Living the Gospel

Two good friends of mine had a brief interchange on their blogs about the cyclone-in-a-teacup “debate” going on in some Reformed circles about the phrase, “living the gospel.” Mark Nenadov, at All Things Expounded, posted his thoughts on the issue after hearing Al Martin use the phrase. He is right in his evaluation that the debate has brought a good warning (about precision in language) to “near absurdity.” Matt Fenn, at Pondering Christ, replies to Mark giving, what appears to me, further clarification of what Mark has said. Then the two of them have some friendly dialog at Matt’s blog about how clear we can really be with our language.

While both are in general agreement with each other, the nuances each brings offer food for thought. Mark is right: nobody actually thinks that the gospel has complete correspondence with life. But it is also true, and both would agree, that we don’t want to lend confusion to a clearly revealed truth. Matt’s final word, though intended for their interchange, concurs with what Mark said about the absurdity of the larger debate: it’s a silly discussion. Maybe the discussion is worth having, but the depths that this larger debate has come to is indeed silly.

Thanks guys!



Filed under debate, gospel, mark nenadov, matt fenn, sanctification

4 responses to “Living the Gospel

  1. Hey Ian,

    I’m somewhat new to the topic of Living the Gospel, though the concept itself has been one on my mind for quite some time. I enjoyed the tongue-in-cheek debate back and forth between Mark and Matt, and I think both of them have some excellent points. However, I think your statement that “nobody actually thinks that the gospel has complete correspondence with life” lacks Scriptural support.

    The practical applications of the Gospel abound; not a single promise in Scripture has any value to us apart from the Gospel (save the promises of judgment and wrath). Only in the Gospel can we commune with God in prayer, and we are told to “pray continually.” The Gospel is the foundation upon which the Holy Spirit empowers us to “work out our salvation with fear and trembling.” Every single privilege that belongs to a Christian is available only because of the Gospel. In my mind, that’s the point worth taking home in this whole matter, and it’s a point worth serious consideration: how does my deepening understanding of who Jesus Christ is and what he has done for me impact my prayer life? My relationships with others? My personal habits? My secret thoughts? Is the transforming power of the Gospel manifest in these areas of my life? Where it is not manifest, am I willing to humble myself ask the Lord for the grace needed to see it grow?

    If we define living the Gospel along the lines I’ve drawn above, I think any sane Christian (and also many observant cynics) would agree that the Gospel should have a profound correspondence with life, and that the truths of the Gospel must be expressed through our everyday lives. If this isn’t one of our life pursuits, we’re just playing the hypocrite. In this respect, the debate of living the Gospel is far from silly.

    I’d love to hear your clarification, and I will wholeheartedly apologize if I misunderstood you on this!

    James Herzog

    • Hey James!
      Thanks for replying man, I appreciate it. I agree with what you’re saying, and I realise I wasn’t as clear as what I could be. What I mean to say is that the Gospel doesn’t correspond in a one-to-one fashion. My life doesn’t have a relationship of perfect identity with the Gospel is what Jesus did in space-time history on the cross for sinners. The Gospel is distinct from my life in that regard. But of course, the Gospel is my life in the sense that Mark laid out. That it empowers, that I am identified with it, not in kind, but in terms of its impact on me. It transforms me, absolutely. So we “live the gospel” indeed.

      We should hang some time man!

  2. Hey Ian,

    Yeah, I figured that’s what you meant: none of us “IS” the Gospel, so it’s absurd to try living something that we aren’t. Its externality is key to its power and beauty; in contrast to other religions and systems of thought, the Gospel’s essence lies in a _vicarious_ atonement. Still, it’s validated as it is manifest in us.

    Sometimes I wonder how many debates involve semantics and splitting hairs about things everyone agrees with; sometimes, though, I fear that, as David Daniels said in a sermon last month, we’re using the same vocabulary, but different dictionaries. That’s why I felt it was important to weigh in on this one.

    Definitely we should get together again. Will let you know next time we’re in your area. You’d also be welcome to see us next time you’re in the GTA. Our contact info has changed; I’ll e-mail it to you.

    • I think that tonnes of debates are had because of semantics. It’s terrible, and I guess bolsters Matt’s argument for the necessity of precision in our language.
      Oh, by the way, I live in Toronto! :)

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