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How To Recognize Gospel Motivations in Scripture

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One of the most common criticisms of grace theology is that we don’t care about Christian living.

That may be true of other authors but not of Free Grace theologians, and it’s certainly not true of me.

However, our motivations for living holy lives differ from those who believe in works salvation theologies.

I’ve written elsewhere about the difference between legal motivations and gospel motivations. While the threats and consequences of the law can help modify your behavior to some extent, I claimed that only gospel motivations can transform your life and spontaneously produce the very love the law demands.

In this blog, I want to show you that the New Testament is filled with gospel motivations. I am taking this approach from Robert J. Koester’s excellent book Gospel Motivation: More Than “Jesus Died for My Sins.” Koester argues there are several categories of gospel motivation, and he helps readers see them by presenting a Biblical passage and putting the gospel truth in bold while putting the transformation truth in italics. For example:

For we too were once foolish, disobedient, deceived, enslaved by various passions and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, detesting one another. But when the kindness of God our Savior and his love for mankind appeared, he saved us—not by works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy—through the washing of regeneration and renewal by the Holy Spirit. He poured out his Spirit on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior so that, having been justified by his grace, we may become heirs with the hope of eternal life. This saying is trustworthy. I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed God might be careful to devote themselves to good works. These are good and profitable for everyone (Titus 3:3-8).

Do you see the difference? I think of it in terms of redemption truths and response truths.

Redemption: God in Christ saved you by grace, apart from works of righteousness, and the Holy Spirit regenerated you.

Response: Therefore, devote yourself to good works.

Notice, you don’t devote yourself to good works to be saved but because you already have been saved. Isn’t that good news? And doesn’t that present a much different motivation for Christian living?

Let’s look at another example:

This is how we have come to know love: He laid down his life for us. We should also lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters (1 John 3:16).

Redemption: Jesus literally died in your place because He loves you.

Response: Therefore, you should figuratively die for your neighbors by serving them.

One last example:

I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me (Gal 2:20).

Redemption: You have been united with Jesus in His crucifixion and are now indwelled by Him.

Response: Therefore, live by faith in Jesus.

In each case, what drives the motivation to live the Christian life? Instead of pointing you inwards to your natural talents and resources and urging you to try harder, the New Testament authors encourage you by pointing you outwards to what God had done for you in Christ. They fill your mind with your riches in Christ and help you understand how very big the gospel is.

Knowing His love inspires our love.

Send your questions or comments to Shawn.


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