“Ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light” (Ephesians 5:8).
In other words, you are light in Christ. Now live that way! The “gospel” of license, the “gospel” of legalism, and Paul’s gospel represent three very different postures when it comes to matters of sin and morality. For the sake of illustration, let’s take the issue of lying, which the New Testament condemns. (Feel free to insert any other sin that the Scriptures clearly address.)
Concerning the practice of lying, the message of license essentially says, “This issue is irrelevant. We live in a different world than the people of the Bible did. Our values are different and more advanced. God loves us all and understands our needs. We all sin. Everybody lies. You are judging others if you tell them that they are wrong or immoral for lying.”
The legalistic message says, “God will judge those who violate His commandments. Christians must not lie or else God will punish them.”
In contrast, Paul’s gospel exhorts, “Let me remind you that you are a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). Jesus Christ lives in you, and you are in Christ (Colossians 1:27). As such, your old fallen nature is dead. Christ exterminated it by His cross (Romans 6:6). Therefore, put off the old lifestyle of lying. Such is the conduct of a fallen creation. It’s not your conduct. Live according to who you really are and by the higher life that dwells within you.”
Paul’s gospel is built on the understanding that the key to spiritual transformation is not found in trying to improve oneself. It’s found in being reminded again and again of who we are in Christ and who Christ is in us.
For Paul, the Christian life is becoming what you already are. Our behavior as Christians stems from our identity. Paul’s gospel is one of liberty and lordship—the lordship of Christ and the liberty of the Spirit. It provides freedom from the fruitless attempt to keep a moral standard. It also sets us free from practicing evil. It is a liberty that brings us into a living knowledge of the One who indwells us—the One who happens to be the greatest Liberator in the universe as well as the Savior and Lord of the world.
—Condensed from Revise Us Again, © 2010 by Frank Viola. Published by David C. Cook.