Why We (Still) Need Reform: Part 4

David Wells

This is Part 4 of a 5-part series. Read Part 5 here, back to Part 3 here.

In sanctification, it is God’s holiness that requires that we become separated from what is fallen in life and separated to God and his purposes. And yet this holiness works hand-in-glove with God’s love for love is the fulfilling of the law.  However, these two sides to the character of God have not always been held together in Christian living.  Some have focused more on the holiness part but, without love, this degenerates into a graceless legalism.  Others have focused more on the love part.  Love without holiness leads to antinomianism and, even worse, to old-time liberalism.

In worship, we celebrate what, as believers, we all have in common in Christ.  But that immediately tells us that God is ever before us in his holiness in its bond to his love for that is what we find in the gospel and in Christ’s death.  It is God’s holy-love that describes his character and it defines how he acts.  It is because God’s holy-love should shape our attitude as we worship.  Worship is not simply a get-together, a concert, or a distraction from life’s difficulties.  It is from first to last about God.  It is about who he is and what he has done. Is it not a strange thing, therefore, that we can be in a worship service without ever being obliged to think about God’s goodness, greatness, and grace?  This happens all the time.

And so to our service.  Why have people gone out into the dark places of life to serve Christ?  Why have they gone to remote places to take the gospel?  Why do they openly serve Christ in the professions, in our prisons, and on our streets.  Why do people do these things?  It is, of course, because Christ himself gave us the model of service and what defines it is God’s holy-love.  Christian believers have gone into the dark places of life, where things fester and life is cheap, because what is happening in those places is wrong—God’s holiness.  They go there to show mercy, to bring help, to lift up those who are crushed.  But the reason they go is that they have compassion.  They go because they are compelled by the love of God.  It is God’s holy-love that defines all genuine Christian service.

God’s love and his holiness, then, explain to us Christ’s death in our place on the cross.  They define and shape what it means to become sanctified.  They define what we should be doing in worship.  And they define the reason for our service.  But our culture wants to rip them apart and often they have been separated in our understanding in the Church.

David F. Wells (PhD, Manchester University) is distinguished senior research professor at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton, MA and is author of the prominent series of books including No Place for Truth, God in the WastelandLosing our VirtueAbove All Earthly Pow'rs, and The Courage to be Protestant.  Dr. Wells's forthcoming book is entitled God in the Whirlwind.

David Wells