Posted tagged ‘Annotations of Gospel Centrality’

Annotations of Gospel Centrality: Colossians (Summary)

May 18, 2012

I’m not finished with my blog series on annotations of gospel centrality, but I am finished with the book of Colossians. 🙂 Here’s the blogposts from this book:

» Colossians 1:6
» Colossians 1:21-23
» Colossians 1:28-29
» Colossians 2:6-7
» Colossians 2:17
» Colossians 3:1-4
» Colossians 3:5-15
» Colossians 3:16-17

I have attempted to make the case for the centrality of the gospel from an exegetical standpoint at a micro level, but I also see that it could be made from a macro level as well.

1:3-8      Praise for the work of the Gospel
1:9-14    Prayer for greater wisdom, walking, and working according to the Gospel
1:15-20 Person of the Gospel (Jesus)
1:21-23 Perseverance according to the Gospel
1:24-27 Purpose of God in revealing the Gospel
1:28-29 Passion for the Gospel’s sanctifying work
2:1-23   Polemic of the Gospel against all other shadows
3:1-4     Perspective-driven life according to the Gospel
3:5-4:1 Practical outworking of the Gospel horizontally
4:2-6    Presentation of the Gospel to the world
4:7-18  Partners in the work of the Gospel

Annotations of Gospel Centrality: Colossians 3:16-17

May 14, 2012

16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Colossians 3:16-17

The gospel is both the catalyst and content for all teaching, admonishing, and singing.  We are called to dwell deep in the word of Christ and have its riches lavishly poured out on others.  What is “the word of Christ”?  Certainly all of God’s Word is the word of Christ and about Christ. But most commentators agree that Paul is speaking more specifically about the gospel – the message of who Jesus is and what He has done for sinners.

The consequence of dwelling in the gospel is greater usefulness in the service of others.  From the overflow of the riches of the gospel, others are blessed by instruction, encouragement, and celebration–all of which is centered on Jesus Christ.  What greater teaching is there than the truths about Jesus Christ? What greater exhortation do we have than to remember, repent, and return continually to Jesus Christ? What greater song do we have to sing than the glories of Calvary? What produces greater thankfulness than the profound sense of once being lost, now found, one blind but now see, once an enemy but now a son? What channels our thoughts and affections with greatest intensity so that we “do everything in the name of Lord Jesus” than that very message that has captivated our lives?

We are called to live gospel-centered lives because the riches of the gospel demand that be immersed in them. To be rich in the “word of Christ” is to be utterly soaked in it.  God delights in believers who are excessive and lavish about the excellencies of His Son so that the commentary of our lives declare the abundance of the inheritance we have as children of God.

Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.  So if we have little to say about Christ, what does it say about the state of our dwelling richly in word of Christ? It is said that you and I speak a minimum of 6,000 words a day (over 2 million words each year!). Paul says whatever we do in “word and deed” should be done in the name of Jesus Christ.  How else can we interpret that other than to have a conscious awareness and commitment to the dominating reality of King Jesus?  The prescriptive means to make our 6,000+ words count, whether aimed at instruction, encouragement, or celebration, is to have our hearts immersed deeply in the gospel of Jesus Christ. When we never lose the wonder of sheer grace, we guard our hearts from the wandering tendency to do everything in our name.  May God grant to us an understanding of the value of dwelling richly in the gospel, and from its overflow, cause others to be refreshed by the life-giving words of our Risen Savior.

Annotations of Gospel Centrality: Colossians 3:5-15

May 11, 2012

5 Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. 6 On account of these the wrath of God is coming. 7 In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. 8 But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. 11 Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.
12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.
Colossians 3:5-15

Who you are in Christ is the glorious indicative that drives the imperative of how you live in Christ. That’s Paul’s point in Colossians 3 (and I would argue in all his letters). Colossians 3:1-4 speaks to the identity of the believer in Christ (gospel indicative), and verses 5 through 15 address how we are to live in light of the gospel.

Like Col. 1:21-23, Paul talks about the ongoing transformative power of the gospel by employing the “once you . . . but now . . .” contrast (see v. 7-8). The change is so profound in the Christian life that is not just a new mind or a new heart or a new way of living; rather it is a new self.  You have died (v. 3). Christ is your life (v. 4). Now it is time to live like it.  You are called to put away sin and the old self because God put your sin on His Son on the cross. You are called to put on the new self and all of its virtues because God has put the righteousness of His Son on you.  Consequently, verses 5-15 are simply the living out the great exchange of the gospel as those who know sins forgiven and righteousness given in Christ.   Indeed, as Paul puts it, Christ is all, and in all (v. 11).

What Paul shows in these verses is the vertical dimension of the gospel reframes the horizontal dimension of the Christian life. As God has forgiven you, so you must forgive others (v. 13).  As God has had compassion and kindess to you, so you must show compassion and kindess to others. As God has brought reconciliation to you through loving sacrifice, so you are called to pursue reconciliation with others with the same love, patience, and meekness displayed on the cross for you. This is the knowledge of the gospel in action as we are being renewed “after the image of our creator” (v. 10).

So the Christian life should always be gospel-centered because Jesus lived the life we could never live.  And yet we are called to live, not in order to earn God’s favor, but because we are highly favored, chosen, and beloved in Christ (v. 12). In His death, Jesus secured all that we need to put away sin and the old self and live as new creatures continually being renewed after the image of our Creator. And on the horizontal plane of ordinary living, the gospel shines brilliantly when we put on display who we already are in Christ in how we love and serve one another.

Annotations of Gospel Centrality: Colossians 3:1-4

May 7, 2012

1 If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
Colossians 3:1-4

God intends for the gospel to be the mental dial that tunes us into the frequency of heaven and the fuel which empowers us to get there.  The two imperatives in Colossians 3:1-4 are sandwiched with gospel realities.  As a Christian, you have died with Christ (v.3a), you have been raised with Christ (v. 1), you are hidden with Christ (v.3b), and you will appear with Christ (v.4).  All of this speaks to how our union with Christ directs our lives in perspective and pursuits.

There is no more glorious pursuit than seeking to know Christ. We are to “press on toward the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:12) because God has sought us out in the gospel. Or to use the language here, we are seek the things above because we have been raised from death to life with Christ. Fittingly so, the power of the resurrection in our lives should set the trajectory of our lives that will ultimately end in glory when we appear with Christ.

Living a gospel-centered life safeguards the Christian from trivial pursuits. We are not to seek “the things that are on the earth” and yet, when our hearts and minds are not fixed on Christ, covetousness sets in, and the idol factory of our hearts kicks in high gear. Where covetousness or trivial pursuits are characteristic of our lives, it is a clear indication that we have failed to realize that our lives are hidden with Christ in God.  When our mind is on earthly things, it is a clear indication of besetting preoccupations in opposition to the proper fixation on Jesus (Heb. 12:2).

Christ is your life.

Christ IS your life. Now, currently, perpetually.  And Christ is your LIFE. Not a footnote to the story, not a slice of the cake, not a door the house, not a time slot in your schedule.  He is your LIFE. Comprehensively. Essentially. Indivisibly. Should our lives be pressed under the crucible of adversity, what should be revealed in that moment is Christ is us, the hope of glory (Col. 1:26). And the only way we get there is by knowing (objectively and subjectively) we have died, and our life is hidden with Christ in God.

Set your minds on things about because God has set His affection on you through the gospel.  Seek the things that are above because through the gospel you have an upward call of God in Christ Jesus. We who are hidden with Christ in God will appear with Christ in glory. And that glory is what we are to experience in greater degrees as we behold Jesus, becoming like him from one degree of glory to another (2 Cor. 3:18).

Annotations of Gospel Centrality: Colossians 2:17

May 2, 2012

“These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.”
Colossians 2:17

The interpretive grid through which we properly understand the world is the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Everything was created by Jesus and for Jesus, and in Jesus is everything sustained (Col. 1:16-17). The world has always sought for a way to understand reality apart from the person and work of Jesus Christ. These lens or worldviews are mere shadows, and Paul mentions several of them in Colossians 2.

Rationalism – plausible arguments (2:4)
Traditionalism – philosophy according to human tradition (2:8)
Ceremonialism – festivals, new moon, and Sabbath (2:16)
Sensationalism – worship of angels, detailed accounts of visions (2:18)
Empiricism – do not handle, do not taste, do not touch (2:21)

All of these are “human precepts” (2:22) and “not according to Christ” (2:8). They give the appearance of plausibility on the surface but in reality they are only shadows. Nevertheless, we are tempted to make much of shadows. If it is not logic (rationalism), it is experience (empiricism). If it is not traditional, it is sensational.  There are ditches on either side we are prone to fall into, unless there is something more substantive, more true, more corresponding to reality.

Paul says the substance is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (2:3). And when we look at the heart of Colossians 2, we discover the way we reject the shadowlands of “isms” is to dwell deep in the substance of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Only through the gospel can we be “rooted and built up and established in the faith” (Col. 2:7).  Paul says the fullness of God dwelt in Jesus, and we have been filled with Jesus (which means the fullness of God fills our lives!). The substance belongs to Christ, and Christ belongs to us.

In the gospel, you have been buried with Christ in baptism (2:12)
In the gospel, you have been raised with Christ through the powerful working of God (2:12)
In the gospel, you have been made alive together with Christ (2:13)
In the gospel, your life is hidden with Christ in God (3:3)

That’s the substance.

Everything else is shadows. The gospel is an invitation out of the shadowlands and into the eternal realities purposed by God who works all things according to the counsel of His own will (Eph. 1:11). We are called to live gospel-centered lives because any other kind of living would be explorations into the various dimensions of shadows. When the gospel is our hermeneutic for life, we are embodying the divine critique of all elemental principles of the world, calling people out of the dominion of darkness and into the kingdom of His beloved Son (1:13). And the more we center our lives in our union with Christ in his life, death, and resurrection, the more substantive and satisfying our lives will become.

May God give us grace to make much of the substance that is found in Jesus Christ!

Annotations of Gospel Centrality: Colossians 2:6-7

April 28, 2012

6 Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, 7 rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.
Colossians 2:6-7

Growing up, I was trained to think the way Christians grow is from experience to experience.  Church services were the weekly “experiences” intended to give you the fuel you need to “make it through the week.”  Youth camps where the “mountain top” experience where you “rededicated” your life to live more wholeheartedly for God.  In just about every aspect experience was presented as the next step for spiritual growth.

Another approach to Christian growth, opposite of experience (or mysticism), is the increase of knowledge.  The idea is that those who know the most are the most mature and most godly people around.  When someone displays their ability to answer deep questions, we assume they must know God.  They must really far in their walk with Christ.  The outcome of this approach is that advancement in the Christian life is measured by the amount that one knows intellectually.

These camps of rationalism and mysticism are both right and wrong at the same time.  They are right in that it is necessary that we know God, both intellectually and experientially.  They are wrong in that they equate spiritual growth by experience and knowledge.  The Bible critiques both views with the gospel. We grow in the Christian faith the same way we entered into the Christian faith–by repentance and faith.

How did you receive Christ Jesus the Lord? By turning from sin (repentance) and turning to Christ (faith). So then, how are we to live after we have received Christ? Answer: the same way–repentance and faith.  The outworking of the gospel in the Christian life is going to generate a repenting faith and a believing repentance, and when the gospel is central, repentance and faith will be ordinary, ongoing, and regular. Where there is no repentance and faith, there is no effect of the gospel and consequently no growth in the Christian life.

In God’s wisdom, the Christian life is called a walk.  It is not a leap from experience to experience (mysticism).  It is not acknowledgement of intellectual assent in greater degrees (rationalism). It is a walk–an ongoing, dependent effort to live in light of the gospel–the same gospel you were taught–so that each step in the journey of knowing God can traced by greater repentance of sin and renewed faith in Jesus. Only then, do we really experience God and can say that we truly know God. Only then can your life abound in thanksgiving, because you never cease to remember the great work of rescue and redemption God accomplished on your behalf that you might know and enjoy Him in the journey.

Annotations of Gospel Centrality: Colossians 1:28-29

April 25, 2012

28 Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. 29 For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.
Colossians 1:28-29

God never intended for us to move beyond the gospel. This is clear in numerous places in Scripture, including these verses. The goal of the Christian life is to be brought into complete conformity to Jesus Christ, or, as this passage puts it, that we may be mature (or complete) in Christ. Every Christian should be employing the biblically prescribed means of accomplishing the goal of completeness in Christ.

What, then, is that means? Paul says, “Him we proclaim.”  The sum and substance of everything needed to accomplish the goal is found in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Not five tips, three ways, or four principles. One thing: the gospel. It should be preached publicly and privately, in the presence of hundreds and in the conversation of just one.

One might think that the gospel being preached over and over again might get boring. It might run dry. It might become ritualistic and lose its meaning. I think that is why Paul added the phrase “with all wisdom.”  It takes wisdom and skill to preach the gospel in compelling, fresh ways so that the more people hear it, the more of it they discover and experience renewal in their hearts. Christians who proclaim other things beside the gospel are blind, and Christians who proclaim the gospel without wisdom and “his energy” at work in you are barren.

Proclaim Jesus. Morning, noon, and night. Don’t change the subject. Don’t believe the lie that something else is going to grow your church beside the retelling of the story of our crucified, risen Savior. Such a gospel warrants a lifelong toiling and struggling with the power of the Spirit so that every person in our lives is warned, taught, and ultimately presented as one mature in Christ. God never intends for us to move beyond the gospel, for through it, we are being prepared for perfection in glory.


Annotations of Gospel Centrality: Colossians 1:21-23

April 22, 2012

21 And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, 23 if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.
Colossians 1:21-23 

This annotation is a serious call for perseverance in the gospel. If we don’t continue in the gospel, the purpose of the atoning work of Christ on the cross will be in vain.  However, we know that God is faithful to complete that which he began in us (Phil. 1:6) as He works in us both to desire and to do according to His good pleasure (Phil. 2:12-13).  So every believer will perseverance, and they will do so by “continuing in the faith” – that is, not shifting from the hope of the gospel. Simply put, the gospel is the means of perseverance in the Christian life.

God has not left us to become holy, blameless, and above reproach by ourselves. God takes the responsibility of doing that. He’s going to present us this way. But He’s doing to do it in a way that maximizes the magnitude of His Son’s life, death, and resurrection.  God has so orchestrated the Christian life that every contributing factor to our sanctification and ultimately glorification is a manifestation of “the hope of the gospel.” The more we continue in it, the more “stable and steadfast” we become as God’s purpose of conforming us into the image of His Son is realized.

Don’t let the “if” in verse 23 pass you by. It is weighty. It demolishes the idea of the Christian life where the gospel is conspicuously absent. God is working to present trophies of His grace, and each step of perseverance in the gospel is a refining, polishing part of that process. The reconciling work of Jesus in verse 22 secures the conditional work of gospel perseverance in verse 23. The centrality of the gospel is absolutely necessary because of the purpose of the gospel, namely God’s presentation of believers who are “holy and blameless and above reproach before him.”

So hope in the gospel! It cannot be exhausted! The surety of your steps and sustaining power of your faith is fueled by remembering, rediscovering, and rejoicing in all that God is for you in His Son Jesus. This is what it means to be gospel-centered, and this is how God magnifies the finished work of Christ as it is daily applied for the final presentation of all His people under heaven for all time!

Annotations of Gospel Centrality: Colossians 1:6

April 18, 2012

” . . . because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, 6 which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and increasing—as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth, 7 just as you learned it from Epaphras our beloved fellow servant.”
Colossians 1:5-7

Writing to the Colossian church, Paul gives thanks to God for their reception of the Gospel as it runs throughout the world. Paul says “the word of the truth” is the gospel–a message they had come to hear, understand, and learn. The fact that Paul uses actions like “understood” and “learn” speaks to how unnatural the gospel is to our sinful nature. We are prone to moralistic self-righteousness, performance-based religion, and turning the radical grace of God into a contractual agreement whereby we get some credit.

Paul thanks God precisely because they understood and learned the gospel.  This takes time. It takes “a faithful minister” and “beloved faithful servant” who will, to use Martin Luther’s words, beat the gospel into our heads over and over again.  The grace of God in truth is boundless and free, and we would be fools to marginalize it to the early days of when we first heard it proclaimed. God is calling you and me to be Epaphras to ourselves and one another–a mouthpiece of the gospel continually proclaiming who Jesus is and what He has done so that it continues to bear fruit and have great increase in our lives.

Is the gospel bearing fruit and increasing right now? God’s good intentions for the gospel in our lives is such that it would infiltrate every square inch of the soil of our hearts.  The deepening roots of our identity in Christ produce a harvest of good works and faith-induced righteousness ever increasing as we are conformed to the image of Christ.

When we learn and understand the gospel, the good seed brings forth thirty, sixty, and hundredfold. Through it, God establishes his kingdom as we gladly submit to the reign and rule of King Jesus. To harken the words of our Savior, “The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.” The ever-expanding kingdom of God travels through the good news of King Jesus.  As His Gospel goes out, His kingdom comes in.

Gospel-centered Christians understand how slow they are to really understand and learn the gospel. They desire that the gospel bear fruit and increase in every area of their lives so that no aspect fails to be brought under the reign and rule of Jesus.  They long for the gospel to flourish in and among them so that there would be no testimony of barrenness, no wandering in wilderness, and no acting as though they have not entered the Promised Land. Gospel-centered Christians know how prone they are to forgetting, and therefore call one another to remember their deliverance and Exodus from idolatry and slavery to freedom and fruitfulness in Jesus.

New Series: Annotations of Gospel Centrality

April 16, 2012

Last week, I wrapped up the series on the Gospel Alphabet. Prior to that, I compiled a long series of tweets from Scotty Smith on “signs you’re growing in grace.” Continuing with this gospel focus, I’m starting a new series I’m calling “annotations of gospel centrality” whereby I hope to share passages of Scripture that speak to the centrality of the gospel and provide a brief annotation as to why the gospel is so important and central to all of the Christian life. With all the talk about being “gospel-centered” it is easy to let it become a buzz word flippantly used with no reference point. In this little series, I hope to tether the phrase “gospel-centered’ to biblical exegesis and the regulative practice of the early church.  I hope you find it helpful!