Skip to content

The Gospel-Centered Church

December 3, 2012

I decided to go in a totally different direction than I had planned. This post is meant to be a complimentary message to “The Christ-Centered Church” that was preached by Steve Byler on Sunday.

Acts 2:36-47

Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.

I want to start out with a very basic question; why do communities exist? I think that this is a good place for us to start because it causes us to ask that same question of ourselves, why are we a part of this community, in other words, why do we go to Church? Why do we call ourselves Christians? We see that at its foundation, all communities are built around something: a natural resource, geographic area, idea, person or a group of people. So you say, well this new community, as well as ours, is built around Jesus Christ. In some sense that is completely true. In fact we see this with Peter and the disciples because it was Christ who called them together, it was Christ who taught them and instructed them, and truthfully they were a community that was centered on the person of Christ. However, I do not think that we can stop there because the question then is, why would we center around this person? What I am trying to get to is the fact this community in the book of Acts is built around a specific claim about the person of Christ.  We see this claim show up several times in Peter’s sermon.

Acts 2:23-24 “this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.”

And again…

Acts 2:32-33 This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing.

And again…

Acts 2:36 “Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”

So we see this recurring theme running throughout the apostle Peter’s sermon, namely that the thing that Peter was calling the Jews to was not a just person but to believe a very specific claim about that person. In other words, to be truly ‘Jesus-centered’ is to be ‘Gospel-centered’. What I want to prove to you is that the Church is formed by the Gospel, sustained by the Gospel, and is set aside for the purpose of the proclamation of the Gospel.

Formed by the Gospel

We know from the story about the two disciples on the road to Emmaus that the news of Jesus’ death was well known by the people who were in the city of Jerusalem because they said, “Are you the only visitor who has not heard?”

We also know that the Jews in Acts 2 were familiar with the man named Jesus and they were in no hurry to worship him; in fact, Peter accuses them of killing Jesus. Because of all this, we begin to see that it was the message of the Gospel that awakened these people and it was the Gospel that drew them into this new community of believers that we see forming in the book of Acts. This is seen very powerfully in the response from the crowd.

“Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”

We see that it was after the Gospel was proclaimed to them that they were “Cut to the heart” the text says. The result of this was that they realized their sin and the position that they were in and immediately asked what they must do. Then we see that the preaching of the Gospel ends with the wonderful sentence, “and there were added that day about 3 thousand souls.” Now we must keep in mind that the end of Chapter 2 says that it was God who added people to the Church otherwise we may be quick to attribute the success of the sermon to either the apostle Peter or even to a methodology; you know, say this simple formula and whala, 3 thousand people will be added to your church. However, even though we understand that it is God the one that is responsible for bringing people into salvation, He has promised to do it through means, more specifically the means of the proclamation of His word and the Gospel (Romans 10:17). That is what happened in this first sermon on the day of Pentecost, Peter preaches the Word and he proclaims to the Jews the forgiveness of sins through Christ and through that, God begins to build His Church. I think that it is safe to say that the Church is built on the Gospel and if that is how it was in the beginning, why would we assume that it is any different today.

Sustained by the Gospel

There seems to be some confusion in our culture when it comes to the purpose of the Church. The American churches are filled with entertainment, seeker-sensitive messages, and self-help theology. There is this idea that the Church is supposed to solve all of your temporal problems that you have in this life so that you can have “Your Best Life Now”…  I think that the beginning of the Church here in Acts 2 and give us some ideas about what the purpose of the Church truly is.

First we see that people are going about their day when they hear a bunch of people speaking in different languages and then one of those men gets up, begins to give a sermon, and as a result people on the spot. People are crying out and asking Peter what they should do and Peter tells them that they need to repent and be baptized and right after this people go back to their normal lives… no. We see something really striking to us, although it would probably not be so odd to those people back in that day. The people who were “added to the apostles number” devoted themselves to the apostles teachings and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers (verse 42).

First angle:

Now allow me to show you how this verse demonstrates that the Church was sustained by the Gospel.  Let’s begin by focusing on the first part, namely that they devoted themselves to the teachings of the apostles. The obvious question is what did they teach? First of all, we see that the teaching of the apostles in the book of Acts centered on, and stresses, the resurrection of Jesus on  behalf of mankind. I have already showed you how this shows up in Peter’s first sermon, but it also appears in chapter 4 before the passage that we have in our book. The apostles Peter and John were in the temple and they were teaching. What were they teaching? Well let’s look at what the scribes and elders told them…

Acts 4:18-20 So they called them and charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.”

These apostles were talking about Christ. We see this in their sermon in 3:15, 19-20…

“And you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses….Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, who is Jesus”

So we have two clear teachings from the apostles and the central emphasis of their sermons is the Gospel. Now they do indeed teach many other things in these sermons. They preach to convict people of sin, “you are the ones who crucified the son of God”. They teach people about the evils of the times that they were living in: chapter 2 verse 40 says “And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.”” So even though they taught these other things, the message of Christ and the Gospel remained central and was what the other teachings pointed to.

Let me just give you another proof that the central message of the apostles was about Christ and the Gospel. Most of us are very familiar with the fact that Jesus told us to go, make disciples of all Nations, baptizing them, and teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.  We see that this teaching includes all of Christ’s teachings while he was on the earth but it also includes all of the Old and New Testament because Jesus is God and He inspired it all. So then we ask ourselves, if we are to teach all of the scripture, how can we make one part of the scriptures (that being the Gospel) the main teaching? Shouldn’t we let scripture speak for itself? The answer is found in two places; first Jesus tells the Pharisees, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me.” So if we let the Scriptures speak for themselves, they will bear witness to Christ and so when the apostles taught these new disciples the Old Testament, what was central? Christ and the Gospel. Let’s go to another conversation by Jesus at the end of Luke, “And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.” Jesus, when he looks at the scriptures, He sees himself and He taught His disciples to do the same so that when they taught these new disciples in the Book of Acts, Christ and the Gospel was primary and central.

Second angle:

Let’s take a look at one of the Pauline letters for our example. When we look at, say, Ephesians, we see that Paul gave a LOT of practical instruction for husbands, wives, children, slaves, and masters, but before he did this, he spent half of the book teaching the Gospel. Paul talks about our calling to be “in Christ” and then he shows us the natural outflow of those who are “in Christ”.  Here are the verses that tie the two halves of this book together…

Ephesians 3:20-4:1 “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called…”

So we see that even when the apostles of Christ teach very practical things, they do it be centering it upon the Gospel and on Jesus.  This is why I say that the early Church was sustained by the Gospel and that the Church today must be sustained in the same way. The preaching and teaching in the Church, in our homes, and on the mission field must center on the Gospel.

Here is the second part of being sustained by the gospel, look again at verse 42. It says that they devoted themselves to fellowship, and that fellowship have two aspects, Communion and prayers. For the sake of time, I do not think I am going to spend much time here because the Gospel is obviously screaming at us from this part of the verse. How much more Gospel can you get but when you say, “take, eat, for this is Christ’s body broken for you” and “take, drink, for this blood is the new covenant.”

For the Proclamation of the Gospel

Let’s move on to my last point. The community of believers are those who are set aside for the purpose of the proclamation of the Gospel. We see this in verse 38, “And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” We see that believers are promised the gift of the holy spirit and whenever we see the phrase “filled with the spirit” in Luke’s writings, he always follows it with the proclamation of the Gospel. We see that in Peter’s sermon in Acts 2; Peter is filled with the Spirit and he begins to speak and the result of all of this is a powerful proclamation of the Gospel followed by God bringing people to saving faith in Jesus. The idea that the Holy Spirit is given to believers for the purpose of proclamation is one that is seen throughout the gospels and Acts. We can also connect this back to the Great Commission that Jesus gave to His Church or we can simply look at the teaching of the apostles seen throughout the rest of scripture… Proclamation is a natural outflow of the Gospel in a persons life and it is the mission of the Church.

The Church is formed by the Gospel, sustained by the Gospel, and is set aside for the purpose of the proclamation of the Gospel.

Is the Gospel the center of your Church, your theology, and your life??

Advertisements

From → General

Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

E-nklings

Giving God glory in all things.... 1 Cor. 10:31

Shasta's Fog

no coward soul is mine

The Sacred Sandwich

Giving God glory in all things.... 1 Cor. 10:31

White Horse Inn

Giving God glory in all things.... 1 Cor. 10:31

Strict and Particular

Giving God glory in all things.... 1 Cor. 10:31

Alpha and Omega Ministries

Giving God glory in all things.... 1 Cor. 10:31

Parchment and Pen Blog

Making Theology Accessible

Letter of Marque

Giving God glory in all things.... 1 Cor. 10:31

Pyromaniacs

Giving God glory in all things.... 1 Cor. 10:31

%d bloggers like this: