Jesus.
- The family gate focuses on the wonderful family privileges we now enjoy through the life, death and resurrection of Christ. Galatians 4:3-7 reminds us of our adoption as God's children. The parable of the prodigal son, told in Luke 15:11-22, reminds us that even if we have wandered far from God, we are welcomed back into God's family. This is the gate most attractive to people who long for a sense of belonging, community and acceptance. It's the gate that means the most when it is backed up by a loving Christian community.
Of course there could be many other gates to the cross found in the New Testament and expressed in the Church today -- for example, we could talk about the truth gate, remembering that Jesus talked about being the way, the truth, and the life; or the freedom-fighter gate, where Jesus is shown to be the brother who gave his life to win us true freedom (earning himself and his family a guaranteed passage to paradise).
For those who have been told (perhaps your whole life) that there is only one true way of explaining Jesus' sacrifice, namely the "Way of the Master" taught by Kirk Cameron and Ray Comfort, see my (rough) article "Cracking the Ray-Vinci Code." Online: http://www.jonslack.com/rayvinchi.pdf
- Adapted from Bob Robinson, "Intro to Theology Course-book" (Unpublished: Laidlaw College, Christchurch, 2008).