Francis Schaeffer wrote: “The central problem of our age is not liberalism or modernism, nor the old Roman Catholicism or the new Roman Catholicism, nor the threat of communism, nor even the threat of rationalism and the monolithic consensus which surrounds us. All these are dangerous but not the primary threat. The real problem is this: the church of the Lord Jesus Christ, individually corporately, tending to do the Lord’s work in the power of the flesh rather than of the Spirit. The central problem is always in the midst of the people of God, not in the circumstances surrounding them.”
We could add to that list, postmodernism, materialistic consumerism, uninhibited sensualism. [Liberalism, Islamism?]
Galatians a letter to a church which had turned to works and the flesh. Three inter-related aspects of the gospel. All three necessary for true, living, Christian life.
No one but Jesus gives freedom from condemnation without payment or merit.
No one but Jesus gathers natural enemies without conquest to create community of mutual love and generosity.
No one but Jesus gives personal nourishment and strength to sustain the life of love and generosity.
Gospel doctrine: verse 16 “we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ.”
39 Articles on justification.
XI. OF THE JUSTIFICATION OF MAN
WE are accounted righteous before God, only for the merit of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ by Faith, and not for our own works or deservings: Wherefore, that we are justified by Faith only is a most wholesome Doctrine, and very full of comfort, as more largely is expressed in the Homily of Justification.
Heidelberg catechism. How are you made right with God?
How are thou righteous before God?
Only by a true faith in Jesus Christ; (a)
so that, though my conscience accuse me, that I have grossly transgressed all the commandments of God, and kept none of them, (b)
and am still inclined to all evil; (c)
notwithstanding, God, without any merit of mine, (d)
but only of mere grace, (e)
grants and imputes to me, (f)
the perfect satisfaction, (g)
righteousness and holiness of Christ; (h)
even so, as if I never had had, nor committed any sin: yea, as if I had fully accomplished all that obedience which Christ has accomplished for me; (i)
inasmuch as I embrace such benefit with a believing heart. (j)
(a) Rom.3:21-25,28; Rom.5:1,2; Gal.2:16; Eph.2:8,9; Philip.3:9. (b)
Rom.3:9. (c) Rom.7:23. (d) Tit.3:5; Deut.9:6; Ezek.36:22. (e)
Rom.3:24; Eph.2:8. (f) Rom.4:4,5; 2 Cor.5:19. (g) 1 John 2:2. (h)
1 John 2:1. (i) 2 Cor.5:21. (j) Rom.3:22; John 3:18.
John Bunyan. “Your righteousness in heaven, Christ is sat at God’s right hand…
Gospel doctrine can be denies by our actions, or culture.
Peter lost his way even though he had gospel doctrine.
Galatians 2:14 gospel denying culture.
Legalism makes sense and creates standards and structure in the face of cultural chaos. Legalism creates self sufficient, proud/depressed work ethic believers who eventually give up.
Verse 21: If justification were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.
Peter was orthodox on paper and heretical in action.
We need both gospel doctrine and gospel culture or we unsay by our actions what we say in our sermons.
Nashville church would rather die than give the message by their actions that anyone who comes in is not acceptable by any gospel denying church culture.
In Acts, Peter goes to Cornellius’ house, against all cultural norms, to greet and welcome the outsider.
Peter in Antioch, seven years later, ate with Gentiles but through fear of rejection by the circumcision party, withdrew to eat with the Jewish Christians only.
His actions induced a second level of justification. Our church is for clever people; our church is for cool people; our culture is for this kind of people. If you are like us, you belong. But this is not gospel culture.
Gospel culture creates warmth and acceptance which makes us experience truly human existence.
Whenever our hearts drift from gospel doctrine and we develop gospel denying culture, we know our gospel spirituality has evaporated. We cannot force our hearts to love our enemies.
When we refuse to experience condemnation but instead we give the devil a bad day and say “I believe Jesus died for me and he loves me.” Then I will love others as he loves me. We will come together as he loves us, across all sorts of divides and cultural differences.