This sounds heretical in gospel-centered circles: We might preach about the cross too much. Or, put another way, not every gospel-centered sermon must be a cross-centered sermon.
Before you stone me, let me explain.
You’re here because you care how the whole Bible points to one thing: the person and work of Jesus Christ. You probably center your conversations with other believers on the gospel. You encourage your pastor (or perhaps you are a pastor) to preach sermons with Jesus as the point, the center and the end.
But what does a gospel-centered sermon look like? Does it mean that we tie everything to the cross? I think I’m seeing a trend within the gospel-centered community where “gospel-centered” means only “cross-centered.” I hope we can move beyond that.
The gospel is more than propitiation so can gospel-centered sermons be “empty-tomb-centered”? Can they be “victory-over-death-centered”?
Don’t get me wrong – I love the cross. It’s monumentally important. It’s one of the key pieces of the gospel of Jesus Christ. But it’s not the whole gospel. Gospel-centrality means more than just the cross and if our gospel-centered sermons only ever discuss the cross then they don’t explore all of the gospel. Our sermons should explore the many facets of the gospel: Continue reading
You already know how to see Jesus in the whole Bible. But now you might want to know how to integrate this into a sermon or Bible study:
- Where do you put the gospel connection in the message – at the start or at the end?
- How do you tie it to the message of the text?
There isn’t one best answer. It depends on your communication style, the audience and the passage you’re working with. Here is how I do it. Continue reading
There are three major failings the gospel-centered movement is prone to. From time to time I see them in myself and I want to warn you against them.
The gospel-centered movement has the potential to turn us into legalists about the gospel.
Gospel-centeredness is all about grace and how the whole Bible points to it. So how can legalism be a part of that? Unfortunately you can be legalistic about grace.
Gospel-centered Bible study has the potential to turn us into legalists because it is so true. What do I mean by that? When you come to see the beauty of how the Bible points to Jesus you begin to view everything through that lens. Along with the positives, it can breed negative results if we don’t guard ourselves: Continue reading
This month’s links probably has the most consistently high value we’ve seen yet. I strongly encourage you to spend some time to digest them.
Nick Batzig Won the Internet
Nick Batzig crushed it this month with two articles:
The Blessed Cursed Tree – At Reformation 21 Nick shows us how some of the harshest parts of the ceremonial law point to Jesus.
The Songs of the Son (Seeing Christ in the Psalms) – At his blog, Feeding on Christ, Nick discusses preaching Jesus in the Psalms. He lists some important resources for study, examines Calvin’s methodology and then gives us 5 strategies for preaching Christ in the Psalms:
- Typically Messianic Psalms
- Directly Predictive (Prophetic) Psalms
- Mystically Messianic Psalms
- Psalms of Trust in Christ
- Creation/New Creation Messianic Psalms
If you’re studying the Psalms this article functions as a handbook for Christo-centric interpretation.
Application in Christ-centered preaching
This month is saw some important writings about application in gospel-centered sermons. Along with “why your gospel-centered sermons fail” we have some excellent reflections on application.
Tim Ward wrote Christ our representative and the shape of evangelical preaching using the example of David and Goliath: Continue reading
Last week’s, Why your gospel-centered sermons fail, is the most important article I’ve written in months. It focuses on one of the three main problems in the gospel-centered movement (more on the other two soon). If you didn’t get a chance to read it – it’s pretty long – carve out some time.
With that article I’ve realized that this site has become something of a how-to guide for gospel-centered Bible study. But if you tried to use it that way it wasn’t user-friendly.
“Gospel-Centered University” is the one stop shop for everything I’ve written about how to study the Bible with Jesus at the center. It’s broken into “courses” so you can focus on things like finding gospel-centered connections, answering objections to the gospel-centered movement or applying the gospel.
If you’re visiting the home page just click on the Start Here button up top.
You’ll see a few basic articles coming out in the next few weeks to fill in some holes in the curriculum.
Have you connected your passage to the cross but don’t know what to do with that info? Are you standing there saying, “Hey look, this passage points to Jesus,” and your audience asks, “So what?”
You have an application problem.
Do your gospel-centered connections let your hearers off the hook when it comes to obedience? It’s easy to slip into antinomianism – preaching grace in such a way that we minimize or even eliminate obedience. That was not Jesus’ desire for us when he went to the cross for our sin so it shouldn’t be our desire in preaching.
You have an application problem.
Your gospel-centered sermons fail because it is not enough to simply find a connection between a passage and the cross. The connection must also impact the way we live.
Why does this happen? It’s easy to get caught up in finding Christ in all of Scripture and then forget to actually apply this knowledge. When we focus all on the “hunt” we might not remember what the hunt is for. When we forget the purpose we end up saying, “Look at this great fact,” without any context or application. At that point we’re simply showing off knowledge without any effect. In fact, if the gospel-centered connection has no impact on our lives highlighting it diminishes our love for the gospel.
“It is not enough to find a connection between a passage and the cross. The connection must impact the way we live.”
We must apply the text’s gospel connections to our hearers. But how do we do that? I can think of at least seven ways we can choose to apply the gospel to our obedience. But not all are created equal. Continue reading
Typology is very important to gospel-centered Bible study. It is probably the main thing people think about when they hear “gospel-centered.” But what is typology?
Typology – A hermeneutical concept in which a biblical place (Jerusalem, Zion), person (Adam, Melchizedek), event (flood, brazen serpent), institution (feasts, covenant), office (prophet, priest, king), or object (tabernacle, altar, incense) becomes a pattern by which later persons or places are interpreted due to the unity of events within salvation-history.
- The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, vol. 4, 930
Typology Foreshadows The Plan
There has always been a Plan. God the Father planned from before the foundation of the world that he would adopt us through the Son. (Eph 1:4-5; Rev 13:8) Typology is God pointing to the Plan ahead of time.
A good analogy here is to literature. Many authors use foreshadowing or symbolism as devices to help the reader understand the main point of a story. Typology is God’s use of foreshadowing and symbolism to point us to the Plan (the main point) throughout the Bible (the story).
“Typology is the name we give to the places in the Bible where God foreshadows the Plan.”
What sorts of things can be types? Virtually anything! For example, the book of Hebrews identifies many different kinds of types in the Old testament: Continue reading