Pastor and Christian Leadership Resources

J.I. Packer on a “Fully Dressed” Gospel

J.I. Packer on a “Fully Dressed” Gospel

If you haven’t picked up Grounded in the Gospel: Building Believers the Old-Fashioned Way by J.I. Packer and Gary Parrett, you need to pick it up. It’s available right now on Kindle for just $1.99. In the chapter on “The Gospel as of First Importance,” Packer and Parrett address the need for a “fully dressed” Gospel. They write:

Sadly, even tragically, evangelicals have sometimes been guilty of preaching and teaching a Gospel that is not, shall we say, “fully dressed.” They may have focused properly on the central features of God’s atoning work on the cross, faithfully preached Christ crucified for sinners, celebrated the resurrection as proof that Christ’s self-offering for our sins has been accepted, and urged hearers to be reconciled to God. In other words, they have been right about the essence of the gospel; the key facts have been there in what they have said. But at the same time they have missed some of the critical implications and applications of the Gospel for daily living.

[...] When we fail to conduct ourselves “in step with the truth of the Gospel” (Gal. 2:14), we are in serious error. We are to live in such a way as to make the teaching about God our Savior attractive to our neighbors (Titus 2:10) and to win their respect by responsible and godly living (1 Thess. 4:11-12). Thus our preaching and teaching of the Gospel–that is, our ministries and catechesis–must include teaching the godly manner of living that accords with sound doctrines of the Gospel (Titus 2:1).

[...] The Gospel is to be adorned by both sound doctrine and godly living. To set the Gospel before parishioners and public without these is to preach an unclothed Gospel.

Our salvation does not end at new birth. We are taught by Scripture to say not only that we have been saved (Eph. 2:8) but also that we shall be saved (Rom. 5:9-10; 13:11; 1 Pet. 1:5) and even now are being saved (Phil. 2:12-13; 1 Pet. 1:9). What is the power that saves us? It is the power of the Spirit at work in and through the Gospel (Rom. 1:16) to change lives. We need both a fully orbed doctrine of salvation and a “fully clothed” presentation of the Gospel. But we have often fallen short on both counts.

Packer and Parrett go on to show how older evangelicals have gotten the essence of the Gospel correct by neglecting the implications and applications of the Gospel (undressed Gospel). Consequently, newer evangelicals have stressed the implications and applications of the Gospel but neglected the essence of the Gospel, or even worse, sometimes substituted them for the essence of the Gospel. What we need is a robust understanding of the essence of the Gospel that is fully dressed with all the implications and applications of the Gospel for every aspect of life.