TWO WAYS WE GET THE GOSPEL WRONG, ONE WAY TO GET IT RIGHT by Timothy W. Massaro for Core Christianity
Christians tend to fall into two variations of the same error. Some confuse the work of God for human action or cultural achievements, or they pit God’s saving work against all human action or virtue. As odd sounding as it is, God’s work in Christ is undermined by both approaches making Christ only half a Savior.
Jesus not only frees us from the guilt of sin but also of its power in our lives. God makes us into new creatures in his Son and enables us to walk according to the grace of God. The gospel we find in God’s Word is greater than we imagine.
Contributing to Salvation or Standing on the Sidelines?
On one end of the spectrum, you find many people who believe they are in some sense contributing or adding to Christ’s redeeming work. Whether it is personal virtue, or human culture, or even the church itself, Christ’s work is incomplete. We have to add something to it. Either through a perfect act of faith or penance, we remove the burden of our own guilt. Somehow, we put God into our debt, “meeting” him half way. Or so we think. But this is not grace.
On the other end of the spectrum, you may find people who extol the grace of God but to the neglect of God’s work within us. Many people who have grown up in legalistic homes or environments don’t know what to make of the Christian life. There is little room for virtue or moral examples, habits or disciplines.
When Christians who have grown up in this environment come to a fresh understanding of the gospel of free grace, they don’t know what to make of God’s work within us. Anything that sounds like a duty is met with resentment.
God’s Word challenges both views. We find something very different in the gospel of grace. We should not seek to remove the good habits or practices from the Christian life. Rather, we need to see them in their proper place and order. The new life we have in Christ is far greater than we often consider.