12 September 2011

The Gateway Gospel vs. the Pathway Gospel

When Jesus told his disciples that he himself was 'the way' (John 14:6), he meant not just 'direction' in some general sense (though not less than that). By using this word, and judging from the context, Jesus seems to have meant something more--that he is the pathway, the road, the trail along which we journey through life. The same word is used earlier in John, for example, in John the Baptist's cry to 'Make straight the way of the Lord' (1:23).

Reflecting on Jesus' words 'I am the way,' Martin Luther wrote:
Christ is not only the way on which we must begin our journey, but He is also the right and the safe way we must walk to the end. We dare not be deflected from this. Here Christ wants to say: 'When you have apprehended Me in faith, you are on the right way, which is reliable. But only see that you remain and continue on it.' Christ wants to tear and turn our hearts from all trust in anything else and pin them to Himself alone.
For Luther, and for Luther’s Lord, the gospel of grace—that startling announcement of legal perfection, because of the work of Another, that defies all our intuitions about what God is like—is not the gateway into the Christian life but the pathway of the Christian life.

What’s the difference?

Galatians helps us.
The Gateway Gospel results in the sharp word from our church leaders—'I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ are are turning to a different gospel' (Gal 1:6). The Pathway Gospel is the ever-sustaining lifeblood of Christian living, calling us to never desert the grace of Christ.

The Gateway Gospel tells us to graduate on from the gospel. The Pathway Gospel tells us to 'walk in step with [orthopodeo—'straight-foot'] the truth of the gospel' (Gal 2:14).

The Gateway Gospel is to begin with the Spirit and then grow in the flesh. The Pathway Gospel is to begin in the Spirit and then grow in the Spirit (Gal 3:2–3).

The Gateway Gospel leaves behind slavery momentarily. The Pathway Gospel leaves behind slavery permanently (Gal 4:8–9).

The Gateway Gospel frees us today and then sends us back to 'a yoke of slavery' tomorrow. The Pathway Gospel frees us today and then invites us to 'stand firm' in that freedom (Gal 5:1).
Stepping away from the explicit language of Galatians, perhaps we could say:
The Gateway Gospel forgives our past sins and sets us on a new road of doing more and more for Jesus. The Pathway Gospel forgives our past, present, and future sins and sets us on a new road of enjoying more and more what Jesus has done for us--igniting real doing on our part.

The Gateway Gospel gains our doctrinal allegiance yesterday. The Pathway Gospel feeds our hungry heart today.

The Gateway Gospel gives us a burst of energy for a season. The Pathway Gospel gives us a dear friend for the whole journey.

The Gateway Gospel leaves us exhausted, frustrated, and bitter. The Pathway Gospel leaves us relaxed, liberated, and gentle.

The Gateway Gospel saves us from our sins. The Pathway Gospel saves us not only from our sins but also from all our other saviors.

The Gateway Gospel draws us to the idea of forgiveness. The Pathway Gospel draws us to the person of Jesus.

The Gateway Gospel is Jesus in black-and-white. The Pathway Gospel is Jesus in 3-D.

The Gateway Gospel tells us to march. The Pathway Gospel invites us to dance.

The Gateway Gospel is, ultimately, a lecture. The Pathway Gospel is a song.
'As for all who walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them . . .' --Galatians 6:16


Joanne said...

So grateful that Tullian tweeted this blog entry. It never fails to amaze me how much we are loved by Christ. Thank you for putting His endless love and grace into words. The Pathway!

ChosenRebel said...


Thanks for a profound reflection on the gospel. How much we need to mine the riches of the Reformation in our own time! For the glory of Christ and the joy of the nations, let's us think deeply on the wonders of the gospel.

Mandy Robinson said...

This is incredible. I found this post through Tullian's tweet today. I am so thankful to have found your blog. I heard this quote this past summer, "When you have a little drink of the Living Water, you realize how thirsty you really are." This post is so full of His abundance... thank you for the work you are doing and for sharing it with your readers.