Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. -1 Corinthians 15:1-2
In the gospel, Jesus lived the perfect life that we could not live, died the sinner’s death that we should’ve died, then rose again 3 days latter, conquering death and giving eternal life to all who turn from their sin and trust in him. Paul reminds us hear that this gospel is more than just a conversion experience in the life of the believer. The person who receives the gospel by faith also stands in it, and is made holy by it. The gospel is the power of God for the entire Christian life.
The purpose of the law of God is to show us our sin (Rom. 3:20). The commands of God show us that we can never measure up on our own. We see the wretchedness of our sin and are brought low by God’s standards. The gospel (good news) enters the picture and shows us that the only was we can be saved from that sin is by the free grace of God in Jesus Christ.
The proper understanding of law and gospel in the Christian life is that it’s “a cycle of law and gospel where we move from our guilt and need to God’s grace and provision and then back to the law as a joyful and free obedience.” (Joe Thorn, Note To Self, p.31)
If we forget the grace of God and misconstrue the law, we become Pharisees, carrying burdens we cannot bear and putting those burdens on others. If we totally neglect the law under the guise of God’s grace, we cheapen that grace and ignore obedience to God.
The proper understanding is that, “the gospel creates what the law requires.” (Jared Wilson, Gospel Wakefulness, p.136) When this ‘clicks’ in our minds and hearts, we delight in the freedom of God’s grace; the freedom to joyfully obey the God who has saved us.
Think of the Christian life as a tree. When the tree is deeply rooted in rich soil, it bears fruit (Jn. 15:4). The gospel is the root. The obedience to God’s commands is the fruit. Obedience is a natural overflow of a heart that has received, stands in, and is being made holy by the gospel.
When there is no root, the tree is dead. You may be able to staple some fruit to it, making it look as if it is a fruit bearing tree, but it’s dead. So it is with the person who attaches works of obedience to their life while forgetting the grace of God. Since there is no root, there is fake fruit; meaningless works of self-righteousness.
When there is no fruit, there is a fake root. So it is when the one who claims to have received the gospel, but who’s life is contrary to godliness. That person is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. (Jn. 15:6)
Delight in the free grace of God in Jesus. His death and resurrection frees you from the burden of obeying the law for your righteousness. His death gives you his righteousness. His resurrection raises you and empowers you to joyfully obey your loving Father.
Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained. -Philippians 3:12-16