How Important is the Gospel?
Many have reached a saturation point when it comes to the notion of gospel centrality. “Enough already,” they cry, with more than a little exasperation. I understand this reaction. We who identify as evangelicals are good at taking what is otherwise a fully biblical term or concept and beating it into the ground or pounding it into the heads of our people. So, yes, it’s possible for us to grow justifiably weary of certain terminology.
After years of watching “gospel-centered” be used as an adjective to describe everything from children’s ministry to a Wednesday night pot-luck dinner to global missions, I pray that we not lose sight of how indescribably important the gospel actually is. So I thought it might be helpful if we simply let Scripture address the matter. This post, therefore, is designed for those of you who, in your understandable frustration with what has often become a mindless and repetitive use of the language of gospel-centrality, are on the verge of deleting it altogether from your vocabulary.
Read and rejoice!
Mark 8:35 – “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it.”
The gospel is worth the sacrifice of our lives! And in such sacrifice there is found true life.
Mark 10:29-30 – “Jesus said, ‘Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life.’”
How important is the gospel? It is something so precious, says Jesus, that you and I should be willing to leave house and family and our possessions that we might know it, embrace it, believe it, and if necessary die for it.
Acts 20:24 – “But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.”
This is absolutely stunning! Ask yourself this same question: Do you cherish your life more than you do testifying to the gospel of grace? We probably cherish our jobs more, our money more, our reputation more, our status in the community more. I suspect we often make the grand claim that we would die for the sake of the gospel but then refuse even to walk across the room to share it with a co-worker or across the driveway at home to share it with a neighbor. I suggest that if we do not treasure or place preeminent value on the gospel above even our own lives it can only be because we don't really know what the gospel is. I hope this post will be a remedy for that problem.
1 Peter 4:17 – “For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?”
If you doubt the importance of the gospel, consider this word from Peter: those who “disobey” it or refuse to believe and receive it will face the eternal judgment of God! Enough said.
Galatians 1:6-9 – “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel – not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.”
Here Paul is even more to the point than Peter was in the previous text. The gospel is so precious, its content so valuable, its truths of such infinite and immeasurable importance that if you or anyone else should tamper with it, alter it, dilute it, or worse still deny it, the wrath of God is upon you (the word “accursed” is a translation of the Greek word, anathema)!
Ephesians 1:13 – “In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit.”
The gospel must be prized for the simple fact that apart from it there is no “salvation.”
Colossians 1:23 – “if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.”
The gospel brings hope. Without it, there is only despair and ultimate doom.
1 Thessalonians 2:4 – “but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts.”
The gospel is a sacred trust, a priceless treasure which God has entrusted to us to guard, to proclaim, and to protect.
2 Timothy 1:8 – “Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God.”
There isn’t a lot in life for which I will gladly suffer pain and loss and perhaps even death itself. But if I know Jesus, says Paul, I must be ever ready to embrace and not chafe under the hardship that testifying to the gospel of grace might entail.
Philippians 1:27 – “Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel.”
Finally (and remember, this is only a handful of texts that could have been cited), my entire life is to be lived in such a way that the gospel is seen as of paramount importance. The gospel calls forth from each of us a quality of life, a way of relating and speaking and acting and feeling that bears witness to its beauty and the glory of the Christ who is its principal content.