Every now and then the argument breaks out again, in some form or other.
It might be on the internet somewhere (as it was when Tullian Tchividjian, Kevin de Young and others crossed swords at The Gospel Coalition), or it might just be in your Bible study group.
Person A will be getting animated about some aspect of Christian living or holiness or corporate godliness, and how Christians are falling down in this area or that. And then Person B else will respond that the Christian life is all about grace and not good works, and that by emphasizing obedience we are falling back under the law.
Person A will reply that faith without works is dead, and Person B will say “Yes, but it’s still all the cross from beginning to end, and Jesus died to redeem us from our failure to be moral”.
And on it goes.
What’s the answer here? You can see that both people have a point. But is there a way to articulate with clarity the nature and motivations of the Christian life?
Very often the discussion unfolds by discussing the theology of justification and sanctification, or Paul’s view of the place of the law, or the continuity and discontinuity between the old covenant and the new covenant. And these are vital subjects of course.
However, what does Jesus himself teach us about these questions? After all, in the Gospels Jesus frequently finds himself confronting those uber-moralists, the Pharisees, and vigorously critiquing their performance-oriented legalism. And yet this same Jesus urges his disciples to have a righteousness that surpasses the Pharisees, and even to “be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt 5:48).
How does Jesus himself teach his disciples to be moral without being moralistic? How does he urge obedience and discipleship without fostering an anxious ‘worksy’ culture of legalism and performance?
That’s what Peter Bolt will be exploring at our final Centre for Christian Living (CCCL) event for the year, on October 22 in Wollongong and October 28 at Moore College (same content). Peter is one of the world’s leading authorities on Mark’s Gospel, and this opportunity to benefit from his expertise in this vital area is too good to miss.
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