Guilt, Gospel, and Glory
by Joseph Franks
In the second chapter of Ephesians, Paul presents both good and bad news to his readers. He takes his friends down a particular theological road, and as he does so, he makes sure to point out to them the concepts of Guilt, Gospel, and Glory:
Guilt – And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.
Gospel – But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
Glory – For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
As a minister of Christ, I am teaching those in my particular church use these three concepts — Guilt, Gospel, and Glory — as a rubric through which to properly read, preach, interpret, and apply God’s sacred Scripture. Everyday, as we go to various portions of God’s Word, we should:
- Read the numerous commands of God and humbly recognize our falling short of his good, holy, strict, and inflexible expectations. (Guilt)
- Remember the Gospel of God and trust in the mercy and grace of the one who perfectly provides redemption, forgiveness, justification, reconciliation, righteousness and a host of other benefits. (Gospel)
- Re-read the commands of God and seek the Spirit’s aid in obeying him from the inside-out. Transformed by the God of the Gospel, wanting to walk in greater holiness, panting to look more like Christ, hoping to better worship and represent him, we should long to be instructed by the Wonderful Counselor who gives us his stated will, and we should long to more consistently obey him. (Glory)
Such a Gospel-centered approach will decrease our tendency towards legalism. We will see the wonderful Law of God in its full light. We will not lessen God’s standards to prove ourselves righteous. No, we will consistently admit our failures and inabilities, and never will we be found praying the hypocrite’s prayer, “Father, I thank you I am not a sinner like … (fill in the blank).”
Additionally, such a Gospel-centered approach will decrease our tendency towards licentiousness. We will not find ourselves to be law-despising antinomians who are disinterested in God’s ethical prescriptions and prohibitions. Instead, we will proclaim sentiments like, “Oh how I love God’s law,” and “Upon God’s Law I meditate day and night,” and “I am Christ’s workmanship created to do good works and walk differently.”
Yes friends, these three words — Guilt, Gospel, and Glory — are the proper way to look at all God’s prohibitions, prescriptions, penalties, promises, and privileges. And as we utilize this interpretive rubric, we will find ourselves humble, happy, and holy. Humble we will be because we will again see the guilt we have earned. Happy we will be because we have freshly reminded ourselves of Christ’s righteousness in our stead. Holy we will be, not just because we are declared so, not just because we are positionally made saints, but also practically and progressively as we mature as worshipers of Christ.