I am enjoying the rich conversation and the helpful publications about the gospel and gospel centrality taking place today. I am encouraged by the theology of the gospel. At the same time, I am challenged as I consider specific applications of it to my life and my ministry. When I interact with friends or ministry colleagues about the gospel, the challenge intensifies. They want a gospel definition. They want to know how commitment to the gospel can really distinguish us in the broader world of Christianity. Gospel-centered conservation, for some, presents as a position that lacks any meaningful doctrinal boundaries and that potentially includes everyone. Their concern, albeit legitimate, is the appearance and function of a gospel-centered life and ministry.
These are all good questions and concerns that sharpen our stewardship of the gospel. I think I do understand in some limited way the cultural and theological influences that generate them. With that in mind, I hope to respond in a helpful manner. My case study is student life at a Christian Liberal Arts College. My approach will involve two blog posts. In Part 1 I will offer a basic definition of the gospel that becomes the foundation for how it works in a collegiate student life setting.
My response begins with a definition of the gospel. In a narrow sense, the gospel is what you need to believe to be saved. In a wider sense, the gospel is what you need to live a godly life. The gospel in both a narrow and wider understanding is doctrinally solid.
The gospel is the good news of the Lord Jesus Christ’s work to pay the debt of our sin through His death, burial, and resurrection (John 3:16 and 1 Corinthians 15:1-5). This good news message is part of the larger biblical framework that is robust, meaty, and doctrinal. It, according to Paul in Romans 1:1-2, is the Gospel of God that was promised in the Holy Scriptures. According to 1:3-4, the gospel is about Jesus, the eternal Son of God resurrected from the dead. Romans 1:5 indicates that grace from Jesus which calls us to obedience is part of the gospel. In another epistle, Paul tells Timothy that the church is the pillar and foundation of the Truth. It supports and upholds the Truth revealed by God (1 Timothy 3:15). This truth, according to 3:16, centers on the redemptive work of Christ and is what produces godliness. So a gospel-centered college and/or ministry must be driven by Christ, the Word of God, the Grace of God, and a commitment to the church.
Gospel Centrality was the foundation of church growth and development in the book of Acts. The summary statements of the book (6:7, 9:31, 12:24, 16:5, 19:20) feature the effective and dynamic nature of the Word of God that made disciples and created churches. In Acts 20, Paul features gospel centrality with the Ephesian leaders. His task was to testify of the good news of God’s grace (20:24). He preached the Kingdom of God (20:25). He, without hesitation, proclaimed the whole will of God (20:27). He warned about men who will arise and distort the truth in an attempt to draw disciples away (20:30). And he commended them to God and the Word of His grace (20:32).