Monkey see Monkey do: A Gospel False Dichotomy

Like that cartoon do ya? Maybe not. Ok. The point at hand was to illustrate, visually, a false dichotomy. The reason being that a similar un-biblical distinction exists in many of our churches today. Why must one church seek after good theology and another to feed the poor? Doesn’t good theology get us out of our seats to do the very things that Christ himself did, in his strength and by his grace?

The gospel is not and has nothing to do with our actions or merit in the most primary and ultimate sense. True. However, if one is saved, actions, the same actions of Christ to a lesser extent, WILL be evident. Surely we will go through hard times, low valleys, dark rooms, but the normal Christian life is not just one of hearing the gospel but doing the gospel as well. I understand that many folks want to draw clear lines between hear and do. This is necessary for the sake of theology. What Jesus did and does we have no part in. We are dead and he alone makes us alive. Therefore, in the a-temporal or infinite sense (ultimate) the gospel is void of our work, intellectual or physical. BUT, since we are not infinite by necessary character and nature, the quickening of our hearts, the result of God-produced faith, must well up in us a desire for his kingdom.

For all who call themselves Christians, there cannot be a false divide, on a finite temporal plane, between believing the gospel by faith through hearing, and believing the gospel by faith through doing. Our works do not save us, but if saved, the physio-temporal kindom work of Christ is sure to follow. In-bred hyper theological gospel intellectual assent? NO. Social gospel? NO. A humble trust in the total gospel work of Christ, both in our immediate salvation and in the outworking of that miracle in space and in time. YES.


6 responses to “Monkey see Monkey do: A Gospel False Dichotomy

  1. christopherlake

    Very true– good works are an implication of the Gospel, not the Gospel itself, but they are a *necessary* implication. If one is truly saved, one’s actions toward, and for, others *will* change in a noticeably positive way. In this vein, the words, actions, and even thoughts of a community of saved people, in a local church, should be decidedly different from those of unregenerate people. (Oh, that this were more true of me– and by God’s grace, it will be so, increasingly, over time!) As Christians, we are all at different points in our sanctification, as it applies to different issues in our lives, but the principle remains. If we are saved, then we are (or at least should be) changing, including in how we relate to other people, both in and out of the church. Good doctrine (including that of salvation by grace alone through faith alone) produces good works.

  2. Schnee: Love your wording: “Why must one church seek after good theology and another to feed the poor?” We could expand this to so many models that are out there for “doing” church. For instance, why must one church seek to be a social club (where people simply enjoy the company of like-minded people), and another seek to be modeled after a school (focusing on cognitive), and another seek to evangelize, and another … OK you get the idea. And OK your short sentence is vastly better than my long one. And I agree completely with what many of us heard reaffirmed at T4G conference. That we can’t confuse the implications, or results, of the gospel and regeneration, with the gospel itself. But a question. Is it possible to focus on the gospel too much? My initial response to this is a loud and firm “no, of course not!” Yet I wonder. It is possible that we could talk so much of the content of, say, Romans 1-8 that people who listen to us don’t know there is a Romans 12 (not so much the first few verses but the rest of the chapter that ends up explaining what “sacrificing” our bodies means), or that there is a 1 John. I think MacArthur went too far in his Gospel According to Jesus. (note: I read the second edition, or revised edition, or whatever, that they gave out at T4G, hoping, at least in a new intro, that he would have softened his view a little, but this was not in any way a revision.) To me MacArthur seems to link the implications of the gospel too much with the gospel. However, these two (gospel and implications) are *so* closely linked that these are hard waters to navigate. Like Chris above puts so well, “good doctrine produces good works”!!!

  3. christopherlake

    Ron, I’m not sure if your question about “talking” too much about Romans 1-8 was rhetorical, but it’s a great and important question! I’m not sure that we can talk about the Gospel too much (although obviously, there *are* appropriate times to talk and to not talk), but to me, it seems that a crucial part of this equation is, do we *only* talk, or do we both talk *and* act in ways which show the reality of Christ-empowered transformation in our lives? If our Christian lives consist of all or mostly talk, we may well not be saved at all, and even if we are saved, God is not being greatly glorified in our lives. Non-believers can see this disconnect between our words and actions– and even more importantly, God sees it (I must always preach this truth to myself)! If we are truly living consciously to glorify God in thought, word, *and* deed, the world will notice the difference. Unbelievers may not directly attribute the difference to Christ in our lives, but it will at least give us more chances to witness to them of His saving power and love– “witness” being both in word and in deed!

  4. Justin Richter

    I often think the problem is that the definition of the gospel is overly narrow. Too many times have I heard the gospel being synonymous with Justification. I think we talked a little bit about this on an earlier post but the Gospel is bigger then just justification, but it is equally sanctification and glorification. It is both individual, corporate, and even cosmological.

    New Record
    New Heart
    New World

  5. christopherlake

    To all the brothers,

    There is a very good discussion on the “narrowing” and “expanding” of the Gospel currently going on over at the 9 Marks “Church Matters” blog. I commend it to everyone for careful thinking on both “sides” of this issue! The conversation started with Mark Dever’s post, “Improving the Gospel (1 of 5),” (which is basically a restatement of his talk at TG4 ’08) and then Jonathan Leeman and Greg Gilbert started the posts rolling, concerning Mark’s stance on the issue. Very interesting, thoughtful stuff, with various points of view being expressed! Check it out at

  6. christopherlake

    Hmm… somehow, instead of “Tg4 08,” I typed out a smiley face! Let that not be taken as an indication that I necessarily agree with every single aspect of Mark’s stance! 🙂

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