THE CENTRALITY OF THE GOSPEL
In Galatians 2:14, Paul lays down a powerful principle. He deals with Peter’s racial
pride and cowardice by declaring that he was not living “in line with the truth of the
gospel”. From this we see that the Christian life is a process of renewing every
dimension of our life-- spiritual, psychological, corporate, social--by thinking, hoping,
and living out the “lines” or ramifications of the gospel. The gospel is to be applied to
every area of thinking, feeling, relating, working, and behaving. The implications and
applications of Galatians 2:14 are vast.
Part I - IMPLICATIONS AND APPLICATIONS
Implication #1 - The power of the gospel.
First, Paul is showing us that that bringing the gospel truth to bear on every area of
life is the way to be changed by the power of God. The gospel is described in the Bible
in the most astounding terms. Angels long to look into it all the time. (I Peter 1:12). It
does not simply bring us power, but it is the power of God itself, for Paul says "I am
not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation" (Rom.1:16). It is also
the blessing of God with benefits, which accrue to anyone who comes near (I
Cor.9:23). It is even called the very light of the glory of God itself--"they cannot see the
light of the gospel of the glory of Christ...for God...has made his light shine into our
hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus
Christ." (II Cor.4:4,6)
It has the life of God. Paul said to the Corinthians, "I gave you birth through the
gospel"! And then, after it has regenerated us, it is the instrument of all continual
growth and spiritual progress after we are converted. "All over the world this gospel is
bearing fruit and growing, just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard
it and understood God's grace in all its truth." (Col. 1:6). Here we learn: 1) That the
gospel is a living thing (cf. Romans 1:16) which is like a seed or a tree that brings more
and more new life--bearing fruit and growing. 2) That the gospel is only "planted" in us
so as to bear fruit as we understand its greatness and implications deeply--understood
God's grace in all its truth. 3) That the gospel continues to grow in us and renew us
throughout our lives--as it has been doing since the day you heard it. This text helps
us avoid either an exclusively rationalistic or mystical approach to renewal. On the
one hand, the gospel has a content--it is profound doctrine. It is truth, and specifically,
it is the truth about God's grace. But on the other hand, this truth is a living power
that continually expands its influence in our lives, just as a crop or a tree would grow
and spread and dominate more and more of an area with roots and fruit.
Implication #2- The sufficiency of the gospel.
Second, Paul is showing that we never “get beyond the gospel” in our Christian life to
something more “advanced”. The gospel is not the first “step” in a “stairway” of truths,
rather, it is more like the “hub” in a “wheel” of truth. The gospel is not just the A-B-C’s
but the A to Z of Christianity. The gospel is not just the minimum required doctrine
necessary to enter the kingdom, but the way we make all progress in the kingdom.
We are not justified by the gospel and then sanctified by obedience, but the gospel is
the way we grow (Gal.3:1-3) and are renewed (Col.1:6). It is the solution to each
problem, the key to each closed door, the power through every barrier (Rom.1:16-17).
It is very common in the church to think as follows. "The gospel is for non-Christians.
One needs it to be saved. But once saved, you grow through hard work and
obedience." But Col.1:6 shows that this is a mistake. Both confession and "hard work"
that is not arising from and "in line" with the gospel will not sanctify you--it will
strangle you. All our problems come from a failure to apply the gospel. Thus when
Paul left the Ephesians he committed them "to the word of his grace, which can build
you up" (Acts 20:32)
The main problem, then, in the Christian life is that we have not thought out the deep
implications of the gospel, we have not “used” the gospel in and on all parts of our life.
Richard Lovelace says that most people’s problems are just a failure to be oriented to
the gospel--a failure to grasp and believe it through and through. Luther says, "The
truth of the Gospel is the principle article of all Christian doctrine....Most necessary is it
that we know this article well, teach it to others, and beat it into their heads
continually." (on Gal.2:14f) The gospel is not easily comprehended. Paul says that the
gospel only does its renewing work in us as we understand it in all its truth. All of us,
to some degree live around the truth of the gospel but do not "get" it. So the key to
continual and deeper spiritual renewal and revival is the continual re-discovery of
the gospel. A stage of renewal is always the discovery of a new implication or
application of the gospel--seeing more of its truth. This is true for either an individual
or a church.
To read more of this article from Tim Keller, Pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian church in New York, please click here