“The gospel is the central article of the Christian faith. Most necessary is it that we learn it well, teach it to others, and beat it into their heads continually.”
Commentary on Galatians
The gospel is not only the ABC’s of salvation, but the A to Z of the Christian life. The gospel is not only how we come into God’s kingdom, but also how we grow and live in God’s kingdom. The apostle Paul writes to the Corinthians, “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2), and we must be resolved to do the same. Knowing, loving and serving Jesus needs to be the goal of all that we do; it needs to permeate everything about us.
Justification—being declared righteous in the sight of God—is necessary for entrance into God’s kingdom; sanctification—being restored to the image of God in which we were created—is necessary for life in God’s kingdom. They are distinguished from one another, but both spring from God’s grace: justification as a once-for-all act of God’s grace, and sanctification as the ongoing work of God’s grace.
Every human being worships; the only question is whether we choose to worship the God of all creation or a god of our own creation. Even Christians struggle with this question of worship. While we profess Christ as our salvation, our motives, methods, and goals often reflect lives that are lived according to our own rules. “Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” the apostle Paul asks in Galatians (3:3), and we must ask the same question of ourselves. Having begun with the gospel—repenting of our sin and inability to save ourselves and placing faith in Jesus who saves—when we became Christians and entered the kingdom, we must be careful that we do not fall back into trust of ourselves as we seek to live and grow in God’s kingdom.
Two significant areas in which the value of gospel understanding is worked out comes in 1) preaching and worship, and 2) teaching. Our worship each week calls us away from our propensity to trust ourselves and back to the gospel as our only hope. Our teaching—including such areas as leadership training and Christian education—is focused on deepening our understanding of the gospel and seeing it worked out in our lives. In this, teaching is not theoretical or abstract; we are not interested only in knowledge. Rather, our desire is to see both informed minds and enflamed hearts, “so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:17-19).