I want to continue this week to build on last week’s theme of keeping the main thing…the main thing. Last week we discussed the priority of Bible teaching in Sunday School. Today I want to share some thoughts with you about how important it is that the theme of the gospel permeate all of our teaching.
The gospel is the heart of the scriptures. All of scripture points to, explains, and applies the gospel. It makes sense then that our teaching ought to reflect the primacy of the gospel.
I used to wrongly believe that the gospel was the place where an individual’s Christian experience began, and then as spiritual maturity deepened, the Christian moved on to more complex truth. I was wrong. The gospel isn’t the diving board into the pool of Christianity. It is the whole pool itself. We cannot rightly interpret scripture if we do not understand the gospel.
Understanding the gospel happens at three levels. It happens in the head, in the heart, and in the hands. The gospel has truly been absorbed into one’s life when he or she can rightly explain the gospel, is deeply moved by the gospel, and is compelled to act by the gospel.
The gospel has not fully been taught through a Bible text unless the lesson addresses the head, the heart, and the hands.
As Tim Brister has said, ” The Bible is all about God’s story of redemption centered on the person and work of Jesus Christ. In the church where I serve, we say the gospel is all about (1) who Jesus is, (2) what Jesus has done, and (3) why that matters.”
So when we consider the gospel’s influence on our lives as it relates to Bible teaching, the following thoughts from a recent article by Tim Brister are helpful:
Text • Context • Subtext
The text addresses biblical revelation. God reveals Himself through His written Word and in His Son, the Word made flesh. The gospel is the message, the text above all texts, that reveals God’s sovereign purposes in history to unite all things in Christ. Truly getting the gospel means we understand that the gospel is normative and supreme in God’s dealings with us, and we humbly submit to the authority of God’s Word and what it says about us and our need for Him. We are committed to knowing the gospel truly and articulating it clearly because God has spoken on the issue definitively.
The context addresses life orientation. These are matters pertaining to what lies outside of us and how our lives relate to them and orient around them. Context includes our relationships to other people, daily circumstances, seasons of life, spheres of existence, etc. Truly getting the gospel means we recognize that context is the place where the gospel is applied. Living in light of the gospel is learning to work out our new identity in Christ in specific places, in specific situations, and with specific people so that the reign and rule of King Jesus is manifested in His Lordship through the context of our existence.
The subtext addresses heart motivation. If context addresses what lies outside of us, subtext deals with what lies inside of us–our hearts. Subtext matters include motivation for actions, pursuit of pleasure, and aim in personal ambition. Subtext reveals the areas where unbelief remains in the life of a Christian, showing where functional idolatry and other forms of god-replacements are substituted for happiness, joy, peace, and contentment. Subtext is the canvas of our life story, and when we truly get the gospel, we see how the story of the gospel rewrites the story of our lives as we move from unbelief to belief in all matters of the heart.
I would sum these points up in the following way. Biblical Revelation – Have you come face to face with Jesus the Savior through the Word of God? Life Orientation – Have you been so moved by the Savior that you repented of living for your self and oriented your life towards Him? Heart Motivation – Has your heart been changed by the Savior in such a way that what satisfies and brings you joy is now different than it was before you met Him?
If we teach the gospel correctly through the scriptures, people will think differently, live differently, and love differently.