We Cannot Hold the Gospel Hostage to Our Shortcomings

Duane Litfin, writing in Christianity Today:

“Some today will claim that there is no true evangelism without “embodied action.” In fact, according to one critic, “Unless [Christ’s] disciples are following the Great Commandment, it is fruitless to engage in the Great Commission.” According to this view, the gospel is without its own potency. Its “fruitfulness” depends upon us. But this is not the testimony of the New Testament.

According to Paul—whose itinerant ministry met few of the “embodied action” criteria—the power of the gospel does not reside in us; it resides in the Spirit’s application of the message itself. . . .

Few would deny that the holistic mission of the church is the best possible platform for our verbal witness, and that our jaded generation will be more inclined to give us a hearing if we are living it out. (Indeed, the longest section of my new book, Word versus Deed, is devoted to the crucial role of our deeds.)

But this does not permit us to hold the gospel hostage to our shortcomings.

When has the church been all it should be?

When, short of glory, will the church ever be all that God wills for it?

The church has been messy from the beginning, falling far short of living out the Great Commandment. Yet despite our failures, the gospel itself remains marvelously potent, the very “power of God unto salvation” to those who believe.

The gospel’s inherent power does not fluctuate with the strengths or weaknesses of its messengers.

This truth is humbling, but also immensely liberating. In the end, my inability to answer objections, my lack of training or experience, even failures in my own faithfulness in living it out do not nullify the gospel’s power. Its potency is due to the working of God’s Spirit.

Even when we are at our best, the gospel is powerful in spite of us, not because of us. Thanks be to God.”

You can read the whole thing here. This is adapted from his book, Word Versus Deed: Resetting the Scales to a Biblical Balance (Crossway, 2012).

(HT: Justin Taylor)

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I am currently serving churches and colleges as a bible teacher, overseas and in the UK.

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