The more I attend my new church, the more I am encouraged about the church, the more I love the church. When I say the church I mean the catholic or universal true church, not my local assembly alone. This is a huge turning point for me because for the past few years, I have been very disappointed in the American church as it has generally succumbed to prosperity theology, liberal theology or outright heresy in doctrine and ecclesiological practice. It’s not out of bounds to even question the authenticity of many professing churches when I compare them to the church and pastoral epistles in the New Testament.
So the reason for my encouragement you ask? In today’s service I witnessed two expressions of the gospel that seems foreign to the church. I witnessed an elder’s public confession of sin and church discipline. Without going into unnecessary detail, the former elder tearfully admitted his violation of 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and how his sin affected his employment, his relationships including his marriage resulting in the heavy discipline of the Lord.
Some still may be wondering why this was encouraging for me. I was encouraged by: the conviction and discipline he experienced which validates his sonship (Hebrews 12:5-11), his humility to confess which testifies of his agreement with the truthfulness of God (1 John 1:8-10), and the mercy he received and will receive from God and from the body (Proverbs 28:13 & Psalm 32).
It is imperative that we understand the scope of the gospel. I think when we think of the term “the gospel” we relegate that to the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ only. While that is the foundation of it, it is not the totality of it. The gospel is evidenced not only in justification, but in sanctification and ultimately our glorification. The Apostle Paul said in his introduction to the Romans:
16For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “BUT THE RIGHTEOUS man SHALL LIVE BY FAITH.”
Working backwards in these two verses, it’s obvious the believer or the one who has been imputed righteousness by faith will live by that same faith. The same faith that justified us is the same faith we’re called to live in. This is what Paul meant when he said from faith to faith. Or it can be said this way: from initial faith (justification) to the consummation of faith (glorification). Saying it this way implicitly includes our sanctification, which occurs as a result of being justified and is a precursor to being glorified.
The key issue is to notice from what and what is being revealed from faith to faith. Paul says from the gospel, the righteousness of God is being revealed. More specifically, the evidence of this gospel is the imputed righteousness of God progressively manifesting practically in our lives. This progressive manifestation of God’s righteousness is evidenced in our continual growth not only through love, patience, kindness, etc., but also in humility, submission, confession, correction, and repentance. Confession and repentance are signs of a contrite heart, which please the Lord.
While I do not rejoice in the sin of the former elder, I do rejoice because of the faithfulness of God to glorify Himself and to continually conform him to the image of His Son and bring him to glory.
Soli Deo Gloria!