One of the questions I am often asked is, “What does it mean to be Gospel-driven?”
This phrase seeks to capture the difference between the law (do and live) and the gospel (live now do). It seeks to distinguish for believers the way in which God motivates them to live their Christian lives (i.e., to pursue holiness and obedience to His law).
There are a great number of believers who are kept in great bondage (I confess!) due to a confused apprehension of the difference between the law and gospel.
This confusion is partly due to the endless magnifying of moral exhortations that is rampant within Evangelicalism as well one’s own legal disposition (of which all of us are intimately acquainted, as Ralph Erskine once wrote, “It is not easy to get the law killed; something of a legal disposition remains even in the believer while he is in this world…They that think they know the Gospel well enough bewray their ignorance; no man can be too evangelical, it will take all his life-time to get a legal temper destroyed.”).
Magnifying morality (e.g., the endless preaching of moral duty such as offering lessons from the lives of Biblical saints; offering countless lists of practical steps on how to live the Christian life) cannot make a believer holy.
“…some of us know, that when our souls are most comforted and enlarged with the faith of God’s favour through Christ, and with the hope of his goodness, then we have most heart to the duties…”
The knowledge of duty, law, morality, fear of God’s vindictive wrath and fear of being punished in hell due to unbelief, etc… will not lead a believer to delight in God or serve others.
It is only the internal knowledge of Christ that will bring about true holiness and sanctification in believers. The more believers have their minds and hearts spiritually and evangelically enlightened, the more they will pursue holiness and experience joy and find comfort and peace.
For, the root and spring of true peace and joy, heart-felt holiness and practical godliness stems from a genuine and lively faith of the free grace and mercy of God in Christ.
As Christ taught, “You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free,” (John 8:32). Again, “These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full,” (John 15:11, cf., 16:24; 17:13). Then again, “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world,” (John 16:33).
Ralph Erskine captures perfectly the idea of being “Gospel-driven” in the following quote:
Jehovah’s mercy makes us fear and love him; ‘then shall they fear the Lord and his goodness,” says the prophet. If a man hath no faith of his goodness, no hope of his favor in Christ, where is his purity and holiness? Nay, it is he that hath this hope that purifies himself, as God is pure. I know not what experience you have, Sirs, but some of us know, that when our souls are most comforted and enlarged with the faith of God’s favour through Christ, and with the hope of his goodness, then we have most heart to the duties; and when through unbelief we have harsh thoughts of God as an angry judge, then we have not heart to duties and religious exercises. And I persuade myself this is the experience of the saints in all ages,” (John Brown of Whitburn, Gospel-Truth, p. 76).
Such experience and persuasion as articulated by Erskine is what is meant by the phrase, “Gospel-Driven.”