It is tragically possible for God’s people to limit their understanding and preaching of the gospel to its essential components, while neglecting all-important implications.
Write J.I. Packer and Gary Parrett:
‘Sadly, even tragically, evangelicals have sometimes been guilty of preaching and teaching a Gospel that is not, shall we say, “fully dressed.” They may have focused properly on the central features of God’s atoning work at the cross, faithfully preached Christ crucified for sinners, celebrated the resurrection as proof that Christ’s self-offering for our sins has been accepted, and urged hearers to be reconciled to God. In other words, they have been right about the essence of the Gospel; the key facts have been there in what they have said. But at the same time they have missed some of the critical implications and applications of the Gospel for daily living. They have neglected, perhaps, to explore how the same cross that reconciles us to God reconciles us also to one another in Christ (Eph. 2:11–22). Perhaps they have not duly emphasized that if God has loved us to the point of giving his only Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins then surely we ought to without limit love one another (1 John 4:10–11). Perhaps they have failed to point out that as God has loved us even while we were his enemies (Rom. 5:8), then we must act with justice and mercy toward all our neighbors and love even our enemies (Matt. 5:43–48). Perhaps they have not exhorted their congregants to work out their salvation in an obedient fear of the saving God who is at work within them (Phil. 2:12–13). Perhaps they have not urged that regular communion with the Father and the Son, good works, and kingdom service are meant to be the outcome of the new birth.
‘When we fail to conduct ourselves “in step with the truth of the Gospel” (Gal. 2:14), we are in serious error. We are to live in such a way as to make the teaching about God our Savior attractive to our neighbors (Titus 2:10) and to win their respect by responsible and godly living (1 Thess. 4:11–12). Thus our preaching and teaching of the Gospel—that is, our ministries of catechesis—must include teaching the godly manner of living that accords with the sound doctrines of the Gospel (Titus 2:1).
‘But many Gospel preachers, sad to say, have not seen any of the above as related to authentic Gospel work. Indeed, they often express concern that such preaching and teaching will likely distract us from our real business of “getting people saved.” But their understanding of salvation—if they adopt this line of thinking—is too small and their vision of the Gospel is likewise diminished. The Gospel is to be adorned by both sound doctrine and godly living. To set the Gospel before parishioners and public without these is to preach an unclothed Gospel.
‘Our salvation does not end at new birth. We are taught by Scripture to say not only that we have been saved (Eph. 2:8) but also that we shall be saved (Rom. 5:9–10; 13:11; 1 Peter 1:5) and even now are being saved (Phil. 2:12–13; 1 Peter 1:9). What is the power that saves us? It is the power of the Spirit at work in and through the Gospel (Rom. 1:16) to change lives. We need both a fully orbed doctrine of salvation and a “fully clothed” presentation of the Gospel. But we have often fallen short on both counts.’
Grounded in the Gospel: Building Believers the Old-Fashioned Way, ch. 5.