It comes up all the time.  The answer is always the same, like kids in Sunday school answering “Jesus” to every question.  And we nod our heads like adult Sunday school teachers too concerned about the child’s esteem or dampening their enthusiasm even though we know the response is inadequate.

It’s Tuesday.  I’m on vacation (which is why I’m ahead on blogging).  And someone has sent me another note chastising me (mildly) for not concluding a post with “the gospel.”

It doesn’t matter what the topic is.  Men and women struggling to get along in their marriages?  ”The gospel.”  Someone struggling to find work in this economy?  ”Believe ‘the gospel’.”  The mechanic just “fixed” your car–again–and charged you–again–for the same problem you noticed last week?  Think of “the gospel.”  The Russian high court sentencing a punk rock band to two years in prison for a flash mob performance in a Russian Orthodox cathedral?  ”They need the gospel.”  Want rock hard abs?  Try “gospel” aerobics.  I smashed my little toe against the dresser?  All together now, “the gospel.”

It’s ubiquitous.  And it’s becoming an inflexible law.  We dare not face any issue without the requisite hat tip to “the gospel.”  If we do, there’s bound to be someone to write us a ticket for our verbal violation, to insist we missed a “gospel” opportunity.  Are Christians unable to have an intelligent conversation about some issue or confront some problem in life without using the phrase “the gospel” or pointing people to “the gospel”?  Or, is it that our own grasp on Jesus’ life and ministry are so slippery that we’ve not yet learned to naturally turn any conversation to a legitimate discussion of the Lord’s redemptive work on our behalf?

Of course, I’m not tired of hearing the actual gospel.  Let us all determine to know nothing but Jesus Christ and Him crucified.  But let us also learn that the apostle taught a lot of things about Jesus Christ, His crucifixion and resurrection without lackadaisically tossing out a few cliched references to “the gospel”.  He meditated on and expanded the message of God’s redemption through His Son in many varied arguments, tropes, and statements.  But that’s not what’s trotted out in today’s situations of human need.  We’re not getting deep reflections on the Person of Christ–His offices, nature, and work.  We’re not given robust explanations of the cosmic renewal of all things in Christ as the grounds of hope and joy no matter the circumstance.  We’re not having very many conversations that explore the dynamics of repentance and faith when we’re tempted to blast our mechanic.  Too many Christians lazily tell us we need “the gospel” the way little kids answer every spiritual question with a reflexive “Jesus.”

As blasphemous as it sounds, “the gospel” is not the answer to every question.  It’s not enough.  What about Jesus do I need to know that I’m unaware of when the medical report comes back?  I’m sure there’s something I’m likely to miss, but “the gospel” doesn’t communicate it.  What about joblessness is addressed by Jesus when I’ve sent out the 132nd resume with no response?  What specific promises should I hold onto in order to persevere through life without income in a monied economy?  Help me by telling me the actual message.  Bury my nose in the text of Scripture if you can.  My husband of 50 years just died?  Can you not tell me at length something about the resurrection–Jesus’ and ours–and the adoption the entire creation awaits to be fulfilled?  Can you not reduce the entire scope and swoop of Christ’s redemptive work to the mere facts of the gospel, but along with those facts sketch and paint something of the goodness of this news?  I know I need Jesus.  I know the news is good.  I need reminders specifically enumerating the reasons why.  That’s what plants, roots, and grows enduring faith.  That’s how we actually get to know Jesus more personally–by finding out what He’s like in the crucible of life.

I wonder if the cliff notes references to “the gospel” doesn’t blunt our understanding, meditation, application, and enjoyment of the incredible realities accomplished for us through the Son of God.  Are we inoculating people against the actual gospel with our frequent but unexplained references to “the gospel”?

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100 thoughts on “I’m Tired of Hearing “The Gospel” (Warning: Mild Rant)”

  1. dave in Cayman says:

    Well, Praise the Lord! …. check your e mail in a bit….

  2. T.Newbell says:

    This was helpful. I’m sure of it that I reference “the gospel” many times without going into the Who, What and Why of Christ…wow. Thanks!

  3. Steve Martin says:

    Yes, in this world we are subject to the law and all the demands of life…and we must ‘do’.

    But all that will melt away, pass away, and one day, all we will be left with is this, “your sins are forgiven for Jesus’ sake” (the gospel)…and it will be enough. It will be enough.

  4. While I understand what you are trying to say you could not be more wrong. When Paul talks about marriage, about giving, about forgiving, about church unity, about gifts – about EVERYTHING that comes up he ALWAYS puts the crucified Saviour right in the middle of the lesson. You should do the same, not disaparage this Biblical approach.

    1. Jim M says:

      William,
      I think you missed his point. It is not the he saying we need to stop apply the truth of the gospel. We need to go beyond the “shorthand” that assumes people will mentally fill out the details of the gospel. and sometimes there are particular aspects of the gospel that need to be highlighted that can be missed if we simply say “remember the gospel”
      Thabiti, am i reading you right?

    2. Kevin Allard says:

      William, I’m not convinced you have understood what Thabiti is trying to say (though I admit he could say it more clearly). He is saying that the crucified Saviour is at the centre of everything. He is saying that if we want to see Christ we need to talk specifically about him and his promises and actually explain the Gospel in detail rather than just referring to “the Gospel” in passing. E.g. you don’t just say to someone who has lost their Christian wife, “Believe the Gospel”; rather you tell him the specifics of the Gospel by saying, “Jesus promised that your wife will rise again just as Jesus rose again. Of course you miss her, and the God of all comfort who wept at the death of Lazarus knows how you feel. He is with your wife now. She can see Him face to face and she has become like Him. You are suffering now because you miss her, but she has never been happier because she is with Him and God who loved you and sent His Son to die for you will give you the strength to keep going and to keep trusting in Him”.

      1. JR says:

        Hi Kevin! Yes, this is exactly what I was thinking as well. Great illustration also with regard to loss and suffering.

        I’d also like to add something in the realm of battling sin and temptation. It’s not enough to say “just focus on the Gospel”. Like John Owen teaches in the mortification of sin: we must be killing sin or sin will overwhelm us.

        Practically speaking, I think that people generally only see two options: legalistic moralism or a gospel grace that requires nothing of us. Confessionally, they may not state this, but where the rubber meets the road, that seems to be how we live.

        On the practical side of how to actually live life in this fallen world, we need scripture to speak to us in a much deeper way than both of these conclusions. Many people in the church, myself included, are very hungry to continue to learn and practice these truths. Very few people actually get it though. We are just so prone in most circumstances to resort to a form of legalism or a form of antinomianism.

        Thank you, Thabiti for a thought-provoking post.

        1. Jake Trimble says:

          Time to reread the Book of James

          1. JR says:

            Hopefully, that is not the only place in scripture you would limit us to!! But yes, James is very practical.

      2. Tim says:

        Let’s get even more practical. When I am working the ER, or on the street as a medic, I am confronted with suffering/dying people. At this point, there is not much consciously “thinking about the gospel”. I react, relate, respond and work within the transformed mind/heart that ‘the gospel’ has worked into me at that point. There is no “what would Jesus do” thinking in the moment; which is this same sort of, apply-the-gospel mantra. In many moments, we can only BE what we have become at that point, as we acknowledge/understand and try to live out the gospel’s truths over time. When there is time to devote to a more thoughtful process, fine. But many of life’s real challenges happen quickly, by surprise and reveal who we really are – not what we think we should be.

        1. santos says:

          I really like that phrase,” we can only be what we have become” very powerful. I do believe though that there are moments when the holy spirit anoints us to act in spite of who we are. But nonetheless a good phrase.

    3. Jonnie says:

      JESUS LIVED – JESUS DIED – JESUS EXCHANGED – JESUS ROSE

      I think it’s really important to remember we have a LIVING God!

    4. mel says:

      you left the gospel out of your post

  5. Darren says:

    It’s also bad when the definition of the gospel is assumed in contexts where there are likely to be non-Christians. I know, Mr Preacher, that you understand it back to front and inside out, but that guy over there who’s never been in a church before tonight can’t speak your Christianese.

    Thanks for this, Thabiti.

    1. eve says:

      PREACH!

      And this is what makes me cringe when jargon is used in public events. Most people on the planet don’t know what’s even being communicated! And then that’s a lost opportunity to share the most important news in the universe.

      Ditto when people retreat to Early Modern English. It’s hilarious at times, but also sad when those who need Reconciliation end up missingeth the pointeth.

  6. Jeremy Bias says:

    Thank you for putting into words what I’ve struggled to verbalize myself. “Gospel” is used in a generic manner so often that, to your point, I rarely know what the speaker means by it. Many folks use the word “gospel” like the Smurfs used the word “smurf” for any and everything (a reference only a child of the 80’s will get!).

    1. Josh Jacobs says:

      You smurfed it with such a smurftastic answer. :-)

    2. Craig French says:

      That is probably the best comment on here!

  7. cornell says:

    Insightful rant, Thabiti. But I think it would have been helpful not to make such a sweeping dismissal without considering the fact that some people who mention “The Gospel” in matters that are “beyond salvation” are simply trying to enforce a Gospel-consciousness in the discussion. Yes, the actual “Gospel message” does not directly address the issue of joblessness. But it takes a Gospel consciousness (an understanding and acknowledgment of our position as Christians when addressing the issue) to restrain us from flowing into legalistic text-proofing and pragmatic applications of biblical answers to such life questions. It is this Gospel-consciousness that makes Biblical theology biblical?

    1. EMSoliDeoGloria says:

      Yeah but in trying to “reinforce a gospel consciousness,” could it be that both the speaker and the hearer end up losing the actual good news?

      Over the last year or so, I’ve taken to pressing some folks a bit beyond the cliches. When some people tell me to “apply the gospel to that” or “well, God is sovereign,” I might just ask them how they think the gospel applies to my situation specifically. And if they struggle to answer, I might even ask them what the gospel is. Generally, they can answer that. So then I’ll as them again what about the gospel they want me to be reminded of in the given situation….

      Who knows, maybe the gospel will become real good news to us and not just another word that shows we are cozy with the evangelical in group.

  8. Tom says:

    When the gospel becomes “hip” and “cool” what do you expect? You get tens of dozens of books with gospel in the title, and each one is touted (by the same voices!) as the best treatement and application of the gospel since Augustine.

    You get reformed hipsters constantly trying to out gospel one another and to convince their peeps how non-legalistic they are. The Gospel™ is so ubiquitous in certain reformed circles that it has become meaningless because, as you wrote, it has come to be the answer to every question.

    Enjoy the rest of your explicit gospel-centered, gospel-powered vacation, full of gospel-wakefulness.

    Tom

    1. Dave Hentschel says:

      LOL Tom on “GospelTM”

  9. Adam Wilson says:

    While I agree that a depth of understanding and a kind of, “looking deeper” in to Jesus is needed for any Christian….I am concerned the above “article” was not the best example of how to encourage that to be. We invest in what we love. If you love the Lord, truly, you will take that deeper look into Him becasue you are in the Bible, reading of all He did. It is a natural progression, agree? However, the arrogance of saying it the way it was said in the baove article cannot a good thing, in any conversation or article. I would rather a brother knew Christ crucified, and if that was all, I believe that may be enough for some, after all, that is why Jesus came, isn’t it? As a Christian, you need to start somewhere, and to criticize others for something you may be beyond, is arrogant and not a healthy trait to convey to anyone, especially readers here. What did Christ come here for? Don’t belittle the good news becasue of what looks like some kind of Christian elitism you seem comfortable resting in. If you are concerned that we are “inoculating people against the actual gospel with our frequent but unexplained references to “the gospel”?”..ask yourself if this was the best way to remedy that. The whole article just seems extremely reductive to the power of Christ Crucified.

  10. Ludwiglyle says:

    Ive been wondering when someone among us with a widespread influence was going to start saying this. It is a shame that the single most tremendous truth has now become somewhat of a mindless blurting out of hollow words. The gospel, of course, is not hollow but the way we are tossing it around as an unintended catch-all has grown a little silly.

    1. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      “It is a shame that the single most tremendous truth has now become somewhat of a mindless blurting out of hollow words.”

      The word is DUCKSPEAK or DOUBLEPLUSDUCKSPEAK — reciting a Party Line without engaging a single neuron above the brainstem. Automatic Stimulus –> Response.

    2. santos says:

      Ludwig, I second that, was wondering the same thing. And in my case I have grown in the faith through other non-reformed traditions that don’t use the phrase “the gospel” as frequently,but go deep into many of those very truths Thabiti is speaking of. At times I was beginning to question whether they were really preaching the gospel because of the infrequent use of the word.

  11. cornell says:

    Perhaps this would have been better (and simply) presented as a suggestion like: If someone mentions “The Gospel” in seemingly unrelated scenarios, he or she should be asked “WHAT DO YOU MEAN, ‘THE GOSPEL’? WHAT DOES ‘THE GOSPEL’ HAVE TO DO WITH THIS?”. My experience has shown that many who do “throw around” that phrase often do have an explanation; and I often find their approach more effective and comprehensive compared to merely jumping directly to a verse (or an episode in the life and teachings of Christ) that specifically deals with the issue.

    1. MarieP says:

      I think it would also depend upon how the word is being used. The Bible gives many explanations for what is meant by it:

      – the things Jesus did during His earthly ministry (Mark 1:1; Matt 26:13)
      – the kingdom of God (Matthew 24:14; Mark 1:15)
      – the cross and resurrection (1 Cor. 15:1-8)
      – Christ the risen Seed of David (Roman 1:1-4; 2 Tim 2:8)
      – the grace of God (Acts 20:24)
      – justification by faith apart from the works of the law (Gal 2:14, 3:8-9)
      – the power of God unto salvation for everyone who believes (Rom 1:16)
      – God judging the secrets of men (Rom 2:16)
      – peace (Rom 10:15; Eph 6:15)
      – the glory of Christ (2 Cor. 4:4)
      – abolition of death, and bringing life and immortality to light (2 Tim 1:10)
      – the frailty of man and the endurance of the word of God (1 Peter 1:24-25)

      Here’s one I actually am having trouble categorizing- I admit I never noticed it before!

      “Now you Philippians know also that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church shared with me concerning giving and receiving but you only” Phil 4:15

      PS- Should we read anything into the issue of the Gospel not being explicitly defined every time it is used in Scripture? Though, the context would tell us, since when it isn’t explicitly defined, we’re told what our brothers post is positing, let’s talk about why and how the Gospel affects our lives!

  12. Douglas says:

    THANK YOU!!! Shorthand answers will of necessity produce short-term solutions…

  13. Reed Here says:

    Thabiti: appreciate your concern with what I call the presumptive gospel. We presume folks understand the details and so skip over them. We tend to go from law’s condemnation – ______ – love’s application, forgetting that if we don’t fill in the blank folks naturally will forget to fill in the blank with the gospel’s solution.

    At the same time, don’t you think there is value is using shorthand? After all, doesn’t the Bible do this (c.f., 2Co 5:7)? The problem is not the shorthand, but the shorthand without the comprehensive explanation. When we presume folks understand the depth, breadth, height, and width of how Christ IS the answer for any given need, situation, circumstance, then we become gospel presumptive. Use the shorthand AND explain the details.

    1. Karen Butler says:

      I agree. But even when the Bible uses shorthand, I don’t think it gives the truth short shrift. What seems terse clearly points to a fuller answer. Like the seven covenant names of God: Jehovah-Jireh, (The Lord our Provider), Jehovah-Nissi (Our Banner), Jehovah-Shalom (our Peace), Jehovah-Tsid-Kenu (our Guide), Jehovah-Shammah (our everpresent one) Jehovah Sabaoth (Lord of Hosts), Jehovah-Raah (our Shepard)

      The Names were given to God’s people in their dire straits, and they always revealed more of His character and His provision for them. The names pointed to a specific kind of deliverance, something more God wanted them to learn about His lovingkindness. In the Names He did explain those details, and they pointed to Christ and His work.

  14. Dave says:

    Great post, I came across the very same issue from students at the Southern Baptist seminary in Louisville, the gospel was the answer to everything. Try telling the Gospel to a psychiatric patient who is suffering from schizophrenia.

    1. Karen Butler says:

      “Try telling the Gospel to a psychiatric patient who is suffering from schizophrenia.”

      Yes, please, do tell it to them,tell it again,and again and again! Is that fearsome diagnosis making schizophrenics impermeable to these truths? The label is applied to a hopeless case, they are cut off from grace?

      But it was the Gospel that renewed my Schizoaffective mother’s mind, when she was dying of emphysema and had to go off her psych meds. Her growth in grace was astonishing, even to her social worker, who marveled at her lucidity, and peace. It was the continuous preaching of the Gospel and the reading of the Scriptures that miraculously healed her mind.

      Before she died, my sister wanted her to have assurance — she asked, “You know Mom, you will not be plunged into Limbo, that you will go straight to heaven, right? Do you know why?” And my mother answered, with a radiant face, “Because Jesus paid the price!”

      So please do not deny the very least of these, the consolation and hope found only in those words of life. Suffer the schizophrenics to come to Him, too.

  15. Dan Kreider says:

    Some of the critical posters need to reread the article carefully, methinks.

    And I quote: “Of course, I’m not tired of hearing the actual gospel. Let us all determine to know nothing but Jesus Christ and Him crucified. But let us also learn that the apostle taught a lot of things about Jesus Christ, His crucifixion and resurrection without lackadaisically tossing out a few cliched references to “the gospel”.”

    Proverbs has a lot to say about carefully considering the entirety of the argument before you react. It’s ok to not agree, but most of the dissenting comments reveal an inaccurate reading of the article.

    1. cornell says:

      Hi Dan. Thank you for that perceptive pointer. I do hope, however, that you realize that most of the “agreeing” or assenting comments are also susceptible to the same peril of the inaccurate reading of the article. Dissenting comments often prompt critical re-reading :-)

    2. Kevin Allard says:

      True, but the article does lend itself to being misread and is described as a “mild rant”.

  16. Brad says:

    Thank you, Thabiti! I couldn’t agree more!

  17. TXinSC says:

    I think one of the reasons people throw out “the gospel” as the answer to all problems and circumstances is because THEY don’t have a deep understanding of scripture. Too many churches in our society ignore discipleship. The goal is to “save” people not teach people how to live out the truth of the gospel and apply it to their lives. It reminds me of herding cattle through a feed lot, take care of the basics before they go to slaughter. (sorry for the crude analogy). Until our churches start putting an emphasis on discipleship and training, yes training, this is going to continue to happen. The gospel is the first step in living a God centered life, it is not the only step.

    1. Tony says:

      I would disagree HIGHLY with your idea of the Gospel being the 1st step only. Paul in 1 Corinthians 15 called the Gospel the reality in which we stand (present tense). Paul in Romans 1:16 says the Gospel IS the power of God to those who believe (in the tense, are believing).

      Thabiti isn’t arguing for an assumed gospel with focus on discipleship- he’s arguing for a content rich Gospel that examines Christ in greater detail. Anyone who leaves the gospel to go on to discipleship doesn’t have Christianity. If you see the Gospel as only pertaining to the kind of grace that pardons sinners but not the kind of grace that changes sinners, then you would naturally see the Gospel as only the front door.

      1. TXinSC says:

        You can’t live out the gospel if you don’t have discipleship. Paul also talks about the meat of the word. Agreed that without the gospel you have NO Christ likeness even if you are living out Christ teachings. But to just say “go to the gospel” as the answer to every problem and circumstance is ignoring what the richness and fullness of the gospel encompasses. The gospel leads to greater, richer understanding and action. It is that understanding that allows us to “overcome” the circumstances and trials of life.

    2. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      “The goal is to “save” people not teach people how to live out the truth of the gospel and apply it to their lives. It reminds me of herding cattle through a feed lot, take care of the basics before they go to slaughter.”

      AKA “SELL MORE FIRE INSURANCE!”

  18. Robert Gates says:

    Thabiti,

    Well-said! I love the gospel and hope to grow in my love for it more and more each day. But when the “gospel” becomes a “shibboleth” (as it surely has for some), then we need to seriously examine whether it is the gospel we truly love, or merely our shibboleth version of it (and perhaps a little of both!).

    1. Karen Butler says:

      I agree, Robert. I think this is how the word “Gospel” functions in the Reformed crowd, as a password. I am still being initiated to this language, but I do see that the ‘Gospel’ performs for the Reformed what ‘Glory’ does for my former church of Third Wave Charismatics — it welcomes one in, and points to fundamental loyalties. ‘Soaking In The Glory’ is the touchstone for those false prophets, and in the same way the measure of the Reformed pastor is taken by all his references to Gospel-whatevering.

      It was very striking to me, (and somewhat mystifying) as someone being drawn into these circles from the world of Charismania, how often this word was thrown around, and so little made of the Lord Jesus himself. In all this confusion of tongues, there was someone who spoke a Lingua Franca –it was Spurgeon’s beautiful psaltery to the Saviour himself that first drew me here, and how I wish I heard more of that. John Piper understands this some. It is the only thing I miss from the world of Charismania– they made so much of Jesus.

      I would amend your comment, “we need to seriously examine whether it is the gospel we truly love”, with this observation: we need to seriously examine whether it is Jesus we truly love, or just the Gospel.

      Because, the Enemy is drawing youth using those who speak with a pounding heart, like Bill Johnson’s Jesus Culture, or Mike Bickle with his Bridal Paradigm. We must return to our first love, and speak that language as unashamedly as Spurgeon did.

  19. Aaron C. says:

    Thanks for your thoughts, Thabiti! I think this is part of the reason there has been a whole “gospel” movement in recent years. We have a propensity to assume “the gospel”, under-explain “the gospel”, and lazily substitute a word for the substance of our faith. The danger of this “gospel” movement is that we assume everyone knows what we are talking about, which is what brought about the movement in the first place. This movement can only be healthy and helpful as long as we are clear and intentional when we speak with others about “the gospel.”

  20. Yuriy S says:

    posted on the ‘Gospel’ coalition blog ;)

  21. Dave says:

    If we quit being about the gospel and start being about being about the gospel, this kind of thing happens.

    As friends have pointed out, this seems akin to:

    Our confidence needs to be in Jesus (which is itself faith), not in our faith in Jesus. Or the analogy of the dog sniffing at the pointing finger–we can obsess over making sure our finger points the right way rather than loving the thing at which it points.

    As Kauflin says, we’ll start “worshiping our worship.” But apply that to the Gospel.

    Are we truly about the Gospel or about our being about the Gospel?

  22. Scotty says:

    Thabiti: As a biblical counselor, on helping people with very specific issues, I say AMEM. Well said.

  23. The Apostle Paul set the example for us – and you certainly set Paul straight with your post. He kinda used the word for GOODNEWS along with Christ and Jesus whenever he could! Just loved those words…

    PS: The word gospel is NOT correct – we should be saying GOODNEWS as that is what Jesus and Paul said. And they did not explain it everytime they used it! ‘The poor have the good news proclaimed to them” (Jesus)

    1. William

      If you want to define “the Gospel” as “Christian doctrine”, fine. But that’s obviously not the cliched approach to “gospel centred” teaching adopted by many pastors. Every problem is identified with “works righteousness”; every solution is identified with “receiving the promise”.
      Two worries spring to mind immediately. One, we get the impression that the New Testament teaches that the Christian does not demand
      Paul did not reason in the very way adopted by so life does not demeand any effort. Two, the Kingdom of God does not appear in this truncated definition of the Gospel!
      Paul did not reason in this way. For example, Paul’s sexual ethic was based on creation (I have been horrified by some attempts to argue that the gospel is somehow the point of the institution of marriage! In Ephesians 5 Paul is using an illustration, and drawing an analogy, nothing more.) Jesus uses Wisdom teaching and Jewish eschatological expectations in Matthew 5-7.
      Now you can’t have Christian ethics without the resurrection, the atonement, and justification by faith alone. But if you leave out Creation and Providence, Wisdom and the Covenants, we are not preaching the full counsel of God.

      Graham and Nicola

      1. In Ephesians 5 Paul is using an illustration, and drawing an analogy, nothing more (You miss the most amazing statement in the NT concerning our future “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”[c] 32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. ”

        So it is much more than your nothing more. It is the greatest mystery of all – our union with Christ as the bride….beyond human understanding inthislife….
        as for the initial blog and much of the response – just Christians wasting their time with semantics – anything rather than go out an actually preach the good news…

        1. Graham says:

          Yes, being united with Christ is the mystery…but the purpose of marriage was not to illustrate the Gospel!

          And bluntly – conjugal relationships do not give anyone a deeper insight into the Gospel. An unmarried person can understand the gospel…

  24. Frank Crane says:

    The “Gospel” has been reduced by some to just a few talking points by which to make a Jesus sale. When the Scriptures use the word “gospel” it refers to God’s total plan to change us and be present with us. Thanks!

  25. christopher says:

    Thabiti,

    i agree with your sentiments. i think Christians would do well to remember that the “gospel” is better as a noun than an adjective.

  26. Graham says:

    I’ve no problem with the phrase “Gospel Centred”.
    http://www.saintsandsceptics.org/gospel-centred-apologetics/
    http://www.saintsandsceptics.org/gospel-centred-apologetics-whats-the-point-i/

    But I’m just glad to see that Thabiti is also afraid that the phrase is being overused!
    I started the first article..
    “It is tempting to think that the phrase “Gospel-centred” has lost something of its value in evangelical circles. Perhaps it made sense to talk about “Gospel-centred” ministries, “Gospel centred” discipleship or even “Gospel-centred” marriages. However, when we come close to endorsing “Gospel centred” diets, we might wonder if a trend hasn’t been taken a little too far”

    I worried that I was going to far. So I’m glad that a better mind and a better man has spoken out on the “Gospel Coalition”.

    Graham

    1. Graham says:

      Still awaiting moderation here…drums fingers…tap-tap-tap

      (-;

      1. Graham says:

        Hooray!!!
        Not that anyone will read the durn thing – I just like to keep moderators busy!

        (-;

  27. Rachael Starke says:

    AMEN. Again.

    We had to leave our last church for this very reason – it was all justification all the time. Asking about sanctification got either puzzled looks or accusations of legalism.

    Thank you for being TGC’s faithful pastor to TGC.

  28. Pastor Ashe says:

    Well said!

    I think some of the more critical posters need to re-read the post again. They begin with “I understand . . .” but their comments reveal such a statement to be false.

  29. Tony Huy says:

    I love the gospel. I love the gospel for the lost and for the saved. But the gospel is nothing without the center of the gospel – Jesus, and too often when I hear things like being “gospel-centered”, I wonder why we don’t express that in a term like Jesus-centered or Christ-centered. It seems to me that we use the word “gospel” to try to communicate that all of this is about the person and life and redemptive work of Jesus, but often times it’s just a religious word to people. I wonder if in 10 years we’ll all look back and say that in the midst of being about “the gospel” in our communication that we somehow forgot to communicate “Jesus”.

  30. Mark says:

    Firstly, I hope you’re enjoying your vacation pastor Anyabwile! Secondly, thanks so much for this post. I was thinking through this issue today and then the Spirit hit me over the head with your blog. I fear I use the phrase as a cliché sometimes in conversation just because I feel I need to, so thank you for your correction. Trevin Waxin’s blog on the confusion of the terms “Gospel” and “Spirit” really KO’d me too. Praise God that when the content of the gospel, and not simply the phrase, is rightly communicated, we ultimately treasure the Author of that good news!

  31. Mark says:

    Yes! I am quite tired of the word “gospel” being used like an umbrella to cover everything. Based on my rough estimates, the word for gospel (euangelion) in all it’s noun and verbal forms represents only about 0.08% of the words in the NT. God communicated to us in rich color! While “gospel” may be a helpful term to describe the message of salvation, let’s practice discussing God’s word to us in it’s own terms, in all it’s wonderful flavors. Is David’s praise for God as creator somehow connected to Christ’s atonement? Of course, but let’s not hesitate to say “Praise God the creator of the world” without getting uptight that we didn’t mention the “gospel” in that sentence. Thanks Thabiti.

  32. Tracy says:

    Somebody needed to say it. I thought I was the only one who saw the elephant in the room. For a while I thought I was hallucinating. Or just really unspiritual for not being satisfied with a tagline to deal with my daily spiritual battles. You expressed what I’ve felt but couldn’t articulate. Thanks for posting this.

  33. Barry Cooper says:

    Thabiti, thank you for putting this on the radar.

    It’s extraordinary how often we *assume* the gospel in our conversations, teaching and preaching – and how rarely we actually explain it. (In fact, here’s a post I wrote last Wednesday on the same topic.)

  34. Paul M says:

    Brilliant! In modern Chrisitan circles the answer to many questions or problems seems more quick and symbolic rather than substanative…it may sound good but may alos lack fullness. (And I am not speaking solely to our ability to offer a Scriptural reference at the drop of a hat.) It’s like praying before eating a burger and fries while on a road trip driving along the highway – does God really want me to pull over onto the shoulder, bow my head and pray a fullblown thankful prayer in this situation? And if I don’t am I “lacking” as a Christian because I didn’t? Or what if I had a handful of chips during a mid-morning break or a ballgame, but did not pray? Am I not fully a Christian because I didn’t? Can I not simply thank him quietly in these moments? If – in this example, our prayerfulness becomes mostly mechanical “because we must”, the act loses all substance. The basis for our faith can never be given short-shrift because of our lack of depth of understanding of Christ himself. One thing we tend to forget is the fact these were men and woman, including Jesus, and they lived each day. They had to work, they had to eat, they got cruddy, they had to relate to others – not unlike what we are required to do each day. It helps me to make that connection.

  35. Bob says:

    Thanks for having the courage to say this. Here is how I think of it: God’s word is sufficient. In his word we can find the answer to all our problems. The Holy Spirit is who makes us receptive to his word by faith. And all this was made effectual by Christ through the gospel, the matter of first importance in the word.

  36. Doug says:

    As I read this article my sense is that our brother is simply asking us to take the finished work of Christ to the place of daily application. Isn’t he simply challenging us to consider how the Gospel fleshes itself out in the various situations of life? We have a critical pastoral responsibility to make sure that the Gospel never becomes a mere confession, but is that truth that permeates every aspect of our lives.

  37. Josh says:

    Amen.

    And you nailed it. “The gospel” as we often use it in these circles can serve as little more than a party identifier–code language or a hollow abstraction–rather than the burning, all-encompassing reality of Christ in our lives.

    Let us seek the embodied Christ as our center instead.

  38. mel says:

    Thank you for saying this. I think it is a knee jerk way to criticize for those who what to hide their critical spirits. Who is going to speak up against that? Most of us do not fill like we can. Of course we know that their every conversation, email or facebook status does not share the gospel. I think the people that think this has to be done see Jesus in a very one dimensional way too.

    Even if a non-Christian reads and doesn’t know the gospel. If God uses it to touch them then they will seek to know more. Too many are quick to criticize for the cause of Christ without any regard of how many non-Christians are reading their criticism.

  39. AE says:

    Come to think of it, I literally might be on my 132nd resume …

  40. Stan Engeles says:

    Before my post, my browser found 150 instances of “gospel” in the post and its succeeding comments. I feel enlightened now.

  41. Rebekah says:

    Hurray! Thanks so much for this post. I grew up in a “gospel-centered” church and at some point in college thought, “wait a minute. What does that even MEAN?” Throwing the word around like a holy bandaid– or using it as a password, as someone else mentioned– is not at all helpful.

    A previous poster observed, that “we need to seriously examine whether it is Jesus we truly love, or just the Gospel.” I so agree with this. Do we love our set of doctrines, correct as they may be, or do we love the Lord those doctrines reveal?

  42. A previous poster observed, that “we need to seriously examine whether it is Jesus we truly love, or just the Gospel.” I so agree with this. ( This post and thread is all just sematics. Paul LOVED the GOODNEWS as much as he loved Jesus Christ, The GOOD NEWS IS JESUS CHRIST and JESUS CHRIST IS THE GOOD NEWS!!! YOU cannot love one without the other. Now go out and preach! What will you preach?? The more Spiritual or you will say “I preach Jesus Christ”. Others less “spiritual” will say “I preach the gospel”. Hmmm….seems Paul said BOTH and he did not always explain in detail what he meant…

  43. Kevin says:

    “Take any English word, even the most commonplace, and try repeating it 10 times in a row – umbrella, let us say, umbrella, umbrella, umbrella – and by the time we have finished, umbrella will not be a word any more. It will be a noise only, an absurdity, stripped of all meaning. And when we take even the greatest and most meaningful words that the Christian faith has and repeat them over and over again for 2000 years, much the same thing happens.” – Frederick Buechner

  44. John says:

    Amen! Thank you for posting this. I’m also concerned that our “gospel-centered” everything marketing will water down the gospel for the next generation.

  45. Ian says:

    To me, this is a bit of both.

    The gospel is obviously vertical – between man and God. But it is also horizontal in that it affects every area of our lives, including how we relate to others.

    So I think we should seek to reference the gospel continually, but we should be specific rather than saying “it’s the gospel” – that runs the risk of being a christian version of “it’s the economy”!

  46. Martin Morgan says:

    “The Gospel Coalition” is a great example of this sometimes frustrating reductionism. “The Gospel” is what unites this coalition… but how else can we summarise it?

  47. Well, we think The Gospel Coalition asks for something more than mere commitment to the gospel…for example, it is complementarian. It tends towards a Calvinist view of providence.
    Ben Witherington III couldn’t blog here, for example. Bill Craig has been critical of Calvinism. So he might not “fit” neatly within the coalition. So here are two conservative evangelicals who don’t get into a “Gospel Coalition”.
    Yet, oddly, there are some bloggers on Ref21 who think that the Coalition is too broad! They might overstate their case (a lot!); but they’re still “Gospel” ministers and theologians who are unhappy with a Gospel Coalition.

    So maybe we do need to ask if “The Gospel” is becoming a brand; or worse, a logo.

    G&N

  48. Clive says:

    Go Lakers!!!

  49. Bob Fairlane says:

    Religion is a poison. We don’t need the “gospel.” We need detox!

  50. Gokhan Kaya says:

    Thank you, this is what I needed to be written many years ago! Amen without hesitation!

  51. dave says:

    The Gospel principle plays out in lives step by step. Not by an argument of prayer. We need to recognize this and help foster its growth in parts, while knowing they are also a whole unit. A slice of pie still from the same pie, yet sometimes more tasty then the whole pie at once.

  52. Miguel says:

    If you can’t preach the Gospel without using the word, you may be using it to sell something else.

  53. Ken says:

    Mike Bullmore’s “concentric circles” for achieving the gospel’s functional centrality is a helpful framework for thinking about the issue that Thabiti wisely raises: http://www.9marks.org/journal/gospel-implications

  54. Melody says:

    This quote seems relevant:

    “The term “loading the language” refers to a literalization of language-and to words or images becoming God. A greatly simplified language may seem cliche-ridden but can have an enormous appeal and psychological power in its very simplification. Because every issue in one’s life [...] can be reduced to a single set of principles that have an inner coherence, one can claim the experience of truth and feel it. Answers are available. Lionel Trilling has called this the “language of non-thought” because there is a cliche and a simple slogan to which the most complex and otherwise difficult questions can be reduced.” – from Lifton’s 8 Criteria of Mind Control

    Now hear me out: I am not saying that every time we hear “gospel” (or “missional” or “complementarian” or “relational” or “be(ing) real” or “It’s all about Jesus” for that matter) that we are automatically under mind control.

    What I am saying is there is a danger that those concepts can become so cliched and can be interpreted into our lives so as to stop critical thought or the ability to wrestle with the many unknowns of this complex life, causing us to actually lose our focus. There is a danger that we nod our heads in agreement to “the gospel” but stop using our heads in discerning what is true.

    I just have a real problem when we reduce everything to trite statements or life principles that God did not specifically define, because people- including me- who can’t connect with those concepts at a given moment need the encouragement that God holds them, or at least longs to- even if they don’t feel it.

    Concepts must never be used to explain away the inexplicable; it is in the things we don’t have answers for that God is most present. I believe the gospel is clear, but it is also a great mystery, and that is OK.

    I’m just tired of theologians trying to pin everything down as if they could explain life. Jesus was about being “with us” in this life, not about all the answers to the meaning of it.

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Thabiti Anyabwile


Thabiti Anyabwile is assistant pastor for church planting at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, DC and a Council member with The Gospel Coalition. You can follow him on Twitter.

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