“It is quite clear that the New Testament shows us that the person of Jesus Christ is worthy of imitating. In fact the imitation of Christ is an important dimension in the teaching about the Christian disciple’s existence. Yet, most Christians would understand the imitation of Christ is not the center of the teaching of the New Testament. We are saved and made into the image of Christ not by our efforts to imitate him. Such an idea reduces the gospel to ethical effort. We recognize that the gospel tells us of the absolutely unique work of Christ, both in his living and his dying, by which we are saved through faith. We cannot imitate or live the gospel event as such. We can only believe it. We cannot work our way to heaven by moral endeavor. We can only depend on the finished work of Christ for us. We cannot command other people to live or do the gospel. We must proclaim the message of what God has done for them in Christ.
We follow the New Testament in calling on people to live out the implications of the gospel, but we cannot urge people to actually live the gospel, for that was the unique work of Christ. This distinction between the gospel and its fruit in our lives is crucial. If we reject the notions of liberal Christianity that reduced the work of Jesus to ethical example, the implications are far-reaching for the way we handle the Bible. It is clear from the New Testament that the ethical example of Christ is secondary to and dependent upon the primary and unique work of Christ for us.”
Graeme Goldsworthy, Preaching the Whole Bible as Christian Scripture, p. 4