Why We’re Gospel–Centred
The heart of Christianity is the greatest news the world has ever heard, the Gospel! In fact, the word “Gospel” literally means “good news,” and it is this news that stands at the centre of Christian faith and life. At Sovereign Grace Church you’re going to hear a lot about the Gospel, and that’s because we are unapologetically ‘Gospel-centred’. Below I’ve listed three reasons why:
The Bible Is Gospel Centred
Though the Bible is a collection of 66 individual books, it contains the threads of one long story from beginning to end. Yet do not begin to imagine it is an ordinary story. Far from it, the message of scripture is the greatest ‘good news story ever told. It is the good news, that is, it is the gospel.
Right from the opening pages of Scripture we begin to see this message unfold. In Genesis, Yahweh creates man and woman in his image and places them in a beautifully fertile garden. Man, however chooses to believe the lie of a serpent and rule for himself rather than accept Yahweh’s good rule. As God curses man and the serpent for their rebellion, He promises the serpent that he will send someone who, ’…will crush your head, and you will bruise his heal’ (Gen 3:15).
Notice that even here at the very beginning we are promised one who will be both saviour from the serpent and yet “bruised” in some way. The question that then runs through the Old Testament is, ‘Who will this serpent-crusher be’?
Thousands of years later, when the resurrected Jesus appears to a few of his disciples on the road to Emmaus, he explains to them how the Old Testament is, in fact, a story about him. Luke writes, “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.” (Lk 24:27).
But it doesn’t just end here either, the amazing story of God sending his Son to rescue a rebellious, condemned world is the heart–beat of all scripture. Not only are the Gospels, well… Gospel–centred but so too the epistles. Paul writes, “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” (1Cor 2:2) and again, “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures” (1 Cor 15:3). These two passages show not only that the Gospel was Paul’s central message but also that he saw this as in accordance with Scripture!
Therefore, according to Scripture, the ‘main thing’, that which is of ‘first importance’ is the Gospel. At Sovereign Grace Church we’re gospel–centred because the Bible is Gospel–centred.
The Gospel Guards Against Legalism
No one wants to believe that they’re a moral failure, at least not irreparably so. That’s why we all love a good redemption story, like Jean Valjean of Les Miserables, or to see the success of the ‘self made man’ who rises from rags to riches. We all want to believe we’re up to the task of moral self–help with rightly place self–confidence and maybe just a little self–sacrifice along the way.
Yet the Gospel exposes us all as moral failures. The Christian is someone who is saved by grace alone, through faith alone. Saved by grace alone means a Christian is saved from God’s wrath completely by God’s unmerited kindness towards us in the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross. Paul writes in his letter to the Ephesians,
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Eph 2:8–9)
Paul is saying that our standing before God depends purely on receiving His unmerited kindness through trust in the finished work of Jesus Christ. In other words, we are “justified” or “declared not–guilty” by faith in Jesus alone.
Therefore boasting is excluded. Why? Because the Gospel declares that our works do not affect our standing with God. As Christians we may have good days and bad days but God’s view of us remains the same through faith in the Lord Jesus alone.
Despite our dependance on grace, even as Christians we can begin to act as though law keeping effects our standing with God. Have you ever felt as though God must be displeased with you because you didn’t read your bible? Or pray? Or memorise scripture? Or explain the gospel clearly enough? Or speak graciously enough? If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these questions you have struggled with legalism: basing your standing before God upon your own works.
We can even make secondary issues or wisdom issues of primary importance. Have you ever looked down on someone because they didn’t vaccinate their kids? Or they don’t home–school? Or use public healthcare? Or smoke? Or eat vegan? Keeping the gospel central guards against all forms of legalism because it reminds us that Christ died for undeserving sinners and therefore all are saved by grace alone through faith alone.
The Gospel Guards Against Licentiousness
When someone comes to trust in the saving work of Jesus Christ an amazing transformation occurs! According to Paul in his letter to the Romans the new Christian is made alive, brought from death to life!
“For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.” (Rom 6:7–11)
The Christian is someone who was once dead and in bondage to sin, unable to choose the things of God. But God through his Spirit has breathed life back into their stone– dead heart leading to faith and trust in the person and work of Jesus Christ. So should the Christian then continue to sin because of Grace? Paul answers this question with an emphatic “No!”
“Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.” (Rom 6:12–13)
Imagine you’re swimming at the beach when you get stuck in a rip and pulled out into the ocean. You’re not a strong swimmer and so suddenly you find yourself drowning under the waves. But a surf lifesaver runs to your rescue, plucks you from the ocean and resuscitates you on the beach. Now imagine you stand up, brush off the sand and without a word of thanks run back into the ocean!! This example illustrates exactly what Paul is saying here. Should we continue to sin because of God’s grace? Paul says, “No! You’ve been saved from that!”
Just like it’s crazy for a rescued swimmer to run straight back into the ocean, so too its crazy for the Christian to want to continue in sin. The message of the Gospel is that God has set us free from our old ways of bondage to sin and self–destruction and empowered us to live for God. Having been set free from our old ways we now live for him. Similarly, keeping the gospel at the centre continually reminds us of the way in which God has set us free and now called us to live as those who’ve been brought from death to life.
Not only is Scripture from beginning to end Gospel-centred but the Gospel guards us against both legalism and licence. These are but a few of the reasons why at Sovereign Grace Church we're committed to keeping it central!