The "Good" News of Obedient Faith

Msgr. Charles Pope (how’s that for a name?) explains:

3. The Gospel is not merely noetic (informative); it is dynamic (transformative). God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. Thus when God says “Be holy,” His words contain the actual power to effect what they announce, provided we receive them in faith.

4. The Gospel is no mere written word. The Gospel is Jesus Christ, the Word made Flesh. Therefore the Gospel saves all who receive it (Him) with faith and heed its warnings and teachings with the obedience of faith.

Thus, the term “gospel” means more than “good news.” And given our cultural setting and its presuppositions related to the word “good,” the notion that “gospel = good news” can be downright misleading. It is better and richer to understand the term “gospel” to refer to the life-changing and transformative utterance of God, which is able to save us if we obey its demands in faith. It is in fact Jesus Himself who is the Word made Flesh. Perhaps this is less memorable, but it is more true and less misleading.

But given our historical setting post-fall, good news that promises we will be saved if we obey God’s commands doesn’t sound very good. (Why should the gospel be only “Good News” instead of like awakenings “Great News” or revolutions “Glorious News”?) That’s why the first Protestants (read Lutherans) were known as evangelicals. Obedience Boys take note.

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26 thoughts on “The "Good" News of Obedient Faith

  1. Jack, I think and hope my affinity to reformed xtianity is due to more than my sci-fi side, cuz somehow, alien righteousness always made the most sense to me, but maybe it was because I had a good pastor to explain it to me in the first place..

    Happy new year, bro. Peace.

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  2. It seems the Msgr is battling with the perception that the lives of Christians are not all that holy, not all that different from those with no Christian convictions, pretensions. We could commend him for this concern. The lack of godly living often found amongst professing Christians has always been a problem and the fact that Western society at large has rejected Biblical teaching regarding the exercise of human sexuality in particular, only intensifies the (subtle) pressure on Christians to compromise and follow suit.

    I think we could accept his statement “Thus when God says “Be holy,” His words contain the actual power to effect what they announce, provided we receive them in faith”, if we understand God’s grace to be BOTH the wondrous exchange of sins removed for the acquisition of Christ’s alien righteousness AND the daily ongoing regenerative work of the Holy Spirit, also received by faith and something in which we participate by our own faithful, obedient actions (always subject to daily repentance and renewed faith – Mark 1:15!).

    However the Msgr’s further statement, “It is better and richer to understand the term “gospel” to refer to the life-changing and transformative utterance of God, which is able to save us if we obey its demands in faith”, is plainly misleading for it ignores the salvation work of Christ and throws everything back on the believer’s own efforts which will never be good enough.

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  3. Isn’t the Good News that Jesus died to save all who receive Him? Hence receipt remains necessary, even if it is God-enabled. In which case, “obedience” is simply our ongoing assent. Even in Reformed Theology, a final falling away is often said to indicate someone never truly regenerate, so while trying to earn salvation is off-base, implying nothing at all on our part matters one whit, a la Lloyd-Jones, seems askew. The Good News is “to all who receive Him” in Faith and Repentance. That is true in Catholic and Protestant systems, when all is said and done. whether I have a Protestant “Assurance” or a Catholic “Firm Hope” somehow seems splitting hairs: my salvation involves trusting in God’s mercy. There is no works-based entitlement. No orthodox Catholic would deny that for a second.

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  4. JM, but Roman Catholics fudge and add love to faith. It’s grace-based salvation by works.

    Plus, that’s not what the Msgr. said (what you said). So why go over the top and say no one would deny what you say?

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  5. I have to say that I have enjoyed Christian fellowship with one or two Catholics who knew their salvation had everything to do with the doing and dying of our Lord Jesus and who see their own efforts at obedience as rather meagre when all is said and done. However the Msgr. is only setting out standard (deficient) Catholic teaching on faith and works. As DGH points out, thank God for Martin Luther et al!

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  6. I think DG is right, it’s turtles all the way down a works righteousness system, RCism that is, even when they have folks trying to be tricksy:

    The substitute caller for Jason of the Callers has tried to reverse the table and claim Roman Catholicism as the real home of justification by faith:

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  7. 2k rejects such, yo:

    Man’s relationship with God has always been defined by God’s promises and faith. Even before the fall into sin, Adam and Eve were righteous in God’s eyes, not because of their obedience, but because God declared them good and they believed. Faith has always defined righteousness coram deo. Thus, righteousness before God cannot depend on human achievement or merit. Such an idea was a sheer impossibility for Luther.

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  8. We sure don’t have to look in the papist cult to find folks who equate obeying the law with conditional “covenant faith”. Think Norman Shepherd, think Daniel Fuller, think….

    Matt Perman—Since works of the law are not faith (Romans 3:28) and whatever is not faith is sin, theologians like Dan Fuller argue that “works of the law” refers to a specific kind of sin–the sin of trying to earn from God. They often point to Romans 4:6: “to the one who works his wage is not reckoned as a favor but as what is due.” From this passage they infer that “works of the law”–are things that are done in our own strength with a view to earning merit from God in the sense of doing God a favor such that God is obligated to return the favor.

    MP—Faith can be referred to as obedience in the sense that when we believe in Christ we are doing what God tells us to. Thus is why the Scriptures sometimes speak of “obeying the gospel.” But “doing what God tells us to do” is not the definition of obedience to the law. Moral obedience does not simply mean “doing what God says” but doing what is virtuous. Faith in the gospel is not love for our neighbor.

    Romans 9:11-12 …for though the twins were not yet born, and had not done anything GOOD OR BAD, in order that God’s purpose according to His choice might stand, not because of works, but because of Him who calls, it was said to her, ‘the older will serve the younger.’”

    “Works” are “anything we do, whether good or bad.” Works are not simply acts one does without faith or to put God in one’s debt. Since faith in Christ is not a “work of the law,” it must follow that faith in Christ as Savior is not a requirement of the law but of the gospel. Gospel faith is not commanded by the law, and so faith is not a virtue.”

    http://www.oocities.org/mattperman/romans45.html

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  9. @JM The answer to the first question of the Heidelberg catechism is a pretty summary of thw gospel in estimation, though i am certainly no theologian. Of particular note is the end of the answer,

    “..Because I belong to him,
    Christ, by his Holy Spirit,
    assures me of eternal life
    and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready
    from now on to live for him.”

    Our sanctification is as much a work of the holy spirit as my justification.

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  10. Since “sanctification” is also “by the blood”, the application of Christ’s Death is by God the Father’s imputation.

    Hebrews 10: 10 And by that will we HAVE BEEN sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all time. 11 And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But when Christ HAD OFFERED ONCE FOR ALL TIME a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13 waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. 14 For by a single offering he HAS PERFECTED once for all time those who are being sanctified.

    Romans 6: 5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 We know that our old self WAS crucified with him in order that the body of sin be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For one who HAS DIED has been justified from sin. 8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all time…

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  11. Mark, I’m like you, I enjoy talking into the wind, that we call cyberspace, wondering if anyone’s reading. You post good stuff, I’ve been meaning to listen to the sermons I found of you online.

    Fun, huh? (emoticon).

    Peace.

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  12. “sanctification is as much a work of the holy spirit as my justification.”

    Of course it is. And of course it also involves my effort. Grace excludes merit but not effort. Even are ‘Yes’ has to be enabled by God, but we still must say yes. If there truly is no worry about anything we have to do, if it is all done, to the point off exaltation, then what is the point of even exhorting anyone?! It al becomes a “Universalism” of Sanctification. Read Paul backwards an you still won’t escape his note of personal responsibility. Effort matters. Fighting matters. Persevering to the end matters. It just does.

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  13. D. G. Hart
    Posted December 29, 2014 at 5:45 pm | Permalink
    JM, but Roman Catholics fudge and add love to faith. It’s grace-based salvation by works.

    Or your religion subtracts from faith, for faith without good works is in vain.

    Canon 1. “If any one saith, that man may be justified before God by his own works, whether done through the teaching of human nature, or that of the law, without the grace of God through Jesus Christ; let him be anathema.”

    You can’t saddle even the Council of Trent with preaching that man can save himself with good works. darrylloses

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  14. AB
    Posted December 30, 2014 at 12:05 am | Permalink
    Tvdloses

    Jesuswins.

    Hashtag that, yo.

    Jesus has left the building. Hashtag that, yo.

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  15. Exc graphic, DGH. Catholics are dogs, Protestants are cats. Catholicism is all about bonding and loyalty, Protestantism is about herding cats. I don’t even need to make that observation pejoratively. By putting a picture of a dog on this post about Catholics, you did it.

    Darryl, you killed this one. This is why I love your blog.

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  16. Tvd, hadn’t thought of that. I only had this come to mind re: the image

    Curb Your Enthusiasm – Oscie Boy!: http://youtu.be/HExBufKGo7Y

    Anyway, not entirely sure if Tvdloses was true, thanks for your thoughts on Trent. I’m not a fan of that doc (wcf endorses IAOC, take note, though I know some (leithart) would not necessarily agree with that).

    I’m gonna try to stop posting comments now. Take care.

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  17. thanks for the thanks, ab

    i heard a theologian talking about there being “other motives besides thanksgiving”

    he said—“dogs are thankful”

    i am thankful I don’t have to live with a dog or a cat

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  18. Mark, I hear ya. My wife pushed for us first having our cat (Maverick) and our dog (Mimi), but at least I got to name them. And that was before Palin ruined the M word, I just liked the movie (top gun). Peace.

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  19. AB,

    Dig into the sermons as soon as possible- they are well worth listening too. No flattery intended, McMark- I am just telling the truth.

    Bonhoeffer—Christian love always places Christ between me and the other. It prevents me from having an unmediated relationship with the other. When I long for an unmediated relationship with the other – a relationship where Christ is not between us – I always dominate and manipulate. I long for praise and I refuse to receive a rebuke. I manipulate the other and impose my will upon him/her. I use the other for my own evil devices. Without Christ’s mediation, all relationships unravel and end up with me as the only one worthy of praise and adoration. This is why flattery is so evil

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