In part one, we introduced the idea of gospel fluency and talked about the importance of clearly defining the gospel message according to Scripture. We looked at the gospel from two perspectives, in the air and on the ground, and we stressed the importance of gospel fluency in our commission to go out and make disciples.
As we continue to dive deeper in to the idea of gospel fluency, we must keep it’s purpose in mind. The purpose of being fluent in the gospel is not to simply impress others with our theological intellect. The goal of us being fluent in the gospel is ultimately to glorify God. The gospel is, at its very core, a picture of God’s glory on display through his grace. This purpose then manifests itself in our lives in two ways: inward, as we all grow up into Christ in every way (Eph. 4:15); and outward, as we go out into the world as agents of reconciliation for Christ (2 Cor. 5:18-20). Another way of looking at it is that God wants to do something TO us with the gospel so that he can do something THROUGH us with the gospel.
With that in mind, it is crucial that we understand that we never move beyond our need for the gospel in our walk with Christ. We never mature past the gospel, we only grow deeper into it’s depths and riches. In 1 Corinthians 15:1-2 Paul reminds us of this reality when he says, “Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, . . .” We see here that the gospel has necessary power in the past (“which you received”), present (“in which you stand”), and future (“by which you are being saved”). Often times it can be easy for us to see the gospel as simply the diving board into the pool of Christianity. We wrongly believe the gospel is what gets you in, then you immediately move on to something else. When in reality, the gospel is the very pool itself. And in order for us to mature in Christ and live out the calling that God has placed on all of us, we must continually immersing ourselves in the living water of the truth of the gospel.
When Paul instructs us to speak the truth to each other in love, this is what he is referring to. As Christians we must develop a habit and practice of speaking the truth of the gospel to ourselves and to each other, this is why gospel fluency is so important. If we have a vague or incomplete understanding of the gospel and its implications, we are going to be easily “tossed to and fro” by the hardships of life and the deceit of false teaching. It is the constant harkening back to the truths of what God has done for us in Christ, that propels us on in our maturity. We must first remember who we are before we can properly address what we are to do. This is a theme that is seen all throughout Scripture. The way that God accomplishes his purposes through us is by first establishing our identity.
We see this idea in action when God calls a man named Abram. Abram was an old man with no children. God comes to him and says that he is going to bless the whole world through Abram’s offspring, and God then gives Abram a new name: Abraham which means “father of many.”
But the thing about it is, God gives Abram his new name before he has any children. So, why would God give someone with no children the name “father of many?” Because God was establishing Abraham’s identity first, and out of this new identity, God was going to accomplish his plans in and through Abraham.
This same truth applies to us. The gospel does not save us only to then leave us on our own to figure things out. Through the work of Christ, we are given a new identity that we then live out of. We do not live FOR our identity in Christ, we live FROM our identity in Christ. Our being comes before our doing. Galatians 2:20 tells us how this is possible,
“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
Here we see that our old identity, the one of death and bondage to sin, has been killed and we have been given a new identity in Christ. In fact, our new identity is Christ! And because of this new identity, we now are empowered and equipped to live and grow into the new creations that God has intended us to be.
Now, as we seek to live out the commands and commissions of God in our lives, we have a frame of reference to work from. Ephesians 2:10 tells us that “we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” This is Paul reminding us that, yes, we do have work to do as Christians, but that we don’t do good works to become God’s children, we do good works because we already are God’s children who have been “raised with Christ and seated with him in the heavens”. Our identity is already securely established in Christ Jesus.
The beginning of gospel fluency is first understanding that our identity comes before our calling. Our being comes before our doing. In part 3 of the series, we will begin looking at a helpful framework for discovering what our true identity is, where is comes from, and how we are to live in light of it.