One of the things I have really grown in as of late is my understanding of what it really means to have a Christ-centred gospel. Many things come at us – within the faith and without. You name it, it’s been thrown in there, and maybe even the proverbial kitchen sink.
But one thing I have had confirmed in my heart more and more over the past months is that, if God’s people are called to anything, we are called to a Christ-centred gospel, a Christ-centred faith.
Sounds simple, almost fundamental. Well, it is. But I am amazed how far we can stray from this truth.
When I say we have a Christ-centred gospel and faith, please know I am not saying that all things else must fall to the wayside as unimportant. I think that is an unhelpful oversimplification of our life in Christ. But what I am saying is that, whatever matter of theology and practice we might hold to at the time, it must stay within the bounds of being Christ-centred. That is our call of focus.
We do not have a me-centred gospel, a works-centred gospel, a movement-centred gospel, a culture-centred gospel, or any other such gospel. We have a Christ-centred gospel and a Christ-centred gospel alone.
Therefore, in our study of Scripture and theology, we are ultimately to stay grounded in Christ. This is why Paul was so upset with the Galatians, so upset that he could make such a strong statement as this:
6 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 – 7 not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 8 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. 9 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. (Galatians 1:6-9)
Even more, Paul rebukes them with these words:
O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? (Galatians 3:1)
With the help of some Judaistic believers, the Galatians had fallen into the trap of seeing circumcision as valid for making someone right before God. But, of course, such is absurd. The shepherd heart of Paul had to rebuke the sheep. But he knew he had to be strong with his words in hopes of bringing them back to the focus of the gospel, that is Christ.
But the thing is, this issue does not really hit us with much impact today. We aren’t really struggling with circumcision as a major issue of the faith and whether it is important to have this act performed on our males (though some unfortunately are). But what we do have, one way or another, are our ‘circumcision issues’ which take our focus away from the Christ-centred gospel. And they don’t even have to be in regards to trying to work towards a right-standing before God. I simply use ‘circumcision issues’ to refer to things that bring our focus off of the centrality of Christ. And the list is very, very long.
I have many particular and varying theological beliefs. I have reformed-Calvinistic leanings in my soteriology (theology of salvation), I am a charismatic continuationist in regards to the Holy Spirit and His giftings, I am somewhat of a mix between preterism and amillenialism in my eschatology, and I am somewhat egalitarian in my understanding of men’s and women’s roles.
And you know what, there is nothing wrong with having those particular theological leanings. Hey, I believe them because they are right, you know!! But having specific theological beliefs is not wrong. So, again, I confirm that I am not saying we should chuck out such things.
But if in all my theological beliefs I do not look to stay Christ-centred, then I have problems. I want my soteriology, pneumatology, eschatology, ecclesiology and every other theological belief to be focused in Christ and Christ alone. If not, I shall be guilty of moving away from the call we have been given in regards to the gospel.
This is also why I have expressed my concerns about movements within Christianity. Many times we can become so enamoured with such movements that they become the focus rather than Christ. That is unhealthy, even dangerous. God might move in a particular place at a particular time in a particular way. I really believe He does such things, as church history attests. But when we sanction that as the way, the truth and the life, then we are beginning to abandon the Christ-centred gospel. Such would be disastrous, as church history also attests.
So let us be encouraged that, wherever we find ourselves in life, whatever theological bent we might have, and whatever move of God we might be experiencing, we must guard our hearts against making these central. Rather, we need to measure their reliability by Christ and Him alone. For He alone is what it is all about. He alone is the head:
19…what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might 20 seated him at his right handthat he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22 And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all. (Ephesians 1:19-23)