Winds of Doctrine – The Balance of the Gospel
The winds of doctrine blow.
They have blown throughout church history, and they will continue to blow as time goes on. The winds of doctrine are the changing beliefs and interpretations of the word that do not line up with the full council, or full message of the Word of God. When people focus on only one aspect of the Word of God, they become out of balance.
The Unbalanced Gospel
One side of the gospel message that people tend to focus on is the side of grace and redemption. Their main message is that God has provided everything that was needed for our salvation, and that we cannot add to that, nor can we take away from it. It requires nothing on our behalf to receive, and requires nothing in response. On the other side of the coin, we have people whose main message is about the Christian lifestyle, or man’s response to God’s gift. In other words, they would have us focus solely on our behavior, on being righteous through the way we think, act, and speak.
The first error leads to a messy, non-Christlike lifestyle. The second error leads to a rigid and rule-based, grace-less lifestyle. But neither side contains the whole message of the gospel.
Paul wrote, “I do not shrink from declaring unto you the entire council of God.”
Just take a look at Paul’s writings. Take, for example, the book of Romans. We can study the details of that book, but we can also look at the overall, big picture message of the book of Romans. You can essentially take the book and divide it into two halves. The first half of the book of Romans is mostly about righteousness and redemption. If you look at the last half, or at least the last several chapters, you’ll find a section on what man’s response to God’s goodness is supposed to be.
This is the balance that is brought to us by the Word of God, and it is presented throughout the entire Bible.
Avoiding the First Ditch
In the book of Romans, chapter one, verse sixteen, he says “I’m not ashamed of the Gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek, for in it is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith, for as it is written, the just shall live by faith.”
Chapter two, verse twelve says, “for all who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law are going to be judged by the law.”
Chapter three, verse twenty-four, “by works of the law, no human being will be saved or justified in His sight because through the law comes knowledge of sin.”
Verse 21 says, “but now the righteousness of God has been revealed apart from the law. Although the law and the prophets bear witness to it, their righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe, for there is no difference. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God and are justified by His grace as a gift.”
And that’s true, our redemption is a gift. And it must be preached as such. It must be presented as being a gift because it cannot be paid for. The moment that something is paid for, it becomes something that was earned, and we cannot earn our redemption. However, there is more to the story later on in the chapter.
Avoiding the Second Ditch
The second ditch that people find themselves falling into is this ditch: I must work to earn my salvation.
Chapter four verses three and four say, “for what does the scripture say? Abraham believed God and it was counted to him as righteousness, but to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift, but as his due.” Here, Paul is laying out the gospel that we preach. Chapter five, verse seventeen says, “if because the one man’s trespass death reigned, through that one man much more will those who received the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.”
Where I work in Kenya, I have seen it happen at several churches that the people there will pray for you, if you will pay for it. These people have gone astray from the gospel message. They have said that Christ’s gift was not enough, that you must also pay, too. They have drifted away from the gospel message.
And yet as we keep reading, Paul says, “let not sin, therefore, reign in your natural bodies to make you obey its passions.” This is the beginning of what our response to the gospel is supposed to be. “Let not sin reign” is an instruction, and it is our responsibility to follow this instruction now. We have control over our bodies. We have the ability to say no to sin, and we have been given the right and responsibility to use that ability in obedience to God.
And so a lot of people would like to stop reading Romans right there.
But in Romans chapter 12, Paul writes about what we are to give.
“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God to present your bodies as a living sacrifice”.
Some today would say that Christ has paid the ultimate sacrifice. They say that there is no other sacrifice for us to give. And it’s true, He did pay the full price of our redemption. However, it is clear from the scripture that we are supposed to present our bodies as a living sacrifice to Him as a response to His gift. We are still eagerly awaiting the full redemption of our bodies. This means that we still have a part to play in “working out our own salvation”, as Paul wrote in Philippians.
Chapter twelve also says “let love be genuine”, and, in chapter 13, “let every person be subject to the governing authorities.”
These actions are all a part of letting our bodies be a sacrifice to God.
Verse eight says, “owe nobody anything except to love one another, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.”
Verse 13 of chapter 13 of Romans says, “let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality.” In some churches this subject is not taught about, but these things need to be dealt with. Paul spent pages and pages of his letters to these churches addressing these issues because they were not taking responsibility upon themselves to respond to Christ as the Lord of their lives, as well as their Savior.
Verse 14 says, “put on the Lord Jesus Christ.” It is our responsibility to put on Christ and to make no provision for the flesh in order to gratify its desires.
So we see In the book of Romans, we must preach that salvation and redemption is a free gift. But we also much preach that there is an appropriate response to that gift, which is the presentation of our bodies to God. Paul calls this sacrifice our “reasonable service”. And we also must remember along with the free gift of salvation, we have the infilling of the Holy Spirit, who gives us the power and ability to walk in a manner that pleases the Lord.
Redemption and grace are free, but following Christ costs us. It costs us following after our thoughts and our desires, instead taking up His thoughts and His desires, and His way of doing things. But if we count the cost, we will find that He is worthy of our sacrifice, for He counted us worthy of His.