Tag Archives: Gospel

The Gospel In Real Life

I am enjoying the current issue of Themelios. The article Do The Work of an Evangelist by D.A. Carson is truly excellent. It ties closely to the main theme of Armchair Theology so here is an excerpt with my commentary.

For some Christians, “the gospel” (equivalently, “the evangel”) is something you preach only to unconverted people. The gospel merely tips people into the kingdom; transformation and sanctification are sustained by discipleship. Once people become Christians, then the work of life transformation begins, often buttressed by various discipleship seminars: “Biblical Leadership,” “Learning to Pray,” “What to Do with Your Money,” “Christian Marriage,” and so forth—none of which falls under “gospel,” but only under post-gospel discipleship.

One of my main goals is to see the gospel applied to all life – especially growth in holiness:

In recent years, however, many preachers and theologians have convincingly argued that “gospel”/“evangel” is the larger category under which both evangelism and discipleship fall. In the NT, gospel is not everything—it is not law, for instance—but it is a very big thing, precisely because it is the unimaginably great news about what God is doing in and through King Jesus, especially in and through his cross and resurrection. A careful reading of Scripture shows how often Christian conduct is grounded in the gospel itself.

This was a game-changer for me a few years ago. Every time we see a command in the Bible it is prefaced with the gospel message. This isn’t limited to just the New Testament. Read Ex 20:2 and see how the ten commandments are prefaced with a message of God’s saving work for his people.

For instance, the gospel is to be obeyed (e.g., 2 Thess 1:8); certain behavior conforms to the gospel, while other behavior does not (1 Tim 1:10–11). Husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her (Eph 5:25)—transparently, this is a gospel appeal. In short, in the NT the gospel is preached both to unbelievers and to believers. It calls unbelievers to repentance and faith; it calls believers to ongoing faith and conformity to Jesus.

Gospel ministry is ministry that is faithful to the gospel, that announces the gospel and applies the gospel and encourages people to believe the gospel and thus live out the gospel.

Further Reading:

Getting Holiness Right

This is a follow-on to the previous post You’re Doing Holiness Wrong about the debate surrounding Tulian Tchividjian about living a holy life. That post presented the history of the discussion. This is my take on the matter.

Tchividjian’s Critics Are Missing His Point

It seems to me that some of Tchividjian’s critics believe he is teaching that obedience is unnecessary since Christ’s righteousness is imputed to us. That’s not the case.

Tchividjian’s point is this: We should obey God. The way we get the strength to obey God is by reflecting on the amazing grace of our justification.

In other words, we are empowered to obey God by the Spirit-induced realization that all our obedience was bought for us at the cross.

What’s Right, What’s Wrong

Tchividjian is correct: He is correct that the glory of the gospel gives amazes us and gives us strength to live holy lives.

Tchividjian is wrong: He is incorrect in saying that this is the only way God has provided for us to live holy lives.

Christians have more inspirations than justification.

There is more to sanctification than simply looking to the cross. Here is a partial list of the glories we look to to inspire our holiness:

  • Gazing on the glory of the cross empowers us.
  • Gazing on the glory of the empty tomb empowers us.
  • Gazing on the glory of our future heavenly home empowers us.
  • Gazing on the glory of Jesus himself empowers us.
  • Gazing on the glory of the mystery of the Trinity empowers us.
  • Gazing on the glory of Christ’s victory over Satan empowers us.
  • Gazing on the glory of Christ’s body, the Church, empowers us.

Christians have more empowerment than inspiration.

But we aren’t empowered only by looking at glorious things and feeling inspired. God has given us other strength in the fight:

  • We have power from the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
  • We have a new nature that is no longer enslaved to sin.
  • We have encouragement from our brothers and sisters in the Church.
  • We have the instruction of the Bible.
  • We have the strength of our own striving. (Yes, it’s okay to work hard at your sanctification, just not your justification.)

In the end, Tchividjian has hit on one facet of one part of our strength for holy living. His answer is correct as far as it goes but it’s simply incomplete. By hanging onto a doctrine of “empowerment by a single inspiration” he has:

  • missed many other inspirations within the same category and…
  • he has missed other categories of empowerment altogether.


I would be remiss to say that Tchividjian’s critics get him completely wrong. Two of DeYoung’s questions address the center of the issue:

2. Is there more than one motivation for holiness? Is preaching our acceptance in Christ and God’s free grace for sinners the only way to produce change in the Christian? Or are there many medicines for our motivation in godliness and many precious remedies against Satan’s devices?

6. Is sanctification by faith alone? We know that work has no place in justification, but what about in sanctification? Should we say that sanctification is monergistic or synergistic, or are these the wrong categories altogether? How are justification and sanctification different?

This is an ongoing conversation so don’t expect it to go away anytime soon.

So now it’s your turn: What other things has God given us to empower us to live holy lives pleasing to him?

Update: Tchividjian claims to have been kicked off the Gospel Coalition website and is now blogging elsewhere.

You’re Doing Holiness Wrong

“You’re doing holiness wrong.”

That’s the debate going on right now at The Gospel Coalition. In the center of the discussion is pastor Tullian Tchividjian, who has increasingly made comments that seem to border on antinomianism.

Antinomianism? That’s the idea that you the gospel frees us entirely (anti) from the law (nomos) and, once we are saved by Christ, we no longer have to obey it.

If that sounds familiar to you it’s probably because the apostle Paul had some strong words about it:

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
Rom 6:1–4

So, what’s the debate? Continue reading You’re Doing Holiness Wrong

Why I Believe the Resurrection

A look back on the most important event in history:

Why are you a Christian? Why is the building you attend church standing there? Why do we have centuries’ worth of hymns and books? Why is the Bible the best-selling book of all time?

Because we believe that in Jerusalem in the first century a man walked out of his grave.

But how can we prove that the resurrection happened? There was no video surveillance. There were no autopsy reports. All of the involved witnesses were biased.

Why do we believe Jesus rose from the dead?

Continue Reading

The Impossibility of “Fire Insurance” Faith

You take out fire insurance so that if, in the unlikely event that your house burns down, you’ll get your house back. You don’t really believe your house will burn down but you admit the possibility and prepare for the worse.

Sometimes you’ll hear Christians argue for “fire insurance” faith. What does it look like? You might try persuading your neighbor to become a Christian just in case there is a God. “What harm could it do,” you ask, “just to be safe?”

This is the modern-day outworking of Pascal’s wager: Continue reading The Impossibility of “Fire Insurance” Faith

The Love of God Was NOT Magnified

The recent controversy over the PC USA voting the contemporary hymn “In Christ Alone” isn’t surprising. A quick summary from Timothy George:

The Presbyterian Committee on Congregational Song to exclude from its new hymnal the much-loved song “In Christ Alone” by Keith Getty and Stuart Townend. The Committee wanted to include this song because it is being sung in many churches, Presbyterian and otherwise, but they could not abide this line from the third stanza: “Till on that cross as Jesus died/the wrath of God was satisfied.” For this they wanted to substitute: “…as Jesus died/the love of God was magnified.” The authors of the hymn insisted on the original wording, and the Committee voted nine to six that “In Christ Alone” would not be among the eight hundred or so items in their new hymnal.

The Bottom Line: They want to change “the wrath of God was satisfied” to “the love of God was magnified” because they find the idea of God the Father pouring out wrath for sin on God the Son objectionable.

On one hand, the news that a liberal Protestant denomination continues to act in a liberal way is not at all a shock and is just as newsworthy as the headline, “Pope found to be Catholic.”

On the other hand, it is a good moment for reflection:

  1. Why did Jesus need to die?
  2. Why did Jesus need to die on the cross?

Interestingly enough, the PC USA agrees with theological conservatives on the answer to the first question. It’s the second question, however, that finds us light years apart. And more importantly, calls into question the love of God. Continue reading The Love of God Was NOT Magnified

How Can Jesus’ Righteousness Be Ours?

This is the second in a two-part series asking the questions:

  1. How could Jesus justly be punished for our sin instead of us?
  2. How can we receive his reward?

We’ll use the same two terms again:

  • Propitiation – God poured out his wrath for our sin on Jesus and pardoned us.
  • Imputed Righteousness – Jesus’ righteousness is given to us.

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
2 Cor 5:21

Isn’t Forgiveness Enough?

If Jesus paid our debt for sin, why do we even need imputed righteousness?

The purpose of humanity is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. We don’t get to be with him to do that without having merit to stand before him. That merit is called righteousness.

Justification means properly no less than this, the being received by Him as if we had not grieved Him. It is not only, the being forgiven by Him. We do indeed as sinners most urgently need forgiveness, the remission of our sins, the putting away of the holy vengeance of God upon our rebellion. But we need more. We need the voice which says, not merely, you may go; you are let off your penalty; but, you may come; you are welcomed into My presence and fellowship.
– H. C. G. Moule, Justification by Faith

The Problem

Is the Father simply blind?

How could the Righteous Judge look at sinners and pretend that they had merited entrance into His family when they hadn’t? How could the Ancient of Days transfer the Son’s goodness to another party? Continue reading How Can Jesus’ Righteousness Be Ours?