The Gospel is not a Simple Thing

“Gospel is not just A,B,C’s of Christianity, but A-Z of Christianity” does describe Gospel Theology in some sense. Timothy Keller in his book Center Church unpacks Gospel Theology in three parts:
1. The Gospel is not everything.
2. The Gospel is not a simple thing.
3. The Gospel affects everything.

We looked at the first part last week – HERE. We consider the part 2 today and will look at part 3 next week. 

The Gospel is not a Simple Thing  
The gospel is not everything, yet in the final analysis it cannot be tamed into a single formula with a number of points that must be recited to everyone, in every time and place. The gospel is clear but not simplistic.    


  1. The Bible Doesn’t Give One Standard Gospel Outline
    • The New Testament has many themes like “the kingdom,” “eternal life,” “new birth,” “conversion,” etc.
    • Also, there are individual and internal emphases as well as corporate and external focuses.
    • At the heart of all the biblical writers’ theology is redemption through substitution.
  2. The Gospel Must Be Tied to the Bible’s Story Line and Themes
    • The synchronic reading of the Bible: the systematic-theological method (STM) – deal with Scripture topically.
    • The diachronic reading of the Bible: the redemptive historical method (RHM) – deal with Scripture historically.
    • We need both to see the miraculous fact that the Bible is unmistakably divine and providentially human.
    • The STM without RHM can produce rationalistic, legalistic, and individualistic Christianity.
    • The RHM without STM can produce no distinctions between grace and law and between truth and heresy.

      The Exile and Our Homecoming
      At creation a place of rest and shalom is made
      Sin is/results in self-centeredness, destroying shalom
      Israel is exiled in Egypt, then Babylon
      Jesus is the rejected but resurrected Lord, who breaks the power of death
      Restoration of the garden-city of God

      At creation a faithful covenant love relationship with God is made
      Sin is/results in unfaithfulness, causing God’s curse and wrath
      Israel is called to faithfulness but is unfaithful
      Jesus is the suffering servant but new covenant Lord, who takes the curse of sin
      Restoration is the marriage supper of the Lamb

      At creation God’s kingdom and kingliness are made
      Sin is/results in idolatry, causing enslavement
      Israel is looking for true judge/king
      Jesus is the returning true king, who frees us from the world, flesh, Devil
      Restoration of true freedom under the reign of God

      Home/Exile: Related Themes
      Rest and Sabbath. Sin has left us restless. How can we enter God’s rest?
      Justice and Shalom. The fabric of the world is broken. How can we restore shalom?
      Trinity and Community: We were made for personal interdependent community with God and his people because we reflect the triune God. How can we become part of this community?

      Yahweh/Covenant: Related Themes
      Righteousness and Nakedness. We experience guilt and shame. How can our sins be covered?
      Marriage and Faithfulness. We long for true love and closure. How can we find it?
      Presence and Sanctuary. We are made to flourish in the presence of God. How can we stand in it?

      Kingdom: Related Themes
      Image and Likeness. Loving God supremely is the only way to truly love anything else and become your true self, to become truly free.
      Idolatry and Freedom. Serving God supremely is the only way to freedom.
      Wisdom and the Word. Submission to the Word of God is the way to wisdom.

      The Bible’s story line tells us at least four things:
      1. What God wants for us (Creation)
      2. What happened to us and what went wrong with the world (Fall)
      3. What God has done in Jesus Christ to put things right (Redemption)
      4. How history will turn out in the end as a result (Restoration)
      This story can be – and is – told in multiple ways, using multiple themes, since both sin and salvation are multidimensional.
      All of these ways of presenting the gospel must still emphasize that it is news – an announcement of what God has done and will do.

3. The Gospel Must Be Contextualized

  • The gospel is not a simple thing.
  • We know this because its expression in the themes of the Bible is inexhaustibly deep and rich.
  • But a second reason we know it is that humanity. In both its perfect design and fallen nature, is also complex and varied.     
  • The gospel has supernatural versatility to address the particular hopes, fears, and idols of every culture and every person.
  • The gospel is so rich that it can be communicated in a form that fits every situation.
  • It is a singular message, but it is not a simple message.

Next week: Chapter 3 The Gospel Affects Everything





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