Today I will address the doctrinal and functional centrality of the biblical gospel – doctrinal centrality in belief and proclamation, and functional centrality in life and ministry.
Our spiritual lives originate in the gospel. Our EFCA movement exists because of and for the gospel of Jesus Christ. Our Statement of Faith is framed around God's gospel.
The gospel is being talked about today. That is always a good thing. It is the central message of Jesus: "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe the gospel" (Mk. 1:15).
But, challenges also arise with the numerous references to the gospel in our speech and writing.
There is an understanding of a small gospel – it equals being born again.
There is an understanding of a large gospel – it equals everything in the Christian life.
One wants to say to both, yes, but...
Paul delineates three nuances of the gospel: The gospel of Jesus Christ that is of first importance (1 Cor. 15:1-3), that is the foundation for establishing sound doctrine (1 Timothy 1:10-11), which is to result in living a life worthy of the gospel (Philippians 1:27).
It is vital to affirm and rest upon the centrality of the gospel of Jesus Christ in doctrine and proclamation. Full stop. But it is also vital to live out the gospel in all of life and ministry. This is the functional centrality of the gospel.
On the one hand, people affirm the doctrinal centrality of the gospel of Jesus Christ, but never address implications. On the other hand, people affirm the doctrinal centrality of the gospel of Jesus Christ, but then they press on to other things as if the gospel has no bearing on how they go about life and ministry thereafter. Both undermine and sometimes deny the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Through a series of concentric circles, I will illustrate the importance of the doctrinal and functional centrality of the gospel and how they relate to one another. I first learned this from Paul Hiebert.
In the center is the gospel of Jesus Christ. The gospel is embraced fully. It is central and essential to belief and proclamation. It is something done by Christ. It is finished. And it is also something received. This is doctrinal centrality.
Additionally, Jesus' Lordship has implications to all of life, a functional centrality such that the biblical gospel bears fruit in all of life and ministry. We focus on four implications today, but the list could be multiplied.
In the next concentric circle, the gospel of Jesus Christ is assumed, and one focuses on the implications of the gospel. This carries with it two consequences.
First, people claim the gospel is still central, but live and minister with their ministry or special interest at the center. They expect the same from others which creates walls between people and ministries.
Second, the lens is reversed. The gospel is no longer foundational to understanding life and ministries. Rather, the ministries or special interest are the basis of understanding the gospel. This results in another view of the gospel, which can become "another gospel."
It is critical to the gospel, our lives and ministries that, by God's grace, we get this right. Because if not, the gospel of Jesus Christ will eventually be outright denied. No connection remains. History is filled with examples.
The call is to affirm and reaffirm the doctrinal and functional centrality of the biblical gospel – doctrinal centrality in belief and proclamation, and functional centrality in life and ministry, implications of the gospel.
Here is Greg's talk from the EFCA meeting: