“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.
What do I mean when I say Gospel? We read in 1 Corinthians:
“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, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all of the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me,” (1 Corinthians 15:3-8, ESV).
The gospel is good news and that good news is that Christ saves sinners through his death, burial, and resurrection.
I’ll admit I haven’t been consistent with my language when referring to the Gospel in the past. 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.”
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 adds 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.”
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. And we can also share it. To teach anything more than this is just legalism repackaged.