The Gospel Coalition

2009 changed everything for me. I went through a terribly painful church transition and the death of my father. C.S. Lewis said that pain is God's megaphone to wake us up. During that season of ache, God woke me up to the size and scope of his amazing grace and I've never been the same. I learned that his grace is sufficient in brand new, bright, and liberating ways. I learned in my desperation just how big God's deliverance truly is. I learned, at a functional level, that everything I need in Christ I already possess.

As I traveled and shared the message that Jesus + Nothing = Everything and that the gospel is the good news that because Jesus was strong for you, you're free to be weak; because Jesus was extraordinary, you're free to be ordinary; because Jesus succeeded for you, you're free to fail; because Jesus won for you, you're free to lose--I always got two questions:
Is this true?

And if it is, why have I been in church my whole life and never heard this before?

I knew that I wasn't saying anything new. It just seemed so new to so many because it had been lost for so long amidst a moralistic, narcissistic, "do more, try harder", caricature of the Christian faith that has been prevalent for so long. What I kept hearing from people all over the world was that so many pulpits consistently preach the Christian and not the Christ and as a result many have been burdened by the false idea that the focus of the Christian faith is the life of the Christian. I knew something had to be done.

So...LIBERATE was born.

The mission of LIBERATE is to announce (and then announce again and again) the liberating word of the gospel to a wounded and worn out world, hoping that the burdened and burnt out, the Christian and the non-Christian, will hear and rest in the freedom that Jesus came, died, and lives to give. Through the demand of his law, God confronts and condemns people in their bondage and sin; through the declaration of his gospel, God comforts and forgives people with the liberating love of Jesus Christ. We want sufferers to hear these "two words" (law and gospel) so they can believe the promise that frees us from our past of guilt and shame; frees us from the present bondage of bitterness, insecurity, self-reliance, and fear; and frees us for the joy of worshiping God and serving our neighbor.

We plan to distribute this message through an annual conference (our first one was last February--you can read about it here), books, music, sermons, curriculum, and a very well-resourced website.

LIBERATE online is a collection of resources (sermons, blog posts, conference talks, testimonies, conversations, and more) that attempt to say one thing in fresh and diverse ways: Jesus came to set the captives free (Luke 4:18). My hope and prayer is that this website will be a place where you can hear and believe the good news that the God who rightly condemns sinners according to his law, liberates sinners with the forgiving love of his gospel. We pray that it becomes a catalytic platform for serious thinking about "a more radical gospel."

Welcome to LIBERATE!

Help us spread the raging fire of freedom...


Paul St Jean

June 15, 2012 at 08:48 AM

Beloved Brethren

There is a kind of progress, a kind of growth spoken of; one cannot mistake that.But it is a progress in dying to the old and being raised in the new.

Luther's famous words from his Preface to Romans bears repeating:

Faith is the divine work in us which changes us and births us anew out of God (John 1:13),and kills the old Adam, makes us into entirely different people from the heart, soul, mind, and all powers, and brings the Holy Spirit with it. Oh it is a living, busy, active, mighty thing, this faith, so it is impossible that it should not do good. It does not ask if good works should be done, but before one asks, has done them and is always active. Whoever, though,does not do such work is a faithless person, peeking and poking about for faith and good works not knowing what either faith or good works are, who putters in much verbiage about faith and good works.

taken from "Justification By Faith"-"a matter of Death and Life" by Gerhard Forde

John Dunn

June 14, 2012 at 09:08 AM

The onus is kept on the believer when they are given no hope of the supernatural resurrection-life of Christ presently at work within them by His Spirit.

Such believers do not see by faith that they have been raised from the dead with Christ, completely delivered from the old man, and now are seated with Him in the heavenly places (Eph 2:5-6).

Instead, they hopelessly grope and grovel for assurance under the weight of only seeing themselves as condemned and miserable sinners against the backdrop of the Law. Classical Reformed/Puritan confessions issue the gospel, but send the saints reeling back to the Law for sanctification. As a result, the saints do not come into the full liberty and freedom of their glorious deliverance in Christ. Rather, they are left to vacillate between a Gospel that justifies them and a condemning Law that relentlessly pursues and condemns them . . . so that they are ever fleeing to Christ for escape from Law terrors. In many circles this type of groveling, self-focused Puritan Pietism is a mark of true godliness. It offers the sainted in Christ Redeemed no rest. No assurance. No final breaking from the Law in Christ.

And certainly no understanding of what it means to "serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code" (Rom 7:6).

Christ was delivered up to death for our trespasses and raised for our justification (Rom 4:25). Our justification is inseperably tied to his resurrection - and by extension, his resurrection within us! With Christ and in Christ, we are raised to justification and life by the very same Spirit which raised Him from the dead (Rom 8:10-11). If Christ has not been raised our faith is futile and we are still in our sins (1 Cor 15:17). But praise be to God we are *not* still in our sins.

By Christ's resurrection from the dead, and by His resurrection-life presently at work in us, we have already begun to partake of the firstfruits of that glorious Resurrection which will be fully realized and consumated at His coming!

Mitchell Hammonds

June 14, 2012 at 08:29 PM

Hey Brandon,
I agree (as far as I understand Law and Gospel) that not every "instruction" is given as a law. Such as "persevere in the faith" but as I have said before eventually we all find ourselves "not persevering." I would disagree that Law/Gospel distinctives are valuable for only understanding forensic justification - though that is my "Hill that I will die on." I find absolute comfort in the fact that I stand righteous before God because of Christ's imputed righteousness (though I don't want to get into that debate again). If we want to discuss "imperatives" and not call them 'law' then we need to find another categorical title... it's imperative that I drive the speed limit... it's a law. I make it plain that it's imperative my kids obey - law in the home.
When someone strikes you on the cheek give them the other to
strike - law. If these types of commands don't hit your ear as a law of some sort then we definitely read Scripture differently because I don't turn "the other cheek" well... at all. And if this is what a "true Christian" looks like I'll be the first to admit I'm in trouble. I think the same thing can be said of how we take care of the poor - if we really cared we would give away our excess wealth in order to fulfill the "non-law imperative... grace empowered imperative" or whatever you want to call it.
I think the Law/Gospel motif gives us an honest/sincere prognosis of our condition. But because of Christ we can "call ourselves what we are "justified and sinful."
How we read Scripture, in my opinion, must correspond to reality. And when I read folks who are placarding their sincerity/pursuit of Christ as though it's absolutely the most important thing they do - well it's kind of laughable.
Law and Gospel takes serious what has been accomplished "for me" - forensic justification, imputed righteousness and the like. I hope that these realities have an effect on the way I live - I think they do. But I'll let God be the judge of that - one day. That's about as serious as I can get.
I enjoy the conversation bro!

Brandon E

June 14, 2012 at 07:57 PM

In my former identity as a “pharisee” I thought much of my morality and my ability to maintain a “life by the Spirit.” But now I have come to understand I really wasn’t any better off.

One thing that can help is seeing that Christ’s indwelling us through the Spirit is not for mere personal victory--or our own individual, private interests and concerns--but for God to gain a people who live by His life together corporately as one Body of Christ.

It’s not that you specifically, in yourself, have the ability to maintain a “life by the Spirit,” but that the Body of Christ together does. It’s not all about whether you are any better off or not, but whether the Body is better off or not. It’s not that Christ’s indwelling us should force us to conclude, “Go me!” but that God's surpassingly great power that raised Christ from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenlies is “to the church, which is Body the fullness of the One who fills all in all” (Eph. 1:19-23). The devil is not afraid of individuals, but he is afraid of the church in resurrection, under whose feet God of peace will crush Satan shortly (Rom. 16:20, cf. Eph. 6:10-20).

The fact that Christ indwells us in resurrection should not cause you or I to be proud of “my morality” or “my ability.” Rather, we praise the Lord not for “my ability” but for what He has done to produce the Body of Christ that is one with Him in His resurrection life. The focus of our union with Him is not us as individuals. The focus is what Christ has done to gain a Body that expresses the riches of His life and bears fruit unto God (Matt. 5:14-16; John 15:4-5; Eph. 4:11-16; Titus 2:14; 1 Pet. 2:9-12).

Steve Martin

June 14, 2012 at 07:53 AM

The 'yeah buts' will never stop.

Keep the onus on the believer. Create doubt and despair...or little Pharisees. One might as well just return to Rome. It's basically the same stuff, repackaged.

Off to work. (pardon the pun)

Brandon E

June 14, 2012 at 05:49 PM

Hi Mitchell,
I think it is fair to say that those who actually take their spirit-filled life the most serious are probably the ones who don’t feel the need to let everyone else know “just how serious they are and how serious everyone else should be.”

How would you relate this word to the apostle Paul’s word in Phil. 3:7-16, in which he describes his own pursuit of Christ and commends it to the believers, “Let us therefore, as many as are full-grown, have this mind; and if in anything you are otherwise minded, this also God will reveal to you”? He took the Lord Jesus seriously, we might say, and that motivated him to say, “Not that I have already obtained or am already perfected, but I pursue, if even I may lay hold of that for which I also have been laid hold of by Christ Jesus” (v. 12) and “I pursue toward the goal for the prize to which God in Christ Jesus has called me upward” (v. 14).

I think that the real issue here is not how serious or not serious is any specific person but what is the revelation revealed in Scripture. A person can affirm that the Bible does in fact say things like “Walk by the Spirit and you shall by no means fulfill the lust of the flesh,” even if they don’t know how to walk by the Spirit and the lusts of their flesh are very active. The truth doesn’t depend on our condition, and it can be affirmed despite our condition. The truth sheds light upon our mixed history of apparent victories and defeats and is not defined by our personal history.

The Law/gospel distinction is crucial and essential for showing how we are justified in Christ and that His finished work is the basis for our assurance. Hence, there is always love and grace when we fail, and we should expect many failures, being persons with the flesh of sin until the glorification of our bodies. But the traditional Law/gospel distinction doesn’t describe the entirety of what Christ is to us or the full revelation of Scripture. I’m not saying that the law/gospel distinction should be dropped, but only that its not the whole picture, and overstretching it to make it the whole picture results in distortions. The “gospel” in the law-gospel framework is typically defined almost exclusively as what saves us from the judicial demands of the law upon us so that we can justified by grace through faith. This is fine as far as it goes, but Christ’s finished work is not merely judicial in nature and content, and neither is His ongoing work in the organic Body of Christ. Moreover, some define “Law” as pretty much “all imperatives in Scripture.” But not all imperatives spoken by Christ and the apostles are the Law in black and white letters that demands perfection or else condemnation, such that we should be depressed when we fail to keep it or proud if we appear to do so. However, people can wind up thinking this way when they are taught day in and day out to think of it as the Law.

Pastor Ed

June 14, 2012 at 05:12 PM

Well said Mitchell!

Isaiah 40:6b-8 says this; All flesh is grass, and all its beauty is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades when the breath of the LORD blows on it; surely the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.

The word translated "beauty" in verse 6 is the Hebrew word hesed. That word is most often translated as steadfast love. It has to do with faithfulness, specifically to God's covenant. All of our faithfulness is like the grass of the field, here today and gone tomorrow, BUT the word of our God will stand forever. VDMA!

I know from experience how fleeting my faithfulness can be, so I flee to my Lord and His word. His word is "Comfort, comfort my people, says your God." Isaiah 40:1

Jesus I take seriously! Everyone else (especially myself) not so much.

Brandon E

June 14, 2012 at 04:47 PM

Steve M.
It’s not “Yeah you have to do something or else be condemned by the Law and lose your assurance,” but “Yes and...Christ died not only for our sins to satisfy the law’s demand upon us but now in resurrection He dwells in us and we in Him that we may live by Him” (John 15:4-5).

I don’t see how anything I said should create despair and doubt in the believers. The problem is that you’re seeing all imperatives against (to borrow John Dunn’s phrase) the backdrop of the Law. You're seeing all imperatives as putting a Law-like onus back on the believers, something that requires our own effort and condemns as futile anything less than perfection. But Christ and the apostles issued many imperatives concerning the Christian life. There’s no escaping the biblical fact. The problem is that you see all imperatives against the backdrop of the Law rather than against the full backdrop of Christ and His life in us through the Spirit. The Law fills your vision so much that you can’t see all that Christ is to us in His resurrection.

The apostle Paul says things in Galatians like “But I say, Walk by the Spirit and you shall by no means fulfill the lust of the flesh” (Gal. 5:16). There’s no thought in this chapter that if a believer fails to walk by the Spirit perfectly they should feel condemned as if by the Law; and there’s no thought that if the believers walk by the Spirit and bear fruit (v. 22-25) it will turn them into proud, self-righteous little Pharisees.

The apostle Peter says that through His divine power and exceedingly great promises we have been granted all things related to life and godliness, through which we become “partakers of the divine nature,” and therefore we should “add all diligence” to add to our faith virtue, knowledge, self-control, endurance, godliness, brotherly love and love, for “....these things, existing in you and abounding, constitute you neither idle nor unfruitful unto the full knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Pet. 1:3-11). Will you oppose the apostle Peter’s inspired word here, and hence oppose the full knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ, just to preserve your system of theology intact? Do you think that the apostle Peter was being a legalist, Pharisee, returning us to Rome?

The thing is, we all speak about what impact the Lord’s finished work should have upon our living as Christians. Christ and the apostles did; and it’s no wonder that they did, if God cares about us and our living. Pastor Tullian talks about it here; it’s we who are “liberated” when we see see Christ’s finished work. The terms “Christ-centered” and “self-focused” necessarily imply our way of life, for it’s us who are either focused on Christ or on the self. The fact that our living is mentioned doesn’t make us self-focused.

You yourself believe that Christ’s finished work should cause people to “get grace,” that if we really see Christ’s finished work we will think and behave in a certain way. Your comments aren’t just simple declarations about what Christ has done, but are often comments about us: what Lutherans do or don’t do, what non-Lutherans should or shouldn’t be doing, what should happen to us if we truly “get” grace. When you feel that people don’t “get” it as well as you think they should, you often come down on them with all kinds of religious epithets, such as “little Pharisees,” “returning to Rome,” etc. as your last comment demonstrates. You’re demanding that people “get grace” well enough, turning attention to what effect seeing Christ’s finished work should have on our being.

But when people say that we need to see that the resurrected Christ lives in the believers via the Spirit so that we may live by Him, and that such a reality causes us to desire to respond to Him, pursue Him, obey Him, pursue growth, work with Him, etc. without the mentality, stigma and onus of the Law, you come down on them hurling religious epithets, as exemplified in your last comment. Can you see the double-standard at work here? It is as if your desire to exalt your form of Lutheran theology is preventing you from thinking fairly and is making your mind impenetrable and hostile to any possible further light from Scripture.

Mitchell Hammonds

June 14, 2012 at 04:43 PM

I am fairly comfortable looking at my "Christian life" and describing it as a mixed bag of successes and failures. In my former identity as a "pharisee" I thought much of my morality and my ability to maintain a "life by the Spirit." But now I have come to understand I really wasn't any better off. In fact, I would describe my life then as "unconsciously miserable." The Law/Gospel distinction actually let me have humorous sincerity about my condition.

I think it is fair to say that those who actually take their spirit-filled life the most serious are probably the ones who don't feel the need to let everyone else know "just how serious they are and how serious everyone else should be."

Simil justus et piccator

Paul St Jean

June 14, 2012 at 04:07 AM

We are the children of God, sons of God, Brethren, The Redeemed from the foundation of the Earth, beloved of God, Elect, Blessed, and we are now One with Him.

John Dunn

June 14, 2012 at 03:37 PM

Pastor Ed,

Read the Heidelberg Catechism Q&A 91 to 115 under the section: Gratitude. Tell me how the Christian is to return under the Old Covenant pedagogue of the Law and render liberating, condemnation-free, joyful service, when in the end "even the holiest have only a small beginning of this obedience"? And why is it necessary for the Law to be preached so strictly so that the redeemed saint, who is delivered from the Law, can know more and more of his sinfulness? Why this emphasis on the Law for living lives of Gospel "gratitude" when it has been crucified for the saints with Christ (Rom 7:1-6, Eph 2:15, Col 2:14, Gal 5:18)?

I was once a Law/Gospel type of the conservative Reformed variety. I've lived under that navel-gazing bondage and misery of "experientialism". So I speak from bitter personal experience in those circles. As for your comments about a "theology of glory", they are a badly constructed straw-man of anything I or others have ever written regarding the Christ-in-us realities of the New Covenant.

Brandon E

June 14, 2012 at 02:28 AM

Steve M,
No…the mistake comes when you actually believe that you have something that Christ wants, other than your faith.

How about our entire being?

"Therefore also we are determined, whether at home or abroad, to gain the honor of being well pleasing to Him....
For the love of Christ constrains us because we have judged this, that One died for all, therefore all died;
And He died for all that those who live may no longer live to themselves but to Him who died for them and has been raised."
-2 Cor. 5:9, 14-15

"I exhort you therefore, brothers, through the compassions of God to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, well pleasing to God, which is your reasonable service."
-Rom. 12:1

“Who gave Himself for us that He might redeem us from all lawlessness and purify to Himself a particular people as His unique possession, zealous of good works.”
-Titus 2:14

“Therefore we also, since the day we heard of it, do not cease praying and asking on your behalf that you may be filled with the full knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding,
To walk worthily of the Lord to please Him in all things, bearing fruit in every good work and growing by the full knowledge of God,”
-Col. 1:9-10

“But holding to truth in love, we may grow up into Him in all things, who is the Head, Christ.”
-Eph. 4:15

It’s not that we have any thing to give Him, but that He wants us--our created, then fallen, but redeemed and purified vessel--so that He can increase in us that we might be filled unto all the fullness of God (Eph. 3:14-19; 1:22-23). He did not die only for our sins that we might be forgiven, but He died for us that we might live unto Him and grow up into Him in all things. This is possible because in resurrection He dwells in us and we in Him as one Body, and His love in us constrains us unto this. Our faith is in such a Christ, not only in a Christ who saves us from the law’s condemnation. When we see more of who Christ is and what He has done, our view of Christ is enlarged, and hence our faith is enlarged. This is how we grow and bear fruit in our knowledge and experience of Him (Col. 1:10; 2 Pet. 3:18), how our actual being becomes more Christ-centered.

And toward this end, the Lord Jesus and the apostles did issue many imperatives concerning growth/fruit/obedience/diligence/good works/pursuing Christ, righteousness, sanctification/aiming to please God, etc. Can any reasonable person deny it? But when a not-Lutheran-enough person repeats what they said it you tend to accuse them of being pietistic, legalistic, Romish, self-focused, and a biblicist who opposes Christ with the Scripture, simply because it can’t fit neatly into your system. The law-gospel dichotomy is preventing you from seeing that not all imperatives concerning our Christian life are “the Law” or “law-keeping,” and that they’re not all inherently self-focused instead of than Christ-focused. Many imperatives are there in Scripture to alert us that there's more to Christ than that which solves the law's requirements upon us; He's more to us than just this. The law-gospel dichotomy is essential for seeing how we are justified and assured of salvation, but it’s not a description of everything that Christ is to us as revealed in Scripture.

Pastor Ed

June 14, 2012 at 01:52 PM


You write as if you don't think we believe that our response to Grace is something to be taken seriously. As if the Law/Gospel paradigm negates a vibrant response and understanding of what it means to be a new creation. Nothing could be further from the truth! The proper understanding (and distinction) of Law & Gospel frees me to respond fully, without guilt or fear. The theology of glory that sees faith as step one and personal holiness as step two is slavery of the most insidious kind. It either removes assurance or creates false assurance by turning works into proof of saving faith. The end result is either pride or despair.
You also believe that we Law/Gospel types somehow wallow in our sinfulness and believe that we can do nothing but believe. We can and do serve Him and seek to follow him (because we take the Law seriously) but we put no confidence in the flesh. We find no assurance in our response only in the completed work of Christ on our behalf. So our response is a natural gratitude rather than an attempt to produce "fruit" on our own.
The problem of defeatism and spiritual laziness is not answered by blending Law back into the Gospel. Rather the Law needs to be preached with all its convicting force and then the Gospel proclaimed with all of its promiscuous (great word Tullian!) forgiveness. This alone (through the ministry of the Holy Spirit) can produce a vibrant faith and response to the gift that has been given.

Pax, Ed

Steve Martin

June 14, 2012 at 01:01 AM

No...the mistake comes when you actually believe that you have something that Christ wants, other than your faith.

The mistake is putting the em-pha-sis on the wrong syl-la-ble.

The mistake is turning people back into themselves. Christ has freed us from all of that.

The mistake is being a biblicist and confusing law from gospel.

The mistake is saying "He must decrease, I must increase."

Lots of mistakes going on, and focusing on the FINISHED WORK OF CHRIST is not one of them.

John Dunn

June 13, 2012 at 11:25 AM

"Just a sinner-saved-by-grace is only half the Gospel"

Do not dishonour the Spirit of Christ given at Pentecost to indwell His blood-redeemed people:

Brandon E

June 13, 2012 at 09:28 PM

The doctrine of justification by grace through faith was restored 500 years ago, but the result throughout much of Europe was often a dead orthodoxy among Protestants.

Martin Luther himself was disillusioned with the results amongst his Wittenberg congregation:

”One would think that Luther's confidence in the Holy Spirit's power to make the preached word effective in the hearers would have kept him from what today we call ‘burnout.’ Not so. In 1528 he warned the Wittenberg congregation that he would stop preaching unless he saw more fruit of the gospel among them. In his New Year's sermon of 1530, he complained bitterly of their utter selfishness. A short time later he said he would rather preach to raving dogs than to them and that from then on he would confine himself to the classroom....From January until the fall of 1530, Luther preached only three times in Wittenberg, two of those at the express command of his prince....After the exhausting pace of the 1520s he was deeply disappointed that the restoration of the Word of God had produced little significant change in the people who heard it first."
-Fred W. Meuser, "Luther as Preacher of the Word of God," The Cambridge Companion to Martin Luther, ed. Donald K. McKim (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003), 146-147

Luther eventually did return to preaching regularly to his congregation, this time without making issues out of their lack of fruit. But still the general situation amongst the Protestant churches was often a kind of dead orthodoxy--highly ritualistic and sacramental on Sundays, but morally and spiritually adrift in everyday life. The pietists, many of whom saw themselves as a continuation of the Lord’s work that began with the Reformation, rose up to counter the situation,, but they had their extremes--mostly an overemphasis on individual spirituality and spiritual practices.

I believe that part of our need is to see that doctrine alone (even the truest doctrines) cannot truly reform our being: God is not merely trying to recover the doctrine of justification by grace through faith but to recover Christ as everything to His Body, the church. And Jesus Christ our Lord is not only our Redeemer for our justification but also resurrection life in us through the Spirit for our organic salvation (living and growing in loving oneness with Him, as branches in the Vine, members of one Body, many sons of God who share the same life in the Son of God, so that the riches and fullness of His life may be expressed on earth). Romans 5:10 says, “For if we, being enemies, were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more we will be saved in His life, having been reconciled.” Beyond only being judicially reconciled to God through the death of His Son, there is a “much more” salvation in His life. Because Christ is life (John 14:6; 11:25; 1 John 5:12) and Christ lives in us (Gal. 2:20), we may learn to live and serve by His life in us rather than our own independent life (John 15:4-5l Gal. 5:16-26). For this reason the apostle Paul said that although he was not already perfect and had not yet attained, he would pursue and press on to the Christ before, pursuing toward the goal for the prize for which God called him upward (Phil. 3:7-16). In the realm of law and gospel (justification), there is nothing for us to pursue or to work out. In the realm of knowing Christ as our life and everything, there is so much of Christ to pursue in the Spirit, and while God is operating in us yet are told to work our own salvation (Phil. 2:12-13).

Although he doesn’t seem to speak that much about the organic, Christ-lives-in-us aspect of salvation on his blog, I appreciate pastor Tullian for preaching the judicial aspect of what the Lord Jesus is to us, that He satisfied the demands of the law so that we don’t have to to be justified or saved eternally.

The problem is when people use this healthy teaching to then say all that any desire for growth/obedience to God/pursuit of sanctification/fruit-bearing is self-focused law-keeping (even though Christ and the apostles taught this sort of thing and issued many imperatives, and the Spirit of Christ encourages such desires within regenerated believers). This mistake comes from neglecting the organic aspect of salvation and artificially trying to make the entirety of the unsearchable riches of Christ (Eph. 3:8) fit into the doctrinal understanding of the dichotomy between “law” and “gospel” that really only covers the judicial aspect of salvation.


June 13, 2012 at 08:05 AM

What I appreciate about this as opposed to prior usages of Luke 4:18 and related verses, is that in the case of LIBERATE, the Law doesn't go away or get marginalized, but rather provides the basis by which we need God's grace. So in my mind the theological/doctrinal foundation of LIBERATE is much more solid than what I heard at a church 20 years ago. I pray that God will use LIBERATE to provide biblical liberation to many, and convey the true beauty of the Gospel as brought by Jesus, and the Law as fulfilled by Him for our benefit.

Steve Martin

June 13, 2012 at 08:00 PM

John D.,

We law/gospel types don't deny what the Lord is doing in us. But we realize that is His business, and He will do it. There's no need to place us back in the center of the discussion. Christ and His finished work remains the center amongst theologians of the cross. Theologians of glory are boosted into the saddle but now they must take the reins.

No thanks.


Here's a good one. Albeit very short (only 13 minutes):


John Dunn

June 13, 2012 at 06:08 PM

Pastor Ed,

So your view of the Spirit's ministry is one that leaves you to know and experience more and more of your misery, sinfulness, and convinces you that you-can't-do-anything but believe the Gospel?

Christ's justifying resurrection-life in us by the Spirit has nothing to do with focusing on our response, our duties, or our obedience against the backdrop of the Law. It's not about us at all. And it has nothing to do with the Law. In Christ, the Law is a completely dead husband to us (Rom 7:1-6). Rather, Gospel faith produces robust Gospel life. This Gospel-produced life is all about Christ's new life radiating in and through us by the powerful working of the Holy Spirit. Our *nothing* lives get swallowed up into His glorious Life, His glorious Body! We are now one with Him.

The Gospel is the gateway which connects the branches to the Vine. We don't just stop at the gate. We enter into full union with Christ the Vine. Once connected we begin to truly live - and only because He lives and produces His fruit abundantly in us via the Spirit. This new life flows from the Gospel fountainhead and cannot be separated from it.

The artificial law-gospel dichotomy tragically misidentifies any Christ-in-us response/fruit/obedience to our Gospel union to Christ as a self-focused law work. And this is an outrage to the Spirit of grace who completes the work in us.

In the New Covenant age, Spirit-inspired apostolic imperatives give Life to those born of the Spirit . . . for the ministry of the Spirit is Life . . . not letter, not death (2 Cor 3:3-18).

Denise C. Duke

June 13, 2012 at 05:17 PM

I "discovered" grace 3 years after my salvation (1981). It was God showing me the worst sins I had committed and there was total forgiveness on His part towards ME. BUT the next step was to extend that grace to MYSELF, to forgive myself. I have walked in grace towards OTHERS all my Christian life, or so I thought, until the Lord showed me something else I needed to repent for!

But I UNDERSTAND a previous comment that it can be preached from the pulpit but NOT carried out by the people you go to church with, them trying to put legalism on YOU! Because they themselves are BOUND and just hadn't "got it" yet!

May the Lord Bless your endeaver!

Steve Martin

June 13, 2012 at 04:52 PM

Nice job, Pastor Ed.

I believe it.

Pastor Ed

June 13, 2012 at 01:36 PM

We are Simul Justus et Peccator - simultaneously saint and sinner.
To say that I am "just a sinner" is totally true. I am, and until my death will always be a sinner. That I am at the same time justified is the astounding good news of the Gospel. It is not half of the story, it is the story! What you believe is the "other half" of the Gospel is in fact our Spirit enabled response to the Gospel.
When we try to focus on our response we inevitably leave the Gospel behind and return to the Law, focusing on ourselves and what we do. So if the Gospel is to remain the fuel for all that we do then we must never forget the fact that we are "just sinners, saved by grace". And the Spirit is the One who helps us never to forget this fact.
This is not dishonoring to the Spirit! This is exactly what Jesus said that the Spirit would do (John 16:12-15). Without the Spirit we would not have the faith to believe the Gospel. There is no hope in my response, only in the gift that makes my response possible.

Mike Ferraguti

June 12, 2012 at 09:21 AM


A few sermons ago, you said that we cannot move away from grace and I wholeheartedly agree. As soon as you finish your sermon on Sunday, as soon as the worship team finishes the music and even before I take one step out of the pew, I am hit with legalism, and I return with an equally hard blow of law during fellowship, whether it takes the form of the performance of my children, myself as a husband and father, and the myriad ways I did or didn’t perform during the previous week.

As you know, I work in an evangelism ministry and I suspect that many of the people involved in this ministry carry a wallop of law. The thinking is that if you are not involved in sharing your faith on a regular basis, then you are not spiritually strong, you are less than a Christian, and you will never hear “Well done good and faithful servant.” I even find that I punch myself in the face countless times. “Why did you not witness to that person?” “Why is your faith so weak?” “How dare you relax when there are people that need saving.”

We can NEVER move from grace, because not only do we pummel people with our legalism on a daily basis, we are also our own worst punching bags.

Thank you for Liberate. I would love to hear you break down the parable of the talents sometime. (Matthew 25:14-30).

Blessings and keep on preaching grace!

Mike Ferraguti

Todd Van Voorst

June 12, 2012 at 08:09 AM

"everything I need in Christ I already possess."

"so many pulpits consistently preach the Christian and not the Christ and as a result many have been burdened by the false idea that the focus of the Christian faith is the life of the Christian."

Thank you for your passionate commitment to this Gospel of God and for taking initiatve to create a medium for ensuring its clear proclamation preserved.

Pastor Ed

June 12, 2012 at 04:14 PM

So happy to see things moving forward! I grew up in church but had to go to seminary to hear the message of grace without the strings! I remember when I "got it" and how much I cherished the new freedom that I had had all along. That freedom made me want to do more, not less. And I could do it guilt free! I was at the first Liberate and will be back again. Thanks for being a loud and effective voice for the Gospel in a sea of lesser messages.

Grace & Peace,

Susanne Schuberth (Germany)

June 12, 2012 at 03:10 PM


Many thanks for these, veritably numerous and different, resources you are providing with the LIBERATE online collection. Indeed, when I see how many ‘burdened and burnt out’ people are out there, I am so thankful that you are never giving up proclaiming the liberating part of the Gospel, that is the justification; this fact actually appears to me already being a renewed Reformation.

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” (James 1:17)

Although you had a really tough year in 2009, I think that God knew “that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (Rom 8:28). As long as we are captured in seemingly hopeless situations, we cannot see what good will come from the bad in our lives. In the individual case, it is only possible to say in retrospect that God led us through dark times as well.

It is so crucial to be reminded that Jesus did everything to enable sinners to begin a relationship with God through Christ who paved and is the way to continued communion with God. As for justification, I would say to Jesus, “I can’t repay you for all that you’ve done.” There is nothing we could do to earn justification before God.

Nevertheless, a justified sinner is not yet automatically a sanctified person though Jesus Christ also provided sanctification by outpouring the Holy Spirit after His Resurrection and Ascension. May we never forget that it is also part of the Gospel that believers’ hearts should be changed through the power of the Holy Spirit...The more I know of God, the more I see how unpredictable a life under the guidance of the Holy Spirit is; each time I look back, I somehow wonder how God has set the course in my life. I’m an idiot not to trust Him, since He is permanently originating wonderful things, and He never ever disappointed me although there were (and still are) tough times in my life as well. Of course, it would be lovely to be able to say to God, “Just tell me where to go and I'll do whatever you want.” However, He is a God who loves surprises, and sanctification on the whole is a state of not knowing (what will happen) but being known by God (1 Cor 8:3).

Every blessing to you,


June 12, 2012 at 02:27 PM

Wonderful. Now if you could only get your 'subscribe' link to work (hint hint). Can't wait to share this with others. Thank you very much Pastor T. Many of us desperately NEED to hear His message--some days I feel I need it most of all1

Thank you and every blessing in Christ

Barbara Lewis


June 11, 2012 at 09:47 PM

Thank you for your work. I have never heard this kind of teaching. I still have trouble taking it all in. I look forward to reading much more. May God richly bless you and this effort.

Steve Martin

June 11, 2012 at 04:40 PM

We Lutherans have been preaching this message for 500 years now. And you know what? Not many believe it. Even amongst a great many Lutherans.

Folks look at us and somehow equate us with Rome because we tend to 'look' similar. But amongst us confessional, Lutherans who follow Luther (and Paul, who Luther followed), nothing could be further from the truth. We didn't throw the baby out with the bath bathwater, but we did throw out all the co-operative stuff which so many Evangelicals thrive on.

I pray that Liberate really does, for Christians who have had enough of self-centered religion.

Brian Wasicki

June 11, 2012 at 04:27 PM


Thank you for your efforts. The church so desperately needs the reformation you speak of.

May God bless your work!