Is “the gospel” just shorthand for the daily life of a Christian? If not, how does the gospel shape our daily Christian life? Tim Keller offers biblical insights in this excerpt from his new book Center Church: Doing Balanced, Gospel-Centered Ministry in Your City. If you like what you read here, get the book 38% off: Buy Center Church (Special offer good through Sept. 18, 2012). -Adam Forrest
Faith vs. Works?
The gospel is not about something we do but about what has been done for us, and yet the gospel results in a whole new way of life…
One of Martin Luther’s dicta was that we are saved by faith alone but not by a faith that remains alone. His point is that true gospel belief will always and necessarily lead to good works, but salvation in no way comes through or because of good works. Faith and works must never be confused for one another, nor may they be separated (Eph 2:8–10; Jas 2:14, 17–18, 20, 22, 24, 26).
I am convinced that belief in the gospel leads us to care for the poor and participate actively in our culture, as surely as Luther said true faith leads to good works…
What is the gospel and what does it do?
I have often heard people preach this way: “The good news is that God is healing and will heal the world of all its hurts; therefore, the work of the gospel is to work for justice and peace in the world.”
The danger in this line of thought is not that the particulars are untrue (they are not) but that it mistakes effects for causes. It confuses what the gospel is with what the gospel does.
When Paul speaks of the renewed material creation, he states that the new heavens and new earth are guaranteed to us because on the cross Jesus restored our relationship with God as his true sons and daughters. Romans 8:1–25 teaches, remarkably, that the redemption of our bodies and of the entire physical world occurs when we receive “our adoption.” As his children, we are guaranteed our future inheritance (Eph 1:13–14, 18; Col 1:12; 3:24; Heb 9:15; 1 Pet 1:4), and because of that inheritance, the world is renewed. The future is ours because of Christ’s work finished in the past.