Posted by: Moses | October 19, 2010

The Gospel in Life

In May of 1940, the Axis forces cornered more than 300,000 allied troops on the beaches of Dunkirk. On May 26th Winston Churchill rallied the House of Commons to launch a rescue operation that that mobilized more than 700 merchant and military vessels to rescue 338,000 troops by transporting them across the English Channel. The soldiers needed boats; without them they had no hope. Now imagine that one of those soldiers, stranded without any hope but surrender, boarded a boat bound for England. However as the boat pulled out into the channel, this particular soldier decided that the help to launch was enough, so he dived out of the boat in full gear and began swimming the channel.

To think of the Gospel as merely the beginning of the Christian life is like thinking of the Dunkirk rescue as merely the launch from the beach. The boat is necessary the whole way across. To move away from the centrality of the Gospel in the Christian life at any point is as unfathomable as diving off the boat. Paul fleshes this truth out in his letter to the Galatian churches. Men had come into the Galatian church and encouraged them to add Judaism to their faith in Jesus. Paul asks them incredulously, “Who has bewitched you . . . Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh” (Gal 3:1–3)? Having begun in the boat, will we swim the rest of the way across? Christianity is not a bait and switch. God does not draw us in by faith alone only to switch it up on us and make us work to earn the rest of our salvation. Everything in the Christian life, whether conversion or the continual fight against sin, is by faith in the Gospel (Rom 1:16-17).

Later, Paul wrote to remind the Corinthians “of the gospel I preached to you, which you received” (2 Cor 15:1). He wanted them to remember a past event in which they heard the content of the gospel and accepted it. However, Paul does not end with reminiscence. He says to the Corinthians that the same gospel, which they received, is the same gospel “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” (1 Cor 15:1-2). The Corinthians not only received the gospel but also stood in the power of the gospel as the Spirit sanctified them. They were currently being saved—made to be like Jesus—by the gospel!

Unlike the soldiers of Dunkirk, we do not passively ride our way to heaven. Though we depend on the Gospel for all of our life in Christ, we are not just waiting for the end of the trip. Philippians 2:12-13 commands believers to “work out their own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” Faith produces fruit (Js 2:17). We have a responsibility to follow Christ (1 Jn 2:5-6), to drag other swimming soldiers into the boat before they drown. However, we must recognize that God gets all the glory for our labor because of the faith and motives that He put within us. We always depend on Grace. At the end of the Book, God gives a vision of an angel flying over the earth “with an eternal gospel to proclaim to those who dwell on earth, to every nation and tribe and language and people. And he said with a loud voice, ‘Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come, and worship him who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water’” (Rev 14:6–7). The soldiers eventually reached England and stood on their own two feet. We will never stand in our own righteousness before God. Our life is hid with Christ forever, bound up only in the hope of the eternal gospel.

If you would like to read the underlying scriptural argument, click below. (It says the same thing, just in a dry logical presentation with much more scriptural support and less illustration).

The gospel—the good news of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection—forms the basis for our new birth and also our whole life in Christ. God chose to redeem those who deserved no mercy, Christ paid the penalty for our sins, and the Holy Spirit gave us faith and repentance when we still hated God. This gospel of unmerited grace applies to all of life. As Christians, we never leave the gospel.

The gospel is the foundation for our birth, our justification[1] before God. Paul’s thesis to the book of Romans reads, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Rom 1:16). However, Paul does not use the term “salvation” in the same way that many Christians do today. For Paul, Salvation is not a point in time when one first prayed to God in faith, but a full-orbed description of a believer’s life from first belief to final glory. In the very next verse Paul alludes to this saying that “in it [the gospel] the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, ‘The righteous shall live by faith’” (Rom 1:17). The gospel reveals God’s righteousness in the life of someone who lives by faith alone. The gospel begins with faith and it produces faith; the believer’s life is all by faith. At the conclusion of his letter, Paul prays that God would strengthen the Romans according to the gospel (Rom 16:25). From beginning to end, Romans reveals a gospel of grace in all of life.

Galatians is more tightly focused than Romans, exploring in detail the specific relationship of the gospel to both Justification and Sanctification[2]. Men had come into the Galatian church and encouraged them to add the works of Judaism to their faith in Jesus. Paul asks them incredulously, “Who has bewitched you . . . Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh” (Gal 3:1–3)? In introducing his letter he described beginning with faith in the gospel and then continuing in a different fashion as “so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and . . . turning to a different gospel” (Gal 1:6–7). In his letter to the Colossians, after giving thanks for them, Paul comments that they had heard all this before “in the word of the truth, the gospel, which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and growing—as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth” (Col 1:5-6). Here the gospel itself is described as “bearing fruit and growing” among the Colossians from the day they believed until Paul’s letter.

All of this truth of the gospel in life is not merely academic. The New Testament sounds a clarion call that every believer must genuinely live out the gospel in the power of the Spirit (Gal 5). We are called to live like Christ did, some of us even called to die as Christ did. John goes so far as to say that living out the gospel is quintessential to the Christian saying that “by this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.” (1 Jn 2:5–6). Remember that the gospel is the good news about Jesus life, death, and resurrection. We do not get to pick and choose to believe in the efficacy of Jesus’ death and resurrection and ignore our calling to walk as he did. In Paul’s words you must “let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ . . . standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel” (Phil 1:28). We are called to live out the gospel even down to Christ’s suffering and forgiveness. In Matthew 18:21-35 Jesus cannot conceive of a believer who does not forgive others. Jesus does not believe in Christians like that. Genuine faith in the gospel always penetrates our lives. Faith that does not produce faith is not faith at all (Js 2:17).

One verse in particular sums up beautifully the place of the gospel in the whole life of a believer. Paul begins a discussion of the importance of the resurrection by describing the gospel’s function in our lives. He writes to remind the Corinthians “of the gospel I preached to you, which you received.” He wants them to remember a past event in which they heard the content of the gospel and accepted it as God’s truth. However, Paul does not end with reminiscence. He says to the Corinthians that the same gospel, which they received, is the same gospel “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” (1 Cor 15:1-2). The Corinthians not only received the gospel but presently stand in the power of the gospel as the Spirit sanctifies them. What is more they are currently being saved, made to be like Jesus, by the gospel! Just as Jesus stressed the necessity of the gospel’s penetration of our lives, Paul exhorts them to hold fast to the gospel, lest they prove that they never truly believed by falling away.

This gospel never gets old. Faith in the good news that God has made us right with Him is the same truth that continues to sustain us in that right relationship with him forever. We never cease to rest in grace.  The gospel works within us an eternal thanksgiving. At the end of the Book, God gives a vision of an angel flying over the earth “with an eternal gospel to proclaim to those who dwell on earth, to every nation and tribe and language and people. And he said with a loud voice, “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come, and worship him who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water” (Rev 14:6–7). The gospel is not just for justification, not just for sanctification, but for the eternal worship and glorification of God in all of life.


[1] The New Birth, the point in time when God acquitted you of your guilt before Him based upon the merit’s of Christ’s work on the cross and His gift of faith to you.

[2] The New Life, the continual process by which the Spirit actively prompts and aids us to fight our sin in God’s power and to pursue a love for God and our neighbors.

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