Updated: Mar 29, 2022
BY: Matt Creamer
One of our values at NPPC is that we desire to be a “Gospel-Centered” Community. What exactly does that mean? A lot of churches talk about the gospel somewhere in their purpose statement or identity. What do we mean by “The Gospel?”
Most of the time when folks use the words “The Gospel,” they are thinking about the four gospels Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John-the first four books of the Newt Testament. We call them the “Gospels.” They contain the story of Jesus-His birth, life, ministry, death, resurrection, and ascension back to the right hand of the Father in glory-in heaven. But in the original language of the NT-Koine Greek- the word gospel meant “good news” usually referring to the announcement of the birth of a new crown prince-a new “Caesar”-in the Roman Empire, or even a great victory in battle by a Roman General-this announcement was the “euvanggelion” or “the gospel.” So, in a sense, the four “gospels” are “the gospel” because they announce and proclaim the birth of a new king-the promised offspring of David, Jesus the Messiah promised to Israel through David (II Samuel 7).
But throughout its use in the NT, the term “gospel” came to have a more precise and theologically technical meaning-especially in the theological letters of the Apostle Paul. He writes in Romans 1:16-17:
16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”
So, in Paul’s vocabulary, the gospel came to be understood as the righteousness of God reckoned or “imputed” to the believer by faith in the finished work of Jesus on the cross and His resurrection. Jesus’ death affords to the believer forgiveness of sins, with the resurrection of Jesus being the guarantee of the Father’s acceptance of His Son’s sacrifice. But not only are we forgiven of all our sins, the perfect life-the righteous life-of Jesus is now reckoned by the Father to the life of the believer. This “Great Exchange,” as it has been called, is defined very simply, and yet precisely, in another verse from the Apostle Paul II Corinthians 5:21
21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin (Jesus), so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
Jesus took on all our sins in His body on the cross-he “became sin” for us and in exchange we are counted as “righteous.”
That friends, is indeed “good news.” In fact, I believe, as the contemporary Christian band Mercy Me sings: “That’s the best news ever!”
So to be “Gospel-Centered” is to be centered on, focused on-“obsessed with” if you will, the forgiveness of sins we have in Jesus, and His righteousness credited to our account by grace through faith! We must be constantly preaching this “Gospel” to ourselves and each other. That is our “true north!” That is our compass to guide us in our lives. That “good news” should be the first thing we think about when we wake up in the morning, our meditation throughout the day, the last thought on our minds when we climb into bed at night, and in our dreams throughout the night! The gospel changes everything! It should be our “raison d’etre” our reason for existence, the foundation of every relationship--the motivation and empowerment to living a life that is pleasing to God our Father.
The gospel is at once the most humbling and most uplifting concept we could ever know. We had nothing to do with acquiring it and can add nothing to it! We receive it by grace through faith, as passively as the earth drinks in the rain from heaven, even the faith by which we believe is a gift of God’s grace-“so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9) And also by grace we are adopted by God as His sons and daughters. That fact should destroy any self-righteousness or “better than thou-ness” we might have! It should cause us to see ourselves as “only a sinner saved by grace.” Just like anyone else, “except for the grace of God there go I” in any circumstance. We don’t believe this stuff because we’re smarter or more spiritual than anyone else, we believe it by grace! And we live it by grace! And so do our brothers and sisters in Christ. So, we have no right to look down on anyone! Instead, we preach this gospel to ourselves and each other as brothers and sisters trying to live lives of grace! That’s what we mean by “Gospel-Centered!”