“Gospel-centered” seems to be a catchphrase these days. Some may say it without really knowing what the term represents. Being gospel-centered is important to our theology, our preaching and our living, but it’s important to know why.
Gospel-centered preaching is based on a theology in which Jesus is at the center of everything.
God has fully and completely accomplished our salvation through the person and work of Jesus. Through Christ, God rescued us from judgment and brought us into fellowship with Him. We have been reconciled to our Creator and now we can enjoy this new life in Him forever. No part of our salvation was won through our personal strength, effort, or good works. It is all the work of Christ. That’s the message that comes through in every passage of Scripture. Gospel-centered preachers are to be living witnesses to the grace of God, pointing to the accomplishments of Christ in their own lives. The Gospel-centered preacher not only preaches the gospel––it’s not just an important additive, or ingredient––rather, the gospel itself is to saturate everything about the messenger and the ministry he oversees.
Gospel-centered preaching exalts Christ through the biblical narrative because the gospel is the culmination of the grand narrative of Scripture itself.
The Holy Spirit infills the preaching of messages pointing to Christ. Jesus said, “If I be lifted up, I will draw all people to Myself” (John 12:32). In my experience, nothing grips the hearts of the listeners more than when a gospel truth is pulled from each passage of Scripture. The gospel is set up in the Old Testament accounts of creation, the fall, the promises, the exodus, the battles, the prophecies, and all the various rebellious aspects of the characters in Scripture. Further, the gospel unfolds in the New Testament; as the four gospels comprise the glue that binds all Scripture to the person and work of Christ. The epistles are Christ-centric letters that make clear the implications of the gospel for application to each person, church, and situation.
Gospel-centered preaching places the person and work of Christ at the core of exegesis.
In my own preaching I used to preach “practical-step” sermons to help congregants do the “right thing” in order to discover the Christian life. What I suggested was a pattern of principles derived from Scriptures that would lead to success in life. Over the years I have come to see that the Scriptures point us to the work and person of Christ alone. Ultimately, when we have Christ at the center of our lives, He makes the changes. The Scriptures are clear that it is “Christ who works in us both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13) and that ultimately it is “Christ in us, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27). Therefore, it’s important to me, to present Christ, and Him alone in my sermons. I no longer desire to place on people a works-based list of directives. This change in my own preaching has been a transformation that points to the key difference between works- based and gospel-centered preaching.
When we keep the gospel of Christ’s redemption at the center of our preaching, we have a message that is vitally important.
In 490 BC, Pheidippides brought a vitally important word to the Greeks in Athens that the Persians were defeated. He ran 26.2 miles from the city of Marathon and dropped dead on the ground after crying, “Victory!” Pheidippides’ race is a great example of the heart of gospel-centered preaching in that he had a truth so important that he would be willing to die to bring it. Christ did all to “save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him” (Hebrews 7:25) On the cross His message, “It is finished!” (John 19:30), is vitally important and must be preserved in its pure, essential form.
In part two in a series on Gospel Centered Preaching we learn some preaching approaches which are not gospel-centered.