I received this great email from one of our sharp Women's Ministry teachers and thought I'd post it here with my response so that together we can keep processing the Gospel. I was encouraged by stuff going on in the Growth Group . . .
Dear Pastor Tim,
sunday's message: I don't get what you mean that the gospel is/was the means for Paul's confrontation of Peter. Is it bec. he spoke of grace with grace??? You emphasized it's importance but i didn't get it.
So last night at GG, I didn't bring that up. We did have some rich conversation re:
- doing things or not doing things because of peer pressure; and,
- confronting properly (speaking the truth in love)
- and, in what area do you think your behavior could impact another person (in re: to Peter influencing Barnabas, etc.) . . . and best,
- what does this statement mean to you: "The Gospel changes everything, grows out and down. God blesses us so we can bless others." What "others" are you blessing by/through God's gospel grace? Look at every encounter as an opportunity. . .
Our question we didn't answer was: How much is our walk in Christ our responsibility and how much is it not? They asked, do we sit and wait bec. it's all "done" ? what is involved practically speaking in "working out our salvation?" I didn't answer it. I wouldn't mind if you would address it.
Have fun studying! . . .
Here's my response . . .
Lots of questions there! If you didn't get it, then most didn't get it. So I'll have to keep saying these things. Thanks for the heads up.
Revolutionary for me: Paul wasn't just graceful to Peter. He preached the Gospel to Peter. Peter's problem was he was out of line with the Gospel (2:14). Paul brings him back to the "gospel line" by preaching the Gospel to him in v. 15- 16, not the Mosaic law and not rules and regulations. He takes him back to justification by faith alone and says, in effect, "Peter what about the Gospel in this area of your life? How is the Gospel affecting who you eat with? You're withdrawing from Gentile table fellowship is a sign that you are not working out, not living out the Gospel." You see, he confronts for the sake of the Gospel, but also by means of the Gospel.
The Gospel is how we confront sin in our own lives, too, because my all my sin is really a failure to understand or apply the Gospel in my life. This is true of a hatred of homosexuals, a failure to love my spouse, greed, a neglect of my children for the sake of my work, an addiction to pornography, a dysfunctional need for the approval of others . . . . All of these sins have, at their root, a failure to believe or apply the Gospel.
The Gospel of God's grace, is the means by which we are saved, but also the means by which we grow and change. So think about the pattern of the epistles: indicative, indicative, indicative (Gospel) first, then imperative, imperative, imperative (command or call for obedience) second. . . . And so the imperative sections of Paul's letters begin with statements like: "Therefore walk (live) in a manner worthy of the Gospel . . . " We don't change by getting good at obeying the rules (moralism), but by beholding Jesus and all he's done. . . getting grace. That's what chapters 5 and 6 of Galatians are all about: "Since the Gospel is true, this is where it should lead you . . . "
You see, the Gospel is not just the START of the Christian life, its the CENTER of the Christian life. We keep coming back to it. We keep fixing our eyes on Jesus and in beholding him we become like him. So think about glorification. Glorification is the completion of sanctification. How will it happen? When we see him, we will be like him! (Beholding to Become!) Our process of sanctification now happens in the same way! By grace through faith in Christ (the Gospel!)
Is that helpful at all?
I think all of this is what it means to work out our salvation. We are doing it even now, friend! Salvation = Gospel of God's Free Grace. Working it out involves working it in. If God's grace leads to laziness or licentious living, then we don't understand the Gospel. We are failing to believe it and apply it. What do we need then? More Gospel. Getting Grace leads to maturity, charity, service, obedience, grace toward others, humility. If its not, then we don't get grace yet.
I'll post some of this on the blog so others can keep working out their salvation, too. The Gospel is everything!