Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The grammar of the gospel

There is a grammar by which Paul speaks the gospel. We need to learn to speak the gospel properly, but natively the gospel is a foreign language to us.

Those of you who studied Latin in high school remember that one of the first strange things that you have to learn is that you put the verb at the end. The doing word comes at the end. This is very difficult for us as Americans to understand how anybody could speak a language in which you put the doing word at the end, because we are a doing community.

But you see the gospel teaches us, doesn't it, to put our doing word at the end, and Jesus' doing word at the beginning. But our native tendency is to drag back the doing word and put it at the beginning, and then top that up with Jesus' doing, just to make life a little better.

But there's a very clear grammar in the gospel. We know that sometimes Paul seems to almost create words in order to express the gospel. He uses the greek language occasionally in a way that seems to have no parallel in classical greek because the gospel demands that we speak the gospel with a grammar that's characteristic of the gospel.

And in that sense we need to learn several principles. The first is, we need to learn that the grammar of the gospel has its appropriate mood. In our language we speak of the indicative mood and the imperative mood. The indicative mood is saying, "these are the things that are true". The imperative mood is saying, "these are the things you need to do". And in the gospel, the structure of the grammar is always: indicative gives rise to imperative.

That's why as gospel ministers we need to soak ourselves in such things as what the cross achieved. To be soaked in all that Christ has done, so that it oozes from us. So that preaching Christ is not something that we learn as a technique because we understand that it's the right thing to do, but we speak the grammar of the gospel because by God's grace through the word by the Spirit, that grammar has become instinctive to us. And it oozes from us. It's a very difficult thing to pin down isn't it?

There is an atmosphere that we give out in our preaching, isn't there? God has made it that way. And what oozes out of a preaching that in its depths has reversed the grammar of the gospel ... (No matter how much we speak formal gospel language) ... what is conveyed in the manner in which we say it is, "Pull yourself up by your bootstrings and do better." And we crush rather than convert.

--Sinclair Ferguson, from a sermon: "Paul on Union With Christ"
found: here

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