Because the Gospel is good news about what God has done through Christ, I always cringe a little when I hear people talk about living the Gospel. I know what they mean, but I can relate to what Graeme Goldsworthy says in Gospel-Centered Hermeneutics:
If something is not what God did in and through the historical Jesus two thousand years ago, it is not the gospel…[Christians] can only believe it, proclaim it and seek to live consistently with it. Only Jesus lived (and died) the gospel. It is a once-for-all finished and perfect event done for us by another.
That’s good stuff.
But Glenn R. Kreider provides some counterbalance in a review of Goldsworthy’s book in the latest issue of Bibliotheca Sacra:
Certainly the gospel (good news) is grounded in the work of Christ, but it would seem to include the future work of Christ as well (including His return and the new creation), as well as blessing for all believers (Gal. 3:8). Furthermore this limitation seems inconsistent with Goldworthy’s definition of the gospel as “the event (or proclamation of that event) of Jesus Christ that begins with his incarnation and earthly life, and concludes with his death, resurrection and ascension to the right hand of the Father” (p. 58). Would not the proclamation of the work of Christ be something that Christians do, and would not that proclamation include living the message as well? In short, how does one separate the verbal and incarnational ministry of the gospel? Did not Paul indicate that Christians do live the gospel when he wrote that “we always carry around in our body the death of Jesus” (2 Cor. 4:10 NIV)? It would seem that one way to understand Paul’s testimony in Philippians 3:10-11 is as affirming his desire to live the gospel. “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so somehow, to attain to the resurrection of the dead” (NIV). Also, Goldworthy’s emphasis on the eschatological trajectory of the biblical story seems difficult to reconcile with the strong limitation of the work of Christ completed in the past. He writes, “God’s plan from all creation was the new creation and a people created and redeemed in Christ. The blueprint of creation and of all history is the gospel” (p. 223).
I still cringe a little when I hear people talk about “living the Gospel” but I think Kreider has a point. One of our greatest needs is to keep our definitions of the Gospel centered on the work of God in Christ rather than our own works, but then to include all the work that God did through Christ as good news of what God has done and continues to do. Tim Keller’s recent article in Leadership Journal is an excellent resource on this topic.