In the first chapter of Philippians Paul mentions the word gospel 6 times. In verse 5 he mentions his and the Philippians’ partnership in the gospel. In verse 7 and 16 Paul talks about the defense of the gospel. In verse 12 Paul said his imprisonment has served to advance the gospel. In verse 27 Paul instructs the Philippians to live worthy of the gospel, and to strive for the faith of the gospel.
Six mentions of the gospel – and here is the striking thing – every single one of these gospel mentions refers to the Christian life after conversion. The implication is clear – the gospel is not merely for evangelism and conversion; the gospel is for all of life.
To be sure, the gospel is necessary for conversion, but it is also necessary for sanctification. To become a Christian, you must hear and believe the gospel. To be a Christian, you must hear and believe the gospel. It’s not something you believe and move on from; It’s something you believe and move into. The gospel is not the front door of the house, it is the house.
It wasn’t Paul who first clarified this for me personally; it was Martin Luther. I can still remember the first time I read the following words over ten years ago:
“Here I must take counsel of the gospel. I must hearken to the gospel, which teacheth me, not what I ought to do, (for that is the proper office of the law), but what Jesus Christ the Son
of God hath done for me: to wit, that He suffered and died to deliver me from sin and death. The gospel willeth me to receive this, and to believe it. And this is the truth of the gospel. It is also the principal article of all Christian doctrine, wherein the knowledge of all godliness consisteth. Most necessary it is, therefore, that we should know this article well, teach it unto others, and beat it into their heads continually.” (Martin Luther, St. Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians, Smith, English & Co. 1860, page 206)