Fighting for Gospel Transformation in Your Church
The gospel is the power of God for salvation and sadly many churches are ashamed of proclaiming it (Rom. 1:16). As a result we may not be experiencing the fruit of transformation in our churches that is normally associated with the gospel (Col. 1:4-6; 2 Peter 1:3-9). Gospel transformation cannot take place outside of gospel proclamation.
With the help of Tim Keller’s work and others, here is my attempt to cautiously define the gospel: Through the person and work of Jesus Christ, God fully accomplishes salvation for us by the Holy Spirit’s regeneration, rescuing us from judgment for sin into fellowship with him, and then restores the creation in which we can enjoy our new life together with him forever.
Steve Timmis has a definition that I like: "Jesus Christ, God’s promised rescuer and ruler lived our life, died our death and rose again in triumphant vindication as the first-fruits of the new creation to bring forgiven sinners together by the Holy Spirit to live under his gracious reign as His Kingdom people."
The focus of the gospel is not on the inadequacy of mankind (or even on his transformation), but rather on the glory of God. I am transformed when I live in line with the gospel (Gal. 2:14)—avoiding both legalism and licentiousness—and pursue the joy found in complete and utter surrender of my unrighteous life in exchange for His righteous life expressed graciously through every aspect of my Christian walk (Gal. 2:20).
How does this process work?
It is found simply in the not-so-simple phrase by JI Packer, “God saves sinners.” [J.I. Packer, “Introductory Essage,” in The Death of Death in the Death of Christ, by John Owen (London: Banner of Truth, 1959) 4-5.]
"God – the Triune Jehovah, Father, Son and Spirit; three Persons working together in sovereign wisdom, power and love achieve the salvation of a chosen people, the Father electing, the Son fulfilling the Father’s will by redeeming, the Spirit executing the purpose of Father and Son by renewing."
"Saves – does everything, first to last, that is involved in bringing man from death in sin to life in glory: plans, achieves and communicates redemption, calls and keeps, justifies, sanctifies, glorifies. Sinners do not save themselves in any sense at all. Salvation, first and last, whole and entire, past, present and future, is of the Lord, to whom be glory for ever; amen."
"Sinners – When we are born, we are dead, condemned, depraved, corrupt, perverse, sinful and completely unable to save or even lift a finger to enable salvation (Rom. 2-3; 6:23). This vile sinner doesn’t even know he is dead. The law of God exposes the extent of our wickedness (Gal. 3:24).
The gospel is what makes us right with God (justification) and it is also what frees us to delight in God (sanctification). The gospel changes everything!