Gospel of Grace vs Religion of Works

Notes from the Dwell UK session by Mark Driscoll, 12th July 2008, at St Paul’s Church, Robert Adam St. London.

Session 1: Gospel of Grace vs Religion of Works.

The Gospel is something we continually learn – we don’t just learn it and then move on from it, we need to keep reminding ourselves of it and keep learning what it means.

1 Cor 15:1-4 Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,

From this, the gospel is:

  1. proclaimational – it must be spoken. Community, relationships and stories are great, but they are not sufficient.
  2. personal – it is something that each needs to personally receive. We can ask of people ‘What do you believe?’
  3. essential – no-one can be saved apart from the gospel of Christ.
  4. central – it is of primary importance and it mustn’t be changed
  5. Biblical – contained in the scriptures.

The gospel is about Jesus. If church leaders talk about Jesus naturally in their conversations and in their services, the people will get used to talking about Jesus

  • they will not be ashamed of him
  • negative reactions to Jesus are often against incorrect stereotypes of him
  • give people the truth about Jesus, and people will at least hear it and maybe accept it.

Enemies of the Gospel: Idolatory and Religion

Both idolators and the religious need to repent and come to faith in Jesus

1. Idolatry
Luther said – all sins are the fruit of idolatry

  • something that takes the place of God
  • the root of coveting, lust etc. is the worship of something that is not God (cf. Rom 1)
  • idolators end up worshipping something created.

Idols make promises that are lies.

  • They usually promise good things, such as identity or value, but they can’t take the place of God
  • what we love generally enslaves us. (aside: was the plague of the first born sons in Exodus a judgement of God agains the idol of family?)

Idols work my pulling us from a bad definition of hell to an unbiblical definition of heaven. For example:

  • being single = hell, married = heaven. The saviour then becomes the partner
  • of – begin childless = hell, the saviour is then the child.
  • just about all advertising and movies promote a false heaven

The question “What are you most afraid of?” or “What do you most long for?” can help point us towards our idols.

People who use Jesus to get to what they want  – such as health, a spouse, a job etc, are just making Jesus the means to get to an idol. We have to ask ourselves whose approval we are seeking.

All people struggle with idolatry. All are spiritual for the wrong thing. All need to repent and turn to God

2. Religion
Idolators assume they are righteous enough or good enough. The religious person assumes they need to o something (through guilt or shame) so they strain to get to God.


  • If I obey God, he will love me
  • keeps people in fear and guilt and in condemnation to control people
  • sees the world as good and bad people. If they are good – they’re on our side. This is used over Bible interpretation, eschatology, politics and more. It creates a scorecard for righteousness
  • is about what you do. Why do you read the Bible, for how long, have you spoken in tongues
  • sanctification (holiness) leads to justification (being seen as right before God)


  • God loves me, so I am able to obey.
  • there are no good and bad – we are all sinners  – just some have repented and some have not
  • Jesus said “It is finished”. He has done everything for us
  • justification is offered for free and this leads to sanctification

Ultimately – religion is about me and the gospel is about Jesus. Religion leads to either pride of despair – you either make it or you don’t.

Rom 1:16-17  I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.“

Everyone needs the gospel – both idolators and the religious.


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