The Centrality of the Gospel in Preaching 8
The lack of understanding, or the outright rejection of, the sovereignty of God in salvation, his sovereign grace, the reality of God-given faith, monergistic regeneration by the Holy Spirit, the sinner’s repentance from sin, and submission to the Lordship of Jesus Christ is not only fundamentally undermining the centrality of the gospel in preaching but also has the residual impact of replacing the centrality of the gospel with correspondingly worthless substitutes. In many churches what passes for the gospel is nothing more than what one theologian called “moralistic, therapeutic deism.” The gospel, and the wonderful joy that results from it, has been replaced with a man centered, self-help philosophy that views man as better than he actually is.
Rather than a spiritual dead man, remember Lazarus, that needs to be resurrected unto new life in Christ by the one true sovereign God, man prefers to think of himself as at worst someone who is spiritually ill and in need of a corresponding pill to restore his health. In his opinion, fallen man’s spiritual needs may be better met and served by new age and reincarnation author and actress Shirley MacLaine than by the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Greater still is when the church fails to preach the gospel as centered in the sovereign grace of God in the saving of sinners; it replaces what is to be the church’s central focal point of existence: to glorify God alone. The church no longer ascribes glory to God but rather gives itself the glory. Rather than God being the focal point of daily and weekly worship, man becomes the centerpiece of all the church does and for which it is concerned.
With this significant shift in concentration, it is no wonder the church has opted for entertainment instead of God-centered worship, cultural relevancy instead of biblical accuracy, and pragmatism and personal truth instead of integrity of doctrine. For many churches a focus on transitory materialism and temporal needs is preached instead of the eternal riches of imputed righteousness and the corresponding evidence of daily righteousness. Additionally, experience and emotionalism replace the expositional teaching and preaching of God’s Word.
This is not a new phenomenon. The attack upon the centrality of the gospel in preaching was the main issue that prompted Paul’s letter to the Galatians (Galatians 1:6-10; 2:11-21), John’s letter to the Seven Churches in Asia (Revelation 2-3) and Jude’s letter to unidentified believers (Jude 3-4). Additionally, the centrality of the gospel in preaching became the centerpiece of apostasy and the corresponding Spirit induced awakening of the church throughout its history.
Aside from a Holy Spirit produced reformation, what is the church to do in maintaining the centrality of the gospel in preaching and reversing the downward slide towards apostasy? I submit that one biblical text providing an answer is Romans 1:16-17. In striving for, and guarding the accuracy of, the centrality of the gospel in preaching the church must always:
1. Delight in the Gospel;
2. Remember the Power of God is contained in the Gospel;
3. Recognize the Righteousness of Christ is revealed in the Gospel;
4. Live Consequentially by Faith because of the Gospel.