The Gospel is not the Center of the Christian Life

One common answer given when you ask a Christian what is the center of the Christian life is the gospel. However, the gospel is not the center of the Christian faith and life. The gospel is important, the gospel changes lives, indeed it is the very power of God unto salvation for all who believe, but it is not the center of the Christian faith. The center of the Christian faith is a term which isn’t even in the Bible itself because the center of Christianity is the trinity; it is God himself. John Piper wrote in his textbook Let the Nations Be Glad, ” Worship is ultimate, not missions, because God is ultimate, not man.” Considering the trinity then, could we not then say “The trinity is ultimate, not the message of salvation, because God is ultimate, not man?” Though it doesn’t always seem to be, the trinity is and must be the center of our faith. However, many churches and Christians seem to ignore this essential part of the Christian faith to our detriment as a church, and this lack of focus on the trinity shows through in our corporate worship and in our understanding of salvation.

One ancient creed says that we worship “one God in trinity, and trinity in unity . . . Father, Son and Holy Spirit, their glory equal, their majesty coeternal.” Why then is it that our worship does not show this? Why is it that we are at best binitarian worshiping Jesus Christ and God? So rarely do we mention Father, and much less still the Holy Spirit. I have gone through numerous worship sets where the Holy Spirit wasn’t mentioned at all, and still others where the Father is not directly mentioned and relegated to a generic “God.” If we are honest our worship seems to be functionally Unitarian. A recent study by a professor at Duke Divinity shows that this assertion is much more than anecdote; it is fact.[1] [2] [3] Our music selection as a church does not reflect our Trinitarian theology. If you are a worship leader, think deeply about the songs you have selected for worship in the past, have you actively tried to include worship of all three persons of the trinity? It’s difficult because our worship is intensely Christ-Centered, which isn’t in and of itself wrong, but it stands that we very rarely address the trinity as a whole. We do not, in practice, worship a Trinitarian God.

This lack of trinitarianism trickles down into our understanding of salvation. I go back again to my first statement, the gospel is not the center of the Christian life. Why? Because the trinity itself proclaims that God is glorious in and of himself because of who he is. He is self-sufficient. The life that the trinity has within itself suffers from no lack; it is greater than the gospel. To say otherwise means to put our salvation, and humanity, above the very being and essence of God himself. We might avoid the trinity because it is impractical, but it is only when we begin to grasp the impractical that our practical work becomes truly fruitful. Let me ask who saved the world? The common, most immediate answer is Christ. Christ came to earth, Christ died on the cross, Christ rose from the dead, and Christ now calls us to himself. But this is such an incomplete, and perhaps incorrect picture of salvation and of the role of the trinity in our salvation. This is especially true because the New Testament clearly shows how it was the Father who is the prime mover behind our salvation and that all three persons work together for our salvation. The Father Sent the Son, the Son died and rose again, the Spirit calls us in regeneration and confirms us continually by indwelling in us and reminding us of our adoption by the Father. We speak of “asking Jesus into your heart” but it is the Holy Spirit that lives within us, not Christ. When we lose our view of the Blessed Trinity, we lose our very understanding the salvation that has been wrought in us.

How then, does the trinity play into our Christian life? It plays forth in every way. The gospel itself is the message of the Father sending the Son. The mission of God is this sending, and our mission is the same, God sent the Son, so the Son sends us (John 20.21). Our salvation is accomplished through the Son, for the Son obeyed the Father and took our place on the cross, and now sits at the right hand of God as our mediator. And our salvation is applied to us by the calling and the regeneration of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit himself is now our Emmanuel, our God with us for the Son is now at God’s Right hand and instead the Spirit continues to indwell us today and confirm our faith as our guarantor of salvation. Why is it then that in our worship we reduce the Spirit, who is today the one with us to almost being unmentioned? Why is it that we so neglect the Father who created the very plan of salvation and the mission of God? We need a fuller knowledge of the trinity, and this knowledge impacts all areas of our faith manifesting itself in how we understand the gospel and showing itself in our prayers so that we might also share the life that is present in the trinity and that the unity of the trinity might be seen between believers. Gospel centeredness does not originate from an understanding of the gospel. Rather, it and an understanding of the gospel originates in understanding God himself. God himself is our center, let him not be moved.

image credit
[1] Some Similarities and Differences between Historic Evangelical Hymns and Contemporary Worship Songs
[2] How Great Is Our God: the Trinity in Contemporary Christian Worship Music
[3] video summary

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One thought on “The Gospel is not the Center of the Christian Life

  1. Yes, indeed. Much of Christianity has made Jesus into a stand-alone monotheistic God. Of course, the West never did have a very good theology of the Trinity (cf. filioque)

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