Gospel culture (how we live together) is as important as gospel doctrine (what we believe). To be truly gospel-centered we need both; gospel doctrine and gospel culture. That’s at the heart of Ray Ortlund’s book The Gospel.
Gospel Doctrine + Gospel Culture = A Powerful Display of the Beauty of Christ
Consider for a moment the example of the apostle Peter. In many ways the leader of the 12 apostles (Acts 2). Peter never denied in his teaching the doctrine of the gospel as far as we know from Scripture, but he did contradict the gospel through his behavior. Paul tells us in Galatians 2:
11 But when Cephas [that is Peter] came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12 For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. 13 And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. 14 But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?”
Peter never preached an anti-gospel but nevertheless he “stood condemned” because according to Paul he “acted hypocritically,” by not eating with non-Jews, which was “conduct not in step with the truth of the gospel.”
Stop for a minute and think about that. Peter, the apostle, denied the gospel by his actions, even if never by his words. Paul says that by doing so Peter was “nullifying the grace of God” (v.21).
“We can sincerely love the doctrine of God’s grace and, at the same time, unwittingly nullify that grace. Preserving the truth requires a culture where sinners can see the beauty of what we believe in a new kind of community.” (The Gospel, p. 89)
In fact, this is the pattern we see throughout many of Paul’s letters to churches. Opening the letters by laying out gospel doctrine, followed by how that gospel doctrine should be lived out in the context of our lives, families, and church. One very clear example is Ephesians 1-3 (gospel doctrine) followed by Ephesians 4-6 (gospel culture). Look for this pattern as you study the Bible.
Will you join me in praying that we’d have both gospel doctrine and a gospel culture at Covenant Hope? Consider ways you might not be keeping in step with the gospel; unforgiveness, anger, fear of man, or lack of fellowship within the church. Reflect on how that sin denies the gospel. Confess them to others, repent before God, and ask for the Spirit’s help to walk in a manner worthy of the gospel.
Grace be with you all,