In my last post I spoke to the center of our mission as we plant a church in Austin, Texas. Our “center” is the gospel of Jesus Christ. I want to clarify why this is the case. We are not going to build a gospel-centered church because we believe it is a preferred option out of a number of legitimate options in church mission focus. It’s not as though we went to the “church building fair” and visited a number of different booths, one labeled “community focused”, another “evangelism centered”, a third “worship driven”, a fourth “mercy ministry emphasized” and finally came to the “gospel-centered” booth, liked what we saw, and plunked down our mission money. Neither are we choosing to be gospel-centered because we believe it is the fastest way to attract people or to have an international platform or to create a buzz in the city. Actually, one way of saying it, is that we don’t feel we have a choice at all. We are gospel centered because we believe the Bible is and what the Bible is we must be.
Now to clarify this clarification, to say the Bible is gospel-centered doesn’t mean that it is gospel-exclusive—as though the facts of Jesus life and death and resurrection and the results of His work are just repeated in their simplest form over and over in the Scriptures. The Bible does indeed talk about community, and evangelism, and worship, and mercy, and a host of other topics that are not in themselves the basic message of Jesus Christ, the good news. However, the storyline of the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation centers around the person and work of Jesus Christ in saving sinners and redeeming mankind for God.
Let me give a few examples, working from the end, back to the beginning, since newer revelation should always interpret older.
- Revelation chapter five makes it clear that the Lamb, who is also the Lion, is the one given the charge of all of God’s purposes for redemption and judgement. And the worship song he receives focuses on his atoning death to pay for sinners. History pivots on the gospel of Jesus Christ.
- The epistles focus on extolling and applying Jesus death and resurrection. We are reminded of our lost estate without Christ, encouraged by our inheritance in Christ, and exhorted to live worthy of our calling from Christ. Many diverse letters, but the epistles proclaim Christ as the center. If you are uncertain of this, simply peruse through the epistles focusing on the phrases “in, with, or through Christ”, or “in the Lord.” They are everywhere, connecting everything we do to who He is and what He has done.
- The gospels culminate in an extended meditation on Jesus death and resurrection. Yes, they celebrate His birth, His teaching, and His ministry, but the accent in all four, is on his Passion Week.
- The prophets lament the sin of God’s people, rebuke their faithlessness, and look forward in hope to a new day, the day of the Lord. In the New Testament, these Old Testament needs and hopes are applied to the fulfillment of Jesus ministry and His provisions for His people. He is the hope of the prophetic word.
- The historical books chronicle the tragic laps of the people into sin, with an emphasis on the sinful leadership of the Israelite kings. The march toward exile, despite the patient grace of God, makes clear the need for a more transforming redemption, and for One who will baptize His people with the Holy Spirit and write His law on their hearts.
- The books of the law, with all of their prescriptions for dealing with sin and placating judgement, are shadows, interpreted by the New Testament to be foretelling the better ministry of Jesus Christ. He is our priest, our sacrifice, our temple. If we follow the course of the New Testament writers, and we should, the Old Testament is intended by God to be exegeted toward fulfillment in Christ.
- The tragic, treasonous blasphemy of Genesis 3 is also the context of God’s promise, that a great Child would come who would crush the head of the Serpent and who would also experience his own “wound” in the process. The prelude sets up the story. Jesus would destroy the destruction of Satan through suffering the wounds that should have been ours on the cross.
The Bible is gospel-centered, it is Christ centered. And what the Bible is, so must we be.