What in the world??? “Too Gospel-centered”??? How could there be such a thing???
The gospel. The good news. The power of God to salvation. Can we have too much of that?
Well…yes and no.
“Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, and in which you stand firm. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.” 1 Cor. 15:1-2
How could I get too much gospel?? Ok, so that’s not really what I mean. Let me explain.
There seems to be a trend…a movement…and if you aren’t riding on it’s train you are legalistic. If you aren’t gospel-centered everything: parenting, marriage, relationships, work etc. then you are getting it all wrong.
This train in some circles requires you get on board and never talk about works or repentance. Every message, every sermon, every conversation must revolve around the gospel. Here’s the problem, the bible doesn’t do that. Jesus didn’t do that.
Take the sermon on the mount for example. The best sermon ever preached, given by the best Preacher of all time and there is no talk of Christ’s death, burial and resurrection.
In chapters 5-7 of Matthew we read the sermon on the mount. Christ opens with the beatitudes. Blessed are these people, blessed are those people etc. Then he talks about how we are the salt and light of the world and ending that section explaining that it’s our good works that will bring glory to our Father in heaven. Christ then explains that He came to fulfill the law for us and that our righteousness must actually exceed that of the law in that we must obey from the heart, not just outwardly. He proceeds with a bunch more practical application and exhortation on things like anger, lust, divorce, oaths, retaliation, loving our enemies, giving to the poor, how to pray, laying up treasures in heaven and not on earth, fasting, not being anxious, judging others, asking God for things, the golden rule, our salvation compared to fruit on trees, explaining the importance of knowing Him and building on the rock.
That’s it. No mention of the word gospel or his death, burial or resurrection. No mention of Him dying for our sins. Does that make him a bad preacher? Some “gospel-centered” folks nowadays would say so. They may even say He sounded legalistic and talked WAY too much about what we are supposed to do as His followers rather than what He has done for us. Way too many rules. He was too focused on works and people who don’t have them going to hell.
Another thing Christ said that is important for us to consider in the midst of this trend we are seeing in the church comes from the great commission.
“Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.'” Matthew 28:18-20
Hmmmmm, um, was Jesus confused? Teaching them to OBEY everything He commanded?? Aren’t we supposed to teach them how to preach the gospel to themselves everyday? Wouldn’t that be more profitable?
No it wouldn’t. Christ was very intentional in His parting words. He did not lose sight of the gospel. He did choose to tell us: go make disciples and teach them to obey.
Of course in our disciple making process we will share the gospel but we must also be teaching them to obey and that’s what Christ chose to emphasis.
I am seeing a sort of pride come out of this movement. A sort of judgement toward pastors who just aren’t “getting this gospel-centered” thing right.
I want to be very clear. I love the gospel. I wouldn’t be saved without it. I just don’t want to be more gospel-centered than Christ. I want to focus on what He focuses on. If you need to preach the gospel to yourself daily that’s fine but don’t judge those who don’t. There is no such instruction in the bible to do so.
We are saved by grace through faith not by works. But faith without works is dead. There are lots and lots of commands and instruction for living in the bible and we cannot neglect those. We must read those in light of the gospel and read the gospel in light of all the teaching on works. Works don’t produce faith but saving faith produces works. That’s not non-gospel of me to say. That’s truth. Don’t lose sight of the sanctifying work that God wants to do in you. Don’t quit working out your salvation with fear and trembling. Don’t forget the gospel. Meditate on and live out of the entire counsel of God.
P.S. here are some videos I recommend (by some of the most gospel centered authors out there).