What does Gospel-Centered mean? you ask.
First, let’s define the Gospel
The Gospel is,
The Person and Work of Jesus; Jesus, Who is God, was born of a virgin, lived a sinless life (fulfilling everything God demands of us), yet died on the cross and became sin for us, paid for our sin and guilt with His life, was buried, and on the third day rose again according to the Scriptures.
This is the Gospel in a nutshell.
But what does “Gospel-Centered” mean?
In essence, Gospel-Centered means the Gospel is placed front and center of our theology and life. The Gospel is that which makes everything else make sense.
What is the justification of being Gospel-Centered?
- We see a pattern in Scripture
- Four (4) Gospels depict the Person and Work of Jesus (Matthew, Mark Luke and John)
- Paul lays out an example of everything we do flows from and out of the Gospel
- He explains the Gospel in detail in Romans 1-11 and then appeals to the Roman Christians to live out the Gospel
- He shares the Gospel to Christian believers first and then he shares what we must do in light of the Gospel (1 Corinthians 1:1-9; 2 Corinthians 1:1-5; Galatians 1:1-3; Ephesians 1:1-14; Philippians 1:1-11; Colossians 1:1-8; 1 Thessalonians 1; 2 Thessalonians 1; 1 Timothy 1:1-11; 2 Timothy 1:1-7; Philemon 1-7; 1 Peter 1:1-12)
- Paul shares that Jesus is the Mediator between God and Men (1 Timothy 2:5)
- Paul proclaims, “For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory” (2 Corinthians 1:20)
Let’s park on The Glory of God for a bit
Fact: God’s glory is the root of all I see in Scripture.
This is the paradigm by which I read and interpret Scripture. I determine the genre and interpret the text both literally and theologically with this overarching question:
How does this text reveal God’s glory?
Think of it this way. All of history and all of Scripture is hinged upon the Glory of God; but more specifically, everything hinges on the Glory of God in Christ.
- In Genesis 1-2, we see God’s glory displayed in His creation through Christ (Colossians 1:16-17; John 1:3)
- God displays His glory to Isaiah (Isaiah 6) before Whom Isaiah falls in worship (John explains Isaiah saw Jesus in John 12)
- Paul explains that God’s glory is displayed in the redemptive work of Christ (Romans 3:21-26)
- God’s glory is displayed in Christ Himself (John 1:1-18, Colossians 2:9)
I love what Jeremy Weaver says about the glory of God as our hermeneutic:
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.'”) And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known. (John 1:14-18) Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? (John 14:8-9)
Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs. (Hebrews 1:1-4)
For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. (2 Corinthians 4:6) He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities–all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, (Colossians 1:13-19)
This means that my hermeneutic now becomes Christological in nature.
This conclusion is supported by the following verses:
And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. (Luke 24:25-27)
If I alone bear witness about myself, my testimony is not deemed true. There is another who bears witness about me, and I know that the testimony that he bears about me is true. You sent to John, and he has borne witness to the truth. Not that the testimony that I receive is from man, but I say these things so that you may be saved. He was a burning and shining lamp, and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light. But the testimony that I have is greater than that of John. For the works that the Father has given me to accomplish, the very works that I am doing, bear witness about me that the Father has sent me. And the Father who sent me has himself borne witness about me. His voice you have never heard, his form you have never seen, and you do not have his word abiding in you, for you do not believe the one whom he has sent. You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life. I do not receive glory from people. But I know that you do not have the love of God within you. I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not receive me. If another comes in his own name, you will receive him. How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God? Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father. There is one who accuses you: Moses, on whom you have set your hope. If you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?” (John 5:31-47) But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. (2 Timothy 3:14-15)
From these verses we learn that Scripture is not only about God’s glory, it is about the One through whom He has most perfectly revealed His glory, that is, His only Son. All of Scripture is about Him. I find Bryan Chapell’s statement most helpful when looking for Christ in the Scriptures.
“In its context, every passage possesses one or more of four redemptive foci. Every text is predictive of the work of Christ, preparatory for the work of Christ, reflective of the work of Christ, and/or resultant of the work of Christ.” Bryan Chapell, Christ-Centered Preaching: Redeeming the expository Sermon (1994; Grand Rapids: Baker Books), 275.
- Predictive: these passages include specific prophecies, Messianic Psalms, and many of the ceremonial laws, which make no specific reference to Christ and yet are revealed to be about Christ when we read the New Testament.
- Preparatory: Some of the Old Testament passages were meant to prepare God’s people for the coming of Christ. God’s covenants with man in Old Testament were preparatory in this sense.
- Reflective: According to Chappell,
“Where the text neither plainly predicts nor prepares for the Redeemer’s work the expositor simply should explain how the text reflects key facets of the redemptive message…What does this text reflect of: God’s nature that provides the ministry of Christ; and/or human nature that requires the ministry of Christ?” Ibid., 277.
- Resultant: These are passages that tell us how we should live based upon Christ’s work. It is important to recognize that these are not guidelines for earning God’s favor, but the results of the heart set free by Christ. (Points 1-4 summarized from Christ-Centered Preaching: Redeeming the Expository Sermon, by Bryan Chapell, pp.275-279.)
Now, none of what has been written in this post is to the neglect of the literal interpretation of Scripture. It is all founded upon the literal reading of texts in their historical contexts. It is not a method of reading Christ into the text (eisogesis), finding where He really is in the text. For example, in Genesis 1 Christ. But if we read John 1 literally we find that He is there. And further, if we read the passages listed above literally, then we must conclude that Christ permeates the pages of both the Old and New Testaments. And to interpret Scripture ignoring this fact is to miss the point altogether.