Important Messages

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Can we "Live the Gospel?"

1 Corinthians 15: 1-5Now I would remind you, brothers,[a] of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. 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.

Have you ever heard someone say we need to "live the gospel"? Have you ever been encouraged by a pastor or friend to "live the gospel"? Chances are you have. But is that possible? Do you ever hear that in Scripture? It sounds nice, but if you think about it, it really represents what I believe is a great misunderstanding of the true gospel, its power, and its purpose in saving souls. And this misunderstanding is important because it has a direct impact on the eternal destiny of people. When people truly believe that they can somehow "live the gospel" their lives become more marked by trying to do good works rather than obeying the call to simply proclaim the gospel. In the end, the Christian church becomes almost indistinguishable from Mormons, JWs, Catholics and any other humanitarian group dedicated to doing acts of service. Should we do acts of service? Of course! But without the proclamation of the gospel, that is all they are, acts of service.

Only one Being can live the Gospel and only one Being has lived the gospel; Jesus Christ. Part of living the gospel involves complete fulfillment of the Law, which only Christ can do. The other part of living the gospel is dying as the propitiating sacrifice for the sins of the world, being buried for three days and rising from the dead. Only Christ can do that. Only Christ has done that. Encouraging someone to "live the gospel", while it sounds nice, makes about as much doctrinal sense as encouraging someone to walk on water or feed the 5,000 with 2 loaves and 5 fish.

One of the most disturbing parts of Christians encouraging one another to "live the gospel" is when they say that, they often attach it to doing "good works". They relate service projects, or giving someone a cup of cold water, or feeding the homeless, or building houses, or doing relief work or [insert act of service] to "living the gospel". This is dangerous, because by themselves, those acts have no power to save anyone. This is dangerous because what you wind up with is Christians who love to do good works and never proclaim the gospel because they think that by their works they are in fact "proclaiming the gospel."

In an article about the relationship between the Law and the Gospel, Michael Horton touched on this topic:

For instance, we often hear calls to "live the Gospel," and yet, nowhere in Scripture are we called to "live the Gospel." Instead, we are told to believe the Gospel and obey the Law, receiving God's favor from the one and God's guidance from the other. The Gospel--or Good News--is not that God will help us achieve his favor with his help, but that someone else lived the Law in our place and fulfilled all righteousness. Others confuse the Law and Gospel by replacing the demands of the Law with the simple command to "surrender all" or "make Jesus Lord and Savior," as if this one little work secured eternal life.

This is why it is so important to structure our activities according to what we see in Scripture. If you don't, it is easy to get caught up in doing things that make you feel good but ultimately leave people around you hopeless without the true gospel. When it comes to the gospel, we are called to proclaim it to all creation. We cannot live the gospel, but we can live in light of the gospel. When we do that, true gospel proclamation will be our primary concern, our acts of service will be secondary. That, I believe, is the proper order of things according to Scripture.

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