The Gospel can't be lived. It's the Law that's lived.

Discussion in 'Calvinism & The Doctrines of Grace' started by Pergamum, Jan 27, 2011.

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  1. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    What do y'all think about this particular statement?
  2. seajayrice

    seajayrice Puritan Board Sophomore

    I think the gospel is being contorted.
  3. PuritanCovenanter

    PuritanCovenanter Moderator Staff Member

    How is the Gospel being bent out of shape? Where do you seeing it being bent out of shape? That would be a good place to start.
  4. Grimmson

    Grimmson Puritan Board Sophomore

    If you really want to know what I think then here it is. One can only live within two states. One could either be positionally in the law, or positionally in the gospel. There is no middle state, for if one wanted to live according to the law and not according to the grace of the gospel, then one is spitting in the face of Christ and his sacrifice on the cross. The gospel brings life and liberty from the law so that one can serve and please God. Therefore the gospel must be lived, if life truly comes from it, compared to the law that must bring death, a death that our Savior experienced on our behalf on the cross as he experienced the wrath of God the Father. This does not mean that we are to be antinomians, because thanks to the Gospel we are changed by the Spirit to love God with the desire to please our Lord. It is not a freedom to do whatever we want in sin however, but in instead a direct result of our changed nature. We are not living according to the law when we try to please God, but are actively in the state of grace being transformed to the image of the Son in our sanctification by the Holy Spirit. Therefore if we are living according to the gospel, in other words living the Gospel, then we are not living the works of the Law or living the Law, because Christ did that for us. For you see it is impossible for anyone other then Christ to live the law and live, because all have sinned in Adam and have fallen short of the glory of God. It is only by the Gospel that one can truly live.
  5. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Is it fair to say that we live by the power of the Gospel and live a life in conformity with the third use of the law (by the power of the Gospel)? Or is it better to say that we live "in the Gospel"

    What about this Tim Keller quote:

    And how about this Tim Keller clip:

    YouTube - The Gospel, Moralism, and Irreligion

    It seems that some theologians and even the NT uses the word Gospel in a broader sense beyond merely referring to that cluster of things to be believed. The Gospel is used to denote the power of the new life. Thus, we live by the Gospel and not by the law and even our law-keeping is Gospel-driven. This enlarged definition of Gospel seems to be in vogue and stressed nowadays, but it does seem biblical.

    In the clip and in the NT it appears that the Gospel is how we live. We live out the Gospel in our lives. Of course, grace is lawful, but we are not living the law but living the Gospel according to Tim Keller, and according to the Apostle Paul, if I understand him right. If people are denying that grace is lawful or is antinomian that is another issue, but the phraseology of "Living the Gospel" is fine.

    It sounds like the quote, "The Gospel can't be lived. It's the Law that's lived" is advocating a moralistic approach.

    ---------- Post added at 12:46 PM ---------- Previous post was at 12:33 PM ----------

    If Hortons’ quote is true is it appropriate that many modern ministries use phrases such as “The Gospel for all of Life” – shouldn’t it be then, the Gospel to get you saved so that you can live by the law?

    I don't understand, is Horton afraid of antinomianism?
  6. CharlieJ

    CharlieJ Puritan Board Junior

    Well, the statement, whether right or wrong, does follow from the premises that Gospel = what God does for me, and Law = what I am supposed to do for God. I do believe that way of speaking is common in Lutheranism, and I'll look it up when I get the chance, but I believe Calvin also sanctioned it, although he usually uses Law and Gospel to refer to differing dispensations.
  7. seajayrice

    seajayrice Puritan Board Sophomore

    No, I was not commenting on the statement in question, more so the current fascination with redefining the meaning of the gospel. By claiming the gospel to be something we do, we would seemingly add to the finished work of Christ – I thought the gospel is His work alone, right? The statement must be viewed in context to better analyze what the words truly mean, as the author intended them to mean.
  8. JP Wallace

    JP Wallace Puritan Board Sophomore

    This stuff makes my head hurt. Surely we can agree on this much?

    When Paul is writing to the Galatians and says

    Galatians 1:8, 9 “8 But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.”

    ..he is referring to the message/doctrines of the Gospel i.e that salvation is by grace alone, in Christ alone, through faith alone. He does not have in view himself or his lifestyle, his obedience, his righteousness, all of which would have backed up or evidences the power and efficacy of the Gospel. Thus surely we can all agree that fundamentally the Gospel is the message that though we are depraved and cursed from conception, destined for Hell, that through faith in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ we can be saved and inherit eternal life.

    Now what place does our Gospel-fueled life and testimony have? Would this be a good text to discuss in that regard.

    1 Peter 3:15 “15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear;”

    Righteous living does not seem to work, on its own, we still must give a defense to those who ask of the hope that is in us. What is the source of our hope? The Gospel, the power of Christ to save and change lives, give peace under any circumstance. But we would not point to our righteousness and holy living as our hope would we? Our hope is in our Redeemer what he has done....left to ourselves there is no good Christ there is good news; we can be redeemed. A righteous holy life of obedience evidences the power of the Gospel but it is not the Gospel itself.

    All this to say that I'm pretty surprised that this gets as much talk as it is getting. For years and years when I was a child, when I was a teenager I knew what the Gospel was - that sinners can be saved by Christ. Is that still not enough for us? I'm not familiar enough with WHI to say whether they're a tad imbalanced in some regards in relation to law and Gospel but at my simplistic level the Gospel needs no discussion and it makes me very uncomfortable when folks starting pointing to anything/anyone other than what Christ has done and saying this is the good news...this is the Gospel.

    RBCBob gave a very good list of texts which few people picked up on regarding this discussion in a previous thread. He did it again in the Pyromaniacs thread and only one person noticed.

    Notwithstanding Horton or WHI, from my perspective there is something wrong with the above quote from Keller, it genuinely troubles me and the perspective that agrees with him troubles me;

    "But the Gospel is, 'if you are absolutely accepted, and sure you’re accepted, only then will you ever begin to obey'. Those are two utterly different things. Every page of the Bible shows the difference."

    I just can't get my head around that...the good news to man is not that you're accepted, but that you can be accepted in Christ and in Christ alone, and when you are accepted then you will be so united to Christ and indwelt by the Spirit that you will be able to obey.

    Now can you live the Gospel? I'd say no, but the Gospel lives in us the true Sheep of Christ. Those two things are radically and importantly different. To say I am living the Gospel is to equate my life with what Christ has done for sinners. However, to say that the Gospel lives in me, is to say that my life is a testimony to the power of the Gospel.

    I provided this quote in a previous thread as well and repeat it here. From Machen's Christianity and Liberalism,

    "Christ died for our sins," said the primitive disciples, "according to Scripture; he was buried; he has been raised on the third day according to the Scriptures." From the beginning, the Christian gospel, as indeed the name "gospel" or "good news" implies, consisted in an account of something that had happened. And from the beginning, the meaning of the happening was set forth; and when the meaning was set forth then there was a Christian doctrine. "Christ died" - that is history; "Christ died for our sins" - that is doctrine. Without these two elements, joined in an absolutely indissoluble union, there is no Christianity."

    If WHI are limiting the Gospel is such a way as it is merely historic truth and not linking in the FOR US,..they're wrong, but I think it is equally wrong to point to anything else than Christ AS OUR HOPE and THE GOOD NEWS. The Gospel is not me.

    Here is Mark Dever's definition of the Gospel quoted from "The Gospel and Personal Evangelism"

    “Here is what I understand the good news to be: the good news is that the one and only God, who is holy, made us in his image to know him. But we sinned and cut ourselves off from him. In his great love, God became a man in Jesus, lived a perfect life, and died on the cross, thus fulfilling the law himself and taking on himself the punishment for the sins of all those who would ever turn and trust in him. He rose again from the dead, showing that God accepted Christ’s sacrifice and that God’s wrath against us had been exhausted. He now calls us to repent of our sins and to trust in Christ alone for our forgiveness. If we repent of our sins and trust in Christ, we are born again into a new life, an eternal life with God. Now that is good news.”

    That seems to me the time-proved saving truth.

    Romans 1:16-17 “16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.”
  9. TimV

    TimV Puritanboard Botanist

    I always thought that was one of the purposes of the law......I wonder how Keller would change the catechism's definition of sin. "Sin is any lack conformity to, or transgression of, some complicated sentence with too many words".
  10. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    TImv: So you disagree with Keller's quote and video?
  11. TimV

    TimV Puritanboard Botanist

    I don't read Keller or watch his videos as he makes me stumble with anger. But as to the quote

    And Calvin

    1.By "exhibiting the righteousness of God, — in other words, the righteousness which alone is acceptable to God, — it admonishes every one of his own unrighteousness, certiorates, convicts, and finally condemns him."
    2.It acts "by means of its fearful denunciations and the consequent dread of punishment, to curb those who, unless forced, have no regard for rectitude and justice."
    3."The third use of the Law. . .has respect to believers in whose hearts the Spirit of God already flourishes and reigns. ... For it is the best instrument for enabling them daily to learn with greater truth and certainty what that will of the Lord is which they aspire to follow, and to confirm them in this knowledge..."

    I mean, is that really radical? That a, well pretty big reason the Bible spends so much time on how we are to live is that, gasp, God wants us to know how we should live?
  12. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Tim V:

    Your stumbling at Keller makes me curious (maybe a topic for another thread).

    But Keller, Piper, Mahaney and Jerry Bridges all say things like, "The Gospel is for believers" and "Believers, too, need the Gospel" and that "Believers are also saved by the Gospel."

    So, it appears that these folks say that we live by the Gospel (of course, this gospel is lawful I would presume).

    Would you contest this phraseology as wrong?
  13. Romans922

    Romans922 Puritan Board Professor

    The Scriptures principally teach what man is to believe concerning God and what duty God requireth of man.
  14. CharlieJ

    CharlieJ Puritan Board Junior

    Pergy, I think for Horton, the prepositions matter. There's a difference between drinking from a faucet and drinking a faucet. :)

    Those authors you've cited all make much of the indicative/imperative relationship. The imperative (Law?) is founded on the indicative (Gospel?). The indicative gives one the spiritual power, the motivation to go live the imperative. I think you know all this. So, if you equate Law/Gospel with indicative/imperative, then it all makes sense. Logically speaking, you can't obey an indicative. It's what is. You can, however, obey an imperative. So, for them it would not be living the Gospel, but living out of the Gospel.

    So, I think the pertinent questions are:

    1) Can gospel/law be mapped directly onto indicative/imperative?

    2) If so, are there other valid meanings of law and gospel?

    3) If so, how do we speak about them all in a clear manner?
    Last edited: Jan 27, 2011
  15. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Is this talk of living the Gospel only a recent development?

    Piper, Keller, Mahaney, Bridges all use the same phraseology but I do not see this phraseology in the Reformation-era writers.

    Also, is this an "incorrect" way of speaking or merely a different way of speaking? Is it wrong to speak of "living out the Gospel" or "living the Gospel" (taking these two phrases to be the same thing) because it seems that we do this due to believing the Gospel and walking in light of the Gospel. The motivation and the source of action is the Gospel not the law, after all.

    ---------- Post added at 02:33 PM ---------- Previous post was at 02:27 PM ----------

    Isn't the point of Galatians that, being saved by grace do we now continue by law-keeping? Our sancitfication is also by grace and by the power of the Gospel. When I read Keller, Mahaney and Bridges that is what I get. I do not think, "Okay, now I must use the 3rd use of the law now that I am saved." Instead, I think that I must live more and more by the power of the Gospel and its implications.

    ---------- Post added at 02:44 PM ---------- Previous post was at 02:33 PM ----------

    What are we to think of the link to John Frame here:

    Law and Gospel
  16. hrdiaz

    hrdiaz Puritan Board Freshman

    I find it very frustrating that such a simple doctrine can be the cause of so much disputation, but considering that the enemy of our souls doesn't want us to know what the Gospel is, nor does he want us to rest in the finished work of Christ, I can see why this topic comes up over and over again. The Gospel proper contains no demands, only promises (cf. Ro 3:21-26, 4:23-25, 5:1-2, 5:6-11, 6:23, 8:1-4; 1 Cor 15:1-4, Gal 1:3-5, 3:13-14, et al). Therefore, the Gospel cannot be lived. Can we emulate our Lord Jesus? By His grace, we can. However, the command to do so is still Law and not the Gospel. Can we wash one another's feet as Christ washed the feet of His disciples and thereby testify to the new life within us that God has freely bestowed on His elect in regeneration? Yes, by His grace. However, the command to do so is still not the Gospel - it is Law.

    Christ has fulfilled the Law completely for His elect bride. Why do so many want to carry this work out for Him? The Gospel cannot be lived; we live in the light of the Gospel, bearing fruit as our obedience to Him becomes evident via the work of the Spirit in us. We can live in accordance with the Law's demands imperfectly, in the light of the Gospel, and out of gratitude for all that Jesus has done for us in the Gospel, but we cannot live the Gospel. We can be thankful for the Gospel, adorning it with our good works, but we cannot be or live the Gospel.

    The life, death, burial, and resurrection of Christ are the Gospel. And if this is the case, which it is according to 1 Corinthians 15:1-4, then we cannot live the Gospel, seeing as it consists of (a.)Christ's life (i.e. His active obedience to the Law), (b.)Christ's death (i.e. His passive obedience to the Law), (c.)His burial and (d.)His resurrection (not ours, but with which we are united by the Spirit). I cannot live a perfect life of obedience to the Law for another, nor can I have the wrath of God poured out upon me for the sins of another - therefore, I cannot live or be the Gospel.

  17. Peairtach

    Peairtach Puritan Board Doctor

    We can't because Christ has lived the perfect life for us and died the perfect atoning death. So the objective realities of justification and adoption have been achieved for us by Christ and are received by us by faith.

    But in the more subjective experience of progressive sanctification, the message of Christ's death and resurrection is important to the believer also - who has been united to all that Christ is at regeneration. As is the teaching that we are not now under law as a CoW, if we are Christ's, but under God's grace. See e.g. Romans 6.

    The believer is empowered in his sanctification, law keeping, good works, etc, by his union with Christ, and particularly in contemplating and appreciating spiritually the fact that Christ died and rose again, and therefore he/she died and rose again. Empowered in sanctification by meditating on the Gospel throughout his/her Christian life.

    As a believer he/she is still under the law as a pattern and rule of life, but not as a CoW.

    Faith in Christ and His Gospel is the engine of sanctification, while the law, God's law and Christ's law, is the tracks.
  18. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    The existential rejection of religion adds more mud to an already polluted stream.
  19. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    It is an historical fact that the distinctions which are being made regarding the law and the gospel were advocated by the Antinomians of the 17th century and rejected by the orthodox reformed.

    The fact is, the gospel is more than a message -- it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth. To those for whom the gospel is merely a message it is the savour of death unto death and a killing letter. To those who have known the power of the gospel, there is deliverance from the condemnation and the domination of the law; from the penalty and the power of sin. Sin shall not have dominion over you; why? Because ye are not under the law but under grace. Samuel Rutherford explains what it means to be delivered from the rigour of the law (Spiritual Antichrist 2:122, 123):

    Those who obey the law, do you not hear what the law requires -- personal, perfect, and perpetual obedience. Woe, woe, woe to you, who desire to become teachers of the law.
  20. saintandsinner77

    saintandsinner77 Puritan Board Freshman

    Phillipians 1:27a Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ:

    2 Corinthians 8:18: And we have sent with him the brother, whose praise is in the gospel throughout all the churches;

    2 Corinthians 2-3: Ye are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read of all men: Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart.

    The gospel is manifested in our hearts which show in our words and deeds to those around us, so yes, we can live out the gospel.
  21. Jack K

    Jack K Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    To say that we live either the law or the gospel, without explaining further, is unwise and not in keeping with typical biblical language.

    We have DIED to the law. So can we now live the law? No.

    The law remains helpful in many ways. I might even say I live it in the sense that it helps inform my life of gratitude. But the claim to be my life belongs to another: "I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been cricufied with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me" (Gal. 2:19-20).

    Does this mean then that we live the gospel? No again. At least not in the narrow sense of that word as it's used in 1 Cor. 15.

    But since the gospel is Christ's work, and I do live in Christ, there's a broader sense of the gospel in which God's acceptance of my own good works, done in Christ, makes them an indispensible part of that gospel. In addition, the gospel powers any ability I have to live for God and is the basis for my life of gratitude. So in that sense too, at the very least we must say that I live out the implications of the gospel or that I live by the gospel. We might even say (very carefully, and making sure to point out how we mean something different from the emergents) that my life is part of the gospel.

    This all gets difficult because definitions are fluid:

    1. The Bible uses "gospel" sometimes in a more narrow sense and sometimes in a broader one. And since the core of the gospel, the crucifixion and resurrection, are the central event in all human life, it's hard to know how sharply to draw the line between gospel and non-gospel. The ripples of the cross are both vast and essential to the cross itself.

    2. When we talk of "living by the law" some mean trusting in our works while others mean a life a thankful obedience. The law, after all, has those three uses.

    3. Even the word "living" can be confusing. Do we mean our behavior or our salvation? And aren't our behavior and our salvation clearly separate things, yet necessarily and organically connected?

    My point is that when we use these little phrases, we also need to take a bit of care to unpack them and explain our terms. And when someone else comes up with a little phrase that sounds wrong to us, we need to find out what they mean before embracing or villainizing their phrase. Finally, we need to understand that if we do decide to speak either of living the gospel or of living God's law, we must clearly say that we do so only and wholly in Christ.
  22. TeachingTulip

    TeachingTulip Puritan Board Sophomore


    The Gospel of Jesus Christ is Christ centered, not church centered.

    The church of Jesus Christ should be Christ centered, not self-centered.

    For believers to become participant covenant performers of the gospel of grace, would necessarily require an ontological change of being, which will never occur.

    Creatures will never become like or equal to their Creator; not even by the saving grace of God which promises they will share in His heavenly glory.

    The result of all obedience AND Godly grace will be:

    "They shall be My people; and I will be their God." Ezekiel 11:20; Hebrews 8:10; Jeremiah 30:22

    "'I will satiate the soul of the priests with abundance, and My people shall be satisfied with My goodness,' says the Lord." Jeremiah 31:14
  23. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Do you see the newer teachers like Piper, Mahaney, Keller, etc, who use the term "gospel" in a very broad sense as reviving a form of antinomianism?

    ---------- Post added at 12:57 AM ---------- Previous post was at 12:55 AM ----------


    You said:

    How much of this discussion is real meaty disagreement and how much of it is merely one camp arguing for only the narrower sense of the word "Gospel" and the other camp beginning to stress the broader definition as well?
  24. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    My statement was a reflection on Dr. Horton's teaching. He is using categories which were regarded as antinomian in the 17th century. Dr. Horton is concerned with a form of neonomianism, and is pressing too far on the opposite extreme. So far as the gentlemen whom you mention are concerned, the 17th century reformed would have regarded them as fanatics or enthusiasts, particularly John Piper.
  25. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Rev. Winzer: Thanks for that explanation.

    A follow-up question for you or anyone else: Did anyone ever use "Gospel" in this broader sense prior to the last couple decades or so? Is this a new trend regarding the use of the word Gospel?
  26. Jack K

    Jack K Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    It feels to me as if much of the discussion is about how people wish we would use the word, even though we largely agree in our theology. I suspect much of this is due to different errors we're each interested in combatting. Some are chiefly interested in combatting antinomianism or lax living. Some are more interested in combatting legalism. Some are opposing liberalism. Some want to emphasize the role of grace as a motive in sanctification. And everyone, naturally, wants to use that wonderful word, "gospel," chiefly in a way that supports what they care most about.

    That's probably too simple. But I know for sure that I do that.
  27. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    Yes; it has been used in this broader sense from the start. Please consult the quote from Zacharias Ursinus in the accompanying thread. Also, if you look at previous threads which I have begun in either the Pilgrim's Progress or Calvinist fora you will see numerous examples of this broader use of the gospel by traditional reformed theologians. There is one thread entitled, Do you live the gospel? which is by the Puritan and Westminster divine, Thomas Case.
  28. Pergamum

    Pergamum Ordinary Guy (TM)

    Thanks, linking that previous post about living the Gospel here:

    ---------- Post added at 04:29 AM ---------- Previous post was at 04:22 AM ----------

    It seems that many people are using the phrase "living the Gospel" in order to distinguish the power of the Gospel from moralism and mere religious duty. This is how Keller seems to use it in the film I linked.
  29. jayce475

    jayce475 Puritan Board Freshman

    Horton's trying so hard to fight neonomianism that his language has strayed from biblical language. His book "Christ the Lord" made my head spin.
  30. LawrenceU

    LawrenceU Puritan Board Doctor

    I am not knocking Horton. I subscribe to Modern Reformation and have listened to WHI for years. I appreciate very much what they are trying to do. However, I believe that their genuine concern over neonomianism is causing a reaction that is pushing his language toward an Antinomian bent. I hope that changes because is a very real and strange way actions can follow words. If one is not careful in waging a battle against false teaching one can become a false teacher himself. The clear teaching of Scripture will always defeat the esoteric mental concoctions of the false teacher. We do not have to invent new language, new categories, or new logic in order to address false teachers.
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