The Then-Now-Then Gospel

Last week, I started reading How People Change by Paul Tripp and Timothy Lane.  In the first chapter, they address what they have called “the gospel gap” in the “then-now-then” gospel.  Here’s how they explain it:

“The good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ is a ‘then-now-then’ gospel.  First, there is the ‘then’ of the past.  When I embrace Christ by faith, my sins are completely forgiven, and I stand before God as righteous.  There is also the ‘then’ of the future, the promise of eternity with the Lord, free of sin and struggle.  The church has done fairly well explaining these two “thens” of the gospel, but it has tended to understate or misunderstand the “now” benefits of the work of Christ. What difference does the gospel make in the here and now?  How does it help me as a father, a husband, a worker, and a member of the body of Christ?  How does it help me respond to difficulty and make decisions?  How does it give me meaning, purpose, and identity?  How does it motivate my ministry to others?” (4-5)

The gospel gap is what lies between the two “thens”.  These questions addressing the “now” of the gospel, I believe, are answered by a full and robust understanding of the centrality and sufficiency of the gospel in life and ministry.  According to Tripp/Lane, our inability to see this is due to a “gospel blindness”.  They write:

“This blindness is often encouraged by preaching that fails to take the gospel to the specific challenges people face.  People need to see that the gospel belongs in their workplace, their kitchen, their school, their bedroom, their backyard, and their van.  They need to see the way the gospel makes a connection between what they are doing and what God is doing.  They need to understand that their life stories are being lived out within God’s larger story so that they can learn to live each day with a gospel mentality” (ibid., emphasis mine)

If you’ve wondered why I’m bringing all this attention to being “gospel-centered,” it is because I want us to see the “now” of the gospel and have our eyes opened to behold God’s larger story so as to “live each day with a gospel mentality.”  We are so prone to gospel amnesia, and we need to be reminded daily of the gospel’s power to work in and through our lives to advance the kingdom in word and deed.

I encourage you to pick up the book How People Change.  So far, it’s been a great read.

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One Comment on “The Then-Now-Then Gospel”


  1. Gospel amnesia is right. I was just reading 2 Corinthians yesterday where Paul says that “the love of Christ controls us” and I was like “I want my life to be controlled by His love!” I kept reading to see if he revealed the secret sauce to his life style and as Paul continues he says it’s “because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.” So there it is, his “secret” to success: The Gospel!

    That is a cool book. I like any book that is full of diagrams about theological topics after all. 🙂


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