In the last post, I asked the question, What experiences shaped your personal understanding of how a person is meant to follow Jesus throughout life?
We then looked at powerful little illustration (see below) to explain how we can better understand the gospel and its implications for our daily lives. There are three “dimensions,” if you will, of the Gospel clearly seen throughout the Scriptures: The Gospel in Word, the Gospel in Deed and the Gospel in Power.
As the diagram shows, we all want to move toward the middle, where these three are constantly intersecting — where the Word of God is guiding our lives, where we are obediently walking in the Spirit, and where we are experiencing the Power of God and ministering in that power to others. So let’s look at each of these three dimensions in turn.
- The Gospel in Word
This is probably the aspect of the gospel we are most familiar with. I know I am for sure. In fact, I remember the first Scripture I memorized as a young high schooler was Hebrews 4:12 — “For the Word of God is living and active, sharper than any double-edged sword…”
- Without the Word of God, without divine revelation where God has revealed Himself to mankind, we are left aimless
- All that is necessary for life and ministry is based on the authority and sufficiently of God’s Word — at the center are the truth claims of Jesus Christ, His atoning work on the cross, and resurrection from the dead!
- Doctrine (right teaching and understanding) is essential
- The Gospel in Word embraces an appreciation of apologetics — the good news of Jesus is true and rationally defensible
- Ultimately the proclamation (preaching and telling others) of the good news of Jesus Christ is essential! I think we can all stack hands on that.
There is, however, a problem when the Gospel in Word gets emphasized above everything else.
At the extremes: Being “right” becomes more important than being holy or loving. Right thinking is elevated above right living. People master the Bible, but don’t let the Bible master them. They are comfortable with “Father, Son, and Holy Bible” but may have little room for the movement of the Holy Spirit.
- The Gospel in Deed
This dimension of the gospel focuses on tangible acts of obedience expressed in selfless serving of others. Jesus said, “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” – Mark 10:45 ESV
- In the Book of Mark, Jesus came “proclaiming the good news of the Kingdom” (in Word), but demonstrated this good news with deeds!
- What and whom Jesus values are a top priority for Jesus’ followers. We know that God has assignments for each of us for all of our days (See Ephesians 2:10)
- The Book of James reveals that true faith is validated by how one lives, how one loves, and how one behaves. The gospel is something to be lived out.
- The Gospel in Deed means that we, as followers of Jesus, are compelled to focus on the real issues of our time where the Kingdom of God invades and touches the realities of earth.
- We are, therefore, committed to showing the love of God through tangible service and practical love to the “least of these.”
At the extremes: Often the historical Jesus is thrown overboard. The “Social Gospel” is king, where doing good trumps everything. Sadly there is often little biblical fidelity or true spiritual life when people take the Gospel in Deed to the extremes.
- The Gospel in Power
If I had to guess which dimension of the gospel is weakest for those reading this post, my guess would be this one. We love God’s Word, seek to obey with our actions, but often don’t have a grid for the more supernatural elements of our faith.
- The Gospel in Power includes what are commonly known as “signs and wonders,” or demonstrations of power that are supernatural in nature.
- The Gospel in Power includes physical healing, emotional healing, deliverance from demonic oppression and the very real powers of evil in the world
- The necessity of this dimension of the gospel has often been better understood in cultures outside of the West (where the compartmentalization between natural and supernatural does not exist as it does here)
At the extremes: Subjective experiences rule. Truth, historicity, and tradition are devalued. Often poor theology and hermeneutics (interpretation of Scripture) results in an “anything goes” kind of Christianity. Who can argue with your experience, right? The temptation is to throw the baby out with the bathwater because we have seen the Gospel in Power pushed to the extremes. We must be careful with this! The basis of our faith, after all, is the Resurrection of Someone who was completely and totally dead! God still does miracles, but we often theologize this truth away.
Now, some questions for you:
- Which gospel dimension (word, deed, or power) are you strongest in? Which are you weakest in? Why do you think this is the case?
- What is your biggest barrier to integrating the “power” component?