A while back I sent a question off into the twitterverse to see if there was any opinion on the subject. This was my question, in it’s 140-character concised glory:
Is there any difference between being gospel-centered and biblical? Or is it just semantics? What do you think?
A friend of mine replied in a tweet of his own:
It’s semantics if you’re thinking biblically. 🙂
I think he’s right.
I’ve recently discovered that there are many pastors and churches out there who are beginning to use “gospel-centered” to describe their church and ministry. Whereas a typical church might say: “Here, we are biblical, everything we do is by the book” more churches are starting to say things like “we try to make everything gospel-centered and gospel driven.” Should such a distinction exist?
Well, in short, no. The resurrected Jesus told his friends on the way to Emmaus that all the scriptures pointed to Christ. “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:27). Essentially, the Bible is the story of the gospel. It’s all about Jesus and what he did for mankind. The Bible is the gospel. Being biblical is being gospel-centered.
But those who are beginning to use this “gospel-centered” language actually have a point. Pastors and churches have falsely assumed that it is possible to be biblical without being gospel-driven. There are churches that hold up the banner BIBLICAL and yet refuse to clearly address the issues of sin- how it offends God and merits eternal judgment. Robert Schuller once said this about the subject:
I don’t think that anything has been done in the name of Christ and under the banner of Christianity that has proven more destructive to human personality, and hence counterproductive to the evangelistic enterprise, than the unchristian, uncouth strategy of attempting to make people aware of their lost and sinful condition.
But how can there be a gospel without these things? John MacArthur said this in referring to these kinds of “gospel” messages:
No repentance, no judgment, no hell, no heaven, no self-denial, no discussion of sin, no laying down of the law of God against which the sinner is broken, no sense of guilt, no sense of condemnation, no fear of eternal torment– that is an inadequate gospel. That is a gospel that I will tell you will contribute to apostasy. It will contribute to defection. Because people are going to come to that which they think is the saving message and when it doesn’t do anything, they’re gone. A shallow gospel presentation that doesn’t present the reality of eternal judgment, the reality of the law of God, the reality of condemnation, eternal hell, does not warn of God’s wrath, that does not crush the sinner under the weight of his violation of the law of God, that does not make him stand before God guilty– the gospel presentation that doesn’t do that isn’t a faithful gospel presentation.
And because there are so many popular preachers out there who are “biblical” and yet say nothing of the gospel, I like the distinction. And from now on, I’m going with gospel-centered.