It seems that all throughout the church (yes, in the church) there is this idea that you can talk about the gospel “too much”; that a preacher can preach the gospel “too much”; that an author can write about the gospel “too much”; or that a Christian can focus on the gospel “too much.”
It seems this accusation comes up when someone’s ministry focus, or center, or primary emphasis is the good news that Jesus Christ came to save sinners, and that said sinners contribute nothing to their salvation except the need to be saved (i.e. their sin). Usually the solution offered to those preaching the gospel too much is to balance it out with exhortations to do something. The idea is that we should taper out talk, or focus on Jesus but add a counter “balance.” We ought to balance our gospel preaching with some encouragement to do good works.
Is this true? Is it true you can focus on the gospel too much? And is it true we should balance gospel-ministry with commands to do good works (in other words, balance it with the law of God)? No. And no. And no. Firstly, there is no such thing as focusing too much on the gospel (or, preaching, celebrating, or talking about the gospel too much). That is about as real as my farm populated by Big Foots (Big Feet? Big Fite?) in the Shire. And secondly, the idea that gospel-ministry needs to be “balanced” with the law to keep it from becoming too much of a focus is nothing more than mixing the law with the gospel, and thus obliterating the law and the gospel.
You can’t focus on the gospel “too much”. How does one go about focusing too much on the only hope they have in life and death? How does one emphasize too much the entire, climactic point of the Scriptures? How does one hear and trust in Jesus too much? As Tim Keller has said, “Because the gospel is endlessly rich, it can handle the burden of being the one ‘main thing’ of a church.” The gospel is the only thing we have going for us.
To further make this point, let’s unpack the idea that we should balance the gospel with the law. The Law of God is the sum total of God’s will for your life. And his will for your life is not that you would find the “one” meant for you, pick the “right” job, or go to the “right” college. His will for your life is that you would be perfect; that you would trust Him perfectly, love Him with everything in you, love your neighbors perfectly, and not only do the right thing, but want to do the right thing, all the time. Man, if we would just be and do this, the world would rock.
The question is, how do you balance the announcement that God saves imperfect people (Gospel) with “be perfect” (Law)? Well, you don’t. You can’t. The Law is vital, because it convicts us and drives us to our Savior. We need the terrible conclusion of the Law, even as Christians. But we need to keep it completely distinguished from the gospel. It is not the gospel. It is not a part of the gospel. It doesn’t balance the gospel.
The Law and the Gospel are not two ends of one spectrum in which you try to live in a nice balance. When we use the Law to balance the gospel, we simply mix and mingle the two, and thus twist the two into something they are not. The gospel becomes, “Jesus died for sinners (Gospel), and you need to go do something too (Law).” That is nothing but terrifying. If my salvation or peace with God depends on something done by me, then I have no salvation and no peace. But if it depends solely on Jesus and His work, then I am as saved as Jesus is crucified and risen.
We need the Law in its pure form too. It drives us to despair of ourselves and trust Christ alone. It lays out for us what is the good life with God. We must keep these separate, never mixing them (or “balancing” them with each other). In fact, if you go to a church that you think preaches the gospel too much, you are probably at the church you should be at.