lawandgospel “Do the Gospel.”

“Live out the Gospel.”

Quoting St. Augustine saying, “preach the gospel, use words if necessary.”

I have to confess I’ve said those things in the past.  At the same time I have always rejected the idea that ministry to the poor, etc. is akin to being the gospel.  They are an implication of belief in the gospel, but they are not the gospel themselves.

But I’ll admit I haven’t been consistent with my language.  Why is this important?  Is my “living out the Gospel” the good news that people need to hear?  No.  If the Gospel is my living it out then that is bad news.  Why is that?  Because everybody will have inconsistency in their fruit of repentance.  We are not perfect.  We will never be perfect.  We will always have a tendency to be hypocritical on occasion.

Dr. Michael Horton in his book Christless Christianity: The Alternative Gospel of the American Church points out.

We do not preach ourselves but Christ.  The good news – not only for ourselves, but for a world (and church) in desperate need of good news – is that what we say preaches better than our lives, at least if what we are saying is Christ’s person and work rather than our own.  The more we talk about Christ as the Bible’s unfolding mystery and less about our own transformation, the more likely we are actually to be transformed rather than either self-righteousness or despairing.  As much as it goes against our grain, the gospel is the power of God unto salvation for justification and sanctification.  The fruit of faith is real; it’s just not the same as the fruit of works-righteousness, (pg. 118).

Hypocrisy exists because we as Christians, as Horton states, “will always be simultaneously saint and sinner… The good news is that Christ saves us from hypocrisy too.”  Hypocrisy almost always is seen when we point to ourselves rather than Christ however.  Horton states when churches get what is gospel and what is law confused it is tragic

The worst thing that can happen to the church is to confuse law and gospel.  When we soften the law, we never give up on our own attempts to offer our rags of “righteousness” to God.  When we turn the gospel into demands, it is no longer the saving Word of redemption in Jesus Christ alone, (pg. 122).

We can’t “live” the gospel.  We can’t “do” the Gospel.  We can’t “be” the Gospel.  We can believe the Gospel and then in spirit-led obedience and dependence live out the fruit of repentance because we can’t any other way.  To teach anything more than this is just legalism repackaged.

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  1. The truth of the gospel. That is what we need. The balance between law and gospel is clear when the gospel is clear. The balance that does not cause legalism, works righteousness, or antinomianism. It is an easy balance when scripture is studied and clear. Unfortunately, because of 'Lost Soul of American Protestantism', we try to define God on our terms, in our human understanding.

    Must say, rather than the Lutheran 'Law and Gospel', I prefer the reformed 'Guilt Grace and Gratitude'. So many Lutherans I know are antinomians. I happen to know the Lutherans that are influential in American Missouri Synod Lutheranism.

    Our good works do not contribute to our salvation, but rather are the outworking of it. It is Christ that works in and through us, not we ourselves.

  2. the Jewish point of view is that hypocrisy is what led to the fall of the second temple.

    “Justice may not be deliberately blind. Gittin 58a this is from the Talmud: Rabbi Johanan Jerusalem was destroyed because the people acted evilly within the law. A story illustrates it: a former apprentice who had become rich was enamored of his master's wife. She returned his love and often visited him by stealth. Once the master needed money and informed his erstwhile apprentice of this. The latter offered to lend him the money and suggested that the master send his wife for it.

    They remained together for three days, and just as she left her lover, the husband arrived, inquiring for his wife. “She left me within the hour of her arrival,” said the apprentice. “But I have heard a rumor that she has been unfaithful to you.” “What shall I do?” asked the master. “Divorce her” said the apprentice. “But her marriage settlement is large, and since it is only a rumor, I must pay it.” “I shall advance you the money,” said the apprentice. As soon as the divorce was effective, the paramour married the woman. Soon he sued his former master for the money, and the latter, being unable to pay it, was compelled to agree to work off his debt by labor. While he waited at the table, his tears trickled down his cheeks and fell into the cups of wine he was serving. Then it was that decree was sealed in Heaven that Jerusalem should be destroyed.

    No actual crime had been committed, it was entirely legal as to procedure, and well within the law, yet it merited a harsher penalty than an actual crime would have brought on.”

  3. About hypocrisy.. I heard it said a few months ago that..

    1) We know that we are hypocrites..
    2) Unbelievers know that we are hypocrites..
    3) We act like we do not know that we are hypocrites.

    IMO, being transparent and vulnerable about our shortcomings around unbelievers helps them to understand that the gospel is not about being good enough or anything else self righteous.

  4. Part of the problem in regards to hypocracy, all goes back to the lack of understanding of the gospel. We tell people, come to Christ, with your sin, and then we give them a list of does and don'ts. I think that we are all sinners, and a correct understanding of that as in the Horton quote “simultaneously justified and sinner. . ” will help to explain. But self righteousness is what so many outside of the church. That is what Christ spoke against when he told off the pharisees. We need to guard ourselves from it.

  5. With the list of dos and don'ts… people have this mentality then… “well I'll just try harder…” Well we can't. Christ does the work in and through us. We have His righteousness, not our own.

    Often Christians don't communicate that, and become prideful thinking that they are demonstrating righteousness themselves.

    So often our message is seen as the Gospel plus ___________ (you fill in the blank).

  6. Shane, I respect how deeply you are thinking on these issues but I have to disagree with you here. You must certainly can “live the Gospel,” or rather, you can try!

    I have to preface this by saying that I am speaking more broadly, more colloquially than you. I can't say that there is anything theologically incorrect about this post, but it reads like you are forgetting how obscure theology is to the average Christian. When you average guy on the street says that so and so is living the Gospel, he means that so and so is striving to walk the path of Jesus, with all the theological implications such as original sin and so forth.

    So what is the purpose of splitting hairs about something like this, really? Do the “self help” sort of Christians really pose that much of a threat, by placing the emphasis on the practical side of Christ's message rather than the doctrinal?

    Take, for example, the centurion with the sick slave who came to Jesus in Matthew 8:5-13. Even when a pagan came to Jesus in faith and humility he was received. So is the theology really that significant?

    Isn't the a greater risk that this sort of bickering of minutiae is ultimately insignificant to salvation, which is open even to people who have no such capacity for understanding theology. And worse, when quibbling over minor theological points at the expense of good works, isn't there a danger it will turn people away from God?

  7. I must admit, I am a bit confused by both your post and the comments left in response. Wondering if you have read the accounts of the Holy Martyrs and what you think of that.

    I am trying to figure out your theology as a whole, Shane. I'm not sure what “the Gospel” means to you yet. I'm trying, though. A little help?

    I mean this in all love and sincerity. I am totally confused by your post. Would love you to elaborate, if possible.

  8. To understand the terms being used – one must understand what 'law' is – or this legalism term being bantered about.

    Law really isn't a bad thing – unless the law is held in a position to harm others. As is the story that Noah shared. Just like we have people that abuse the law in our countries to the detriment of others – law can be used callously.

    But the gospel – basically meaning simply 'good news' – is about what exactly? I am not even sure I see a complete relation of that term to the law in all honesty – Paul makes that contention in his letters – but then again – we are dealing with someone what was quite extreme in his views by his own admission (with interpreting the law). So he jumps to another extreme concerning his view of it.

    The gospels – outside of John of course – say very little about the 'bad news' of the law or seeing it in such a demeaning light. And why should they – law is normal in human civilizations and the good news is not directly related to the law in all regards.

  9. First this post is directed toward Christians.

    The best summary of what the Gospel is… “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4, ESV).

    My point is you can share this news, you can believe it, but you can't live it.

    I've seen much emphasis on “living the Gospel” that it is never actually shared. In 2 Corinthians 5:20 Paul writes, “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”

    Romans 10:14-15 – “But how are they to call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, 'How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!'”

    Anyway, I'm not saying don't serve or don't love. We should, but let's not confuse it with sharing the gospel.

    Not quite sure of the point you are making with John 8.

    Regarding theology – isn't the message of the Cross theology?

  10. What I mean by Gospel is the good news that Jesus Christ died for our sins and rose again, and those who place their faith in Him will be saved.

    1 Corinthians 15:3-4 provides a great summary.

    So that's it in a nutshell.

    My basic point was that it can be believed and shared, but not something “we do.”

    As far as my theology goes –

  11. Not saying “the law” is bad news. You and I disagree on the nature of man. Basically the law condemns us. The law itself isn't bad news, but the fact that we can't measure up to God's standards and be justified.

  12. Since the Bible is the word of God, building on that premise, it is the law that drives us to Christ.

  13. As, I have said in earlier posts I am Lutheran (ELCA) and Law and Gospel were and are one of Luther's main points. In many Bible Study classes that I have been involved in we use the Law/Gospel idea as a starting point to our discussions. Example “Where is the Law in thins passage, where is the Gospel?” I have used this a lot in my own personal studies as well. I think, and correct me if I am wrong, what Shane is talking about in this article is the fact that some people are so busy sharing and talking about is what Jesus has done for them and not about what Jesus will do for the person that they are talking to. Jesus did not command us to go into the world and talk about ourselves. He commanded that we share about Him and what He has done for us in His death and resurection.

    Shane, I must say that the more posts I read regarding this book the more interested I am becoming. Even as a lay person I am feeling really compelled to find this book and give it a good read. Keep up the amazing work!

  14. “You and I disagree on the nature of man” (Shane)

    Maybe – but that has nothing to do with the law (unless we are talking about how the law functions as a set of rules to help us control our behavior and set limits).

    “Basically the law condemns us. The law itself isn't bad news, but the fact that we can't measure up to God's standards and be justified.” (Shane)

    Then your use of the law is awkward – IMO. Since when is the law a measuring stick for perfection – and if so – where in the Torah is this standard given? Normal understanding of the law is nothing like that – law is nothing like that in fact.

    For example, we have a law in our countries – that we swear to keep – based on our constitutions. Now the laws are based on the constitution – the constitution actually contains the ‘framework/foundation’ to start from – then we get more detailed laws from there…of which we are bound to as long as we are citizens of said country. Is this process bad per se? Is the law demanding perfection from us?

    No. And this is how the Torah (the constitution) also functions concerning Law(s).

    What law has to do with the gospel is quite beyond me. Gospel = good news; Torah = Law (from God also) – and the law functions to set a barrier for a human civilization to function ‘within’ – for the benefit of all members of the community (all follow the same rules so no one is above or less than). Gospel has nothing to do with that whatsoever – unless it is giving new rulings on Jewish law to prescribe to (from a rabbi). The gospel functions as an internal law at best – and maybe that’s Paul point to Gentiles.

    Also, it’s setting up a fake standard (perfection) and then criticizing people once they cannot meet that standard…and since you have a low view of humanity (born sinful) you should find it very unfair God functions like this (God is the hypocrite in this scenario – condemning humans on something they cannot change).

    “Since the Bible is the word of God, building on that premise, it is the law that drives us to Christ.” (Colleen)

    The law had nothing to do with driving me to Jesus – and I repeat – nothing. Prior to faith my life was in some serious shambles and needed direction, guidance, someone to care, etc. When I found the good news it had nothing to do with the Jewish law for me – it had everything to do with love and acceptance – finding someplace that cared (a community). Last thing I could think about was ‘being perfect’ and ‘how I failed according to some Jewish Law’ – I needed some serious help – not some accusations (that is not good news – the good news is we ‘are loved’ and ‘accepted’).

  15. The point I was trying to make about the centurion is that he was a pagan, he didn't know the difference between law or Gospel and hardly knew anything about the finer points of Christianity, yet Jesus praised him over the so-called believer: “I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.”

    Your theology may be perfect but it's not going to do you any good if you aren't coming to God with a sincere and humble heart. Maybe you can't “live the Gospel” but you can at least try, and what good does it do to pick a fight with somebody about petty semantics? In this respect I think there is a real danger presented by theology, that the more erudite Christians will look down their noses at their more simple minded brethren.

    Is the message of the Cross theology? I would say emphatically that it is not!

  16. why would you not say that the message about Jesus' death, burial and resurrection is not theology?

    The atonement and what it accomplishes for us. Soteriology is certainly theology.

    All that theology is – is the study of God. We can know God propositionally.

    Knowing what that Jesus died for me for my sins is theology.

    Again, I'm not saying don't serve and don't do good works. Certainly we are commanded to love our neighbor as ourselves, but don't mistake doing that for the Gospel. That can open up sharing the Gospel with others, but it isn't the Gospel itself.

    Jesus praised the Centurion for his faith. Absolutely, and again who did he have faith in? Good works or Jesus?

    Listen. You are right that we need to come to God with a humble and sincere heart, (Matthew 5) you can't come to him any other way. We serve and love out of a love relationship with Jesus in dependence upon Him to accomplish His work through us.

    I just think you are missing my point. Love, serve, but realize that we aren't the Gospel. I like the comment Eileen made, and perhaps it will provide some clarity as well –

  17. Actually God is the measuring stick, and we don't and can't measure up. Also I'm speaking of the Law from the Christian POV so it is expanded beyond the Torah, but also would include commands that Jesus gives.

    People can't measure up to God's law. They can't do it perfectly. That's sin. That is why the Jews had the sacrificial system. In Leviticus 16, describing the Day of Atonement is a foreshadow of what Jesus did on the Cross. One goat is slaughtered satisfying God's wrath – propitiation, and one goat the high priest lays his hands on the goat, confess the sins of Israel and then send it into the wilderness – the scapegoat – symbolically taking away the sins of Israel – expiation.

    Jesus fulfills that once and for all on the Cross, by being our propitiation satisfying God's wrath as our substitute and then our expiation by taking away our sins. His resurrection proves the effectiveness of His sacrifice. Those who believe in Jesus' death and resurrection, confess Him as Lord (repent) and receive Him by faith, (Romans 10:9; John 1:12-13) can experience forgiveness of sin and thus be born again.

    Again my point isn't that the Law is bad. We just can't measure up to it. Romans 3:19-20 speaks to my point about the Law, “Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For by the works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, sin through the law comes knowledge of sin.”

    Then following that up Romans 3:21-26, too long for me to type, but you can look it up.

    God isn't a hypocrite. He is God, He is Perfect. We are not. He is loving in that He provided the ultimate sacrifice in Jesus so that we don't have to pay that penalty ourselves.

    I resonate with your story. I didn't have people pointing out my problems, but I knew that I had them. I learned that in Jesus I could have eternal life and an abundant life through His work on the Cross, that's the good news.

  18. I know there are theological concepts at play even on a basic level, but I really see it as a practical distinction between the kind of Christianity you can explain to a child versus the higher theology that most people never really delve into.

    My point about the centurion is that he was a pagan, he had no idea about Christ, since Christianity wasn't even invented yet. I mean, Christ hadn't even taken up the cross yet, and as a pagan he problem hadn't given up his belief in many gods or at least would be unfamiliar with the finer points of monotheism. So what exactly did the centurion have faith in? I think, if I remember my theology correctly, this sort of thing is what you might call a baptism of grace.

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