The Christ-Centred Gospel
Arthur Shearman, Worcester, England
The apostle Paul's STATEMENTS concerning the gospel in Romans 1. 1-4, are distinct in their implications for the message that he preached. They are weighty in their importance and far-reaching in their scope. It is the gospel of God. It was 'promised afore by his prophets in the holy scriptures'. So it is not the result of a hastily conceived emergency plan; its roots were in the Old Testament scriptures, and its origin he fore time began. It is concerning God's Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, Therefore the subject of the message is a Person, One who is unique, One who is no less than God Himself. Whatever train we find expounded in this glorious gospel, this centrality of the Person of Christ is fundamental to its character and meaning.
The preaching of the gospel in the early days of Christianity was essentially Christ centred, 'For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord', 2 Cor. 4. 5. These were no mere idle words; they expressed an unswerving determination to make Christ known at all costs. It is good to remind ourselves that for many of these early evangelists, the memory of association with the living Christ was vividly clear. As John so clearly states, 'That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life', 1 John 1.1. These men who had been filled with the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, having received the promise of the Father, actually knew the Lord Jesus in the days of His flesh. It therefore had to be, that the message they preached was concentrated on Him. It is not without significance, that though their opponents recognised that they were ignorant and unschooled men, they took knowledge of them that they had been with Jesus, Acts 4. 13.
The subject of the gospel is therefore clearly slated in Romans chapter 1, verses 1-3, 'the gospel of God ... concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord'. It is to be noted that Paul uses the full titles of the Lord here. This suggests that it must have importance for what he had in mind for the unfolding of the gospel in this epistle. We are convinced that the apostle on no occasion uses the names and titles of the Lord Jesus without purpose and here in Romans is no exception to his methods. In relation to the doctrines of the gospel, He is the Son of God, the Eternal One sent into the world for man's salvation. He is Jesus, found in manhood, humbling Himself, yet Jehovah the Saviour. He is the Christ, the Annointed One, the promised Messiah and suffering Servant, the fulfiller of all Divine purposes. He is essentially Lord, Lord of all, risen and glorified and alive for evermore. Can we in any way conceive a more glorious subject? Let us remember at all times, that the message is what it is in its scope, possibilities and blessedness, only because of Who He is! It is interesting to note how the fulness of the person of Christ is woven into the records of preaching in the Acts. Note the following instances:
Son of God Ch. 3.26. 'God, having raised up His Son Jesus, sent him to bless you'. Ch. 9. 20. 'Straightway he (Saul) preached Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God'. Jesus Ch. 8. 35. Philip 'opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus'. Christ Ch. 8. 5. 'Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them'. Ch. 17. 3. (Paul) 'this Jesus, whom I preach unto you, is Christ'. Lord Ch. 2. 36. (Peter)'... God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ'. Ch. 10. 36. (Peter) '... preaching peace by Jesus Christ: (he is Lord of all)'.
There are more that could be added to these, but they give overwhelming evidence of the fact that the early church made sure that the person of Christ was absolutely pre-eminent in their preaching.
We do not have to look further than the Roman epistle to see how distinctly Paul wove these titles of the Lord into the structure of the doctrines of the gospel that he preached. Let us briefly follow this thought through.
- His Son.
What shall we say? In the face of 20th century conditions, desperate, dark, with seeming impossible problems in the realm of sin and degradation, the only hope for man is the Christ of the gospel. If we really are convinced of this let us focus all over evangelism on our purpose to make Him known. Let it be 'not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your servants for Jesus sake'. Perhaps we can end with the words of Myers concerning the apostle Paul:
Yea thro' life, death, thro' sorrow and thro' sinning
He shall suffice me, for he hath sufficed:
Christ is the end, for Christ was the beginning,
Christ the beginning, for the end is Christ.