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Is Gospel-Centered a Good Thing?

December 1, 2010

You’ve heard the phrases. You’ve read the books. You’ve echoed the mantras: Gospel-Centered. Christ-Centered. Cross-Centered. What do these adjectival clauses even mean? This month, Matt and Shaun take a look at the whole “centered” movement, asking what it’s strengths and weaknesses are, as well as pointing us to where they might lead in the future.

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. Mark permalink
    December 7, 2010 1:42 am

    Greetings –

    Your show always makes me think and I usually agree with you. This time I wasn’t so sure. It could be that I misunderstood you… please correct me if I did.

    It sounded like you were saying that gospel-driven sanctification leads to antinomianism and we therefore need a pendulum swing back to holiness. Did I misunderstand? I don’t see “gospel” and “holiness” being dichotomous in light of Galatians 5 and similar passages. There is no real holiness apart from the law teaching us we are sinners and the gospel reminding us of Christ’s work on our behalf. The only obedience that glorifies God is “faith working through love”. “He who is forgiven much loves much.”

    My fear in your presentation is that you are implying that the antidote for antomianism is a dose of legality. But both sins are the same – they both lessen our consciousness of sin and sin’s only remedy. So it produces licentiousness on the one hand and legalism on the other, neither of which cause the sinner to despair of their sin and cry out to God for mercy.

    I don’t think we need a pendulum swing back to holiness — the preaching of the gospel in light of our terrible sin will produce holiness.

    Having listened to you guys for a long time, I have no doubt that we’d agree, but the presentation of the material came across that way to me so I thought I should mention it.

    Many blessings to you both – thank you for your service to the body of Christ.


    • ordinarymeans permalink*
      December 7, 2010 2:57 pm


      I appreciate your comments about the presentation of the material. I think we often seek to raise ires so that these kinds of discussions happen. You raise some of the very issues we will deal with in our January podcast as we seek to bring more clarity to the topic.

      As sinful men, our tendency is always going to be to the extremes. That is to say, a focus on *Gospel as justification* will often lead “to antinomianism and we therefore need a pendulum swing back to holiness.” On the other hand, a focus on *Gospel as sanctification* can lead to a kind of pietism, a seeking after holiness, even legalism. Both are necessary. Faith AND works. They balance each other and keep us from the extremes.

      We need to be careful not to say that holiness = legalism. That is precisely the kind of misunderstanding I am suggesting is happening. “Because I am Gospel-centered, because Christ paid it all, I don’t need to worry about my sin.” You understood us to say that “the antidote for antomianism is a dose of legality” when more correctly the antidote for antinomianism is preaching against sin, and therefore driving sinners to the Gospel that produces holiness by grace.

      Boice used to say that people will believe the Gospel that has been preached to them.I am seeing a lot of Christians excited about the Gospel, but living as they please. Consider divorce rates, lack of sabbath keeping, etc. as symptoms of a weak Gospel. My question is, have they believed the correct Gospel? Is there a Gospel that does not make us holy as our heavenly Father is holy? Yes, and we should flee it. We must be careful we are centered on the WHOLE Gospel and not just a part.



      • Mark permalink
        December 7, 2010 3:46 pm

        Shaun – Thank you brother. We probably believe the same thing — I affirm everything in the “three forms” regarding both Law and Gospel and I teach it to my kids. đŸ˜‰

        I don’t equate holiness with legality (sorry, I should have clarified)… it sounded to me like you were pitting gospel against holiness, which I thought was a false dichotomy. So in that context when someone says “holiness” I immediately assume they are speaking of a holiness apart from the gospel, which Galatians 5 rejects, and is legality. After hearing you explain it, I don’t think you meant that.

        I completely agree that the whole gospel must be preached in light of our terrible sin against God. If it does not lead to holiness, then the whole counsel of God was not understood.

        That isn’t to say that it wasn’t taught in the first place… Corinth is a prime example of that. The answer to Corinth’s problems was not a different message, but for them to repent and believe what Paul taught them in the first place. No doubt we agree there…

        I look forward to hearing January’s session – you guys are always interesting and thought-provoking.

        Blessings to you both,


  2. Dennis Griffith permalink
    February 15, 2012 2:44 pm

    Great thoughts, guys.

    While I know that you recorded this podcast months before the publication of his book, Joe Thorn in his book Note to Self addresses the very things you were talking about. He practically navigates the Preaching the Gospel to Self and Preaching the Law to Self gap; he shows how the Law & Gospel work together.

    Maybe he’d be a good guest.

    • ordinarymeans permalink*
      February 15, 2012 5:50 pm

      Thanks, Dennis. We’ll take a look. Do you know Joe?

      • Dennis Griffith permalink
        February 15, 2012 6:53 pm

        No, I do not know Joe. He is part of the Acts 29 Network, and is on Facebook.

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