Summary: Paul knew that ‘getting the gospel straight’–not falling off into either legalism on the one hand or license on the other–is absolutely critical to the mission of the church. The secret of ministry power is getting the gospel clear. To be even slightly off to one side or another, loses tons of spiritual power. And people don’t get really converted. Legalistic churches reform people’s behavior through social coercion, but the people stay radically insecure and hyper-critical. They don’t achieve the new inner peace that the grace of God brings. The more relativistic churches give members some self-esteem and the veneer of peace but in the end that is superficial too. The result, Archibald Alexander said, is like trying to put a signet ring on the wax to seal a letter, but without any heat! Either the ring will affect the surface of the wax only or break it into pieces. You need heat to permanently change the wax into likeness of ring. So without the Holy Spirit working through the gospel, radically humbling and radically exalting us and changing them from the inside out, the religion either of the hard or soft variety will not avail.
Also, from this document: Centrality of the Gospel
The summary is:
All problems, personal or social come from a failure to use the gospel in a radical way, to get “in line with the truth of the gospel” (Gal.2:14). All pathologies in the church nd all its ineffectiveness comes from a failure to use the gospel in a radical way. We believe that if the gospel is expounded and applied in its fullness in any church, that church will look very unique. People will find both moral conviction yet compassion and flexibility. For example, gays are used to being “bashed” and hated or completely accepted. They never see anything else. The cultural elites of either liberal or conservative sides are alike in their unwillingness to befriend or live with or respect or worship with the poor. They are alike in separating themselves increasingly from the rest of society.
Then in a comment on Steves BLOG Pastor Mark Anderson said the following:
I am no friend of the third use of the law. We know the law will not justify and that in spite of it’s absolute claims it can neither save or give life. At the same time eliminating the word “should” from preaching does not eliminate the myriad requirements placed upon the Christian in a world of sin and death. If we do not speak the legal word of obligation our people will hear it anyway from the culture and in the opposing, illusory language of personal rights, which is tantamount to handing the sinner a blank check. And it is precisely the obligations we are concerned with. For every relationship – including the relationship with God – comes with obligations. The gospel has not eliminated these.
In fact, it is when the sinner is brought to the point of recognizing how he\she has failed in these obligations that the gospel breaks in with all it’s force and freeing power. We should preach the non-negotiable obligations which come with creaturely life but these will never create what they demand. Christ is our last word.