Greg Strand is EFCA executive director of theology and credentialing, and he serves on the Board of Ministerial Standing as well as the Spiritual Heritage Committee. He and his family are members of Northfield (Minnesota) EFC.
The doctrinal centrality of the gospel is foundational to and leads inexorably to the functional centrality of the gospel.
The gospel focuses on the fulfillment of God’s plan for the redemption of His people through the Person of Jesus Christ. The gospel is something done! Full stop. But this is not all there is to say about the gospel. Rooted in what the gospel is, it also has entailments in how we think and live. This is not the gospel, but an entailment of the gospel. If we make it the gospel, then we have created another gospel (cf. Gal. 1:6-9).
It is vital to affirm and rest upon the centrality of the gospel of Jesus Christ in doctrine and proclamation. But it is also vital to live out the gospel in all of life and ministry. This is the functional centrality of the gospel.
So often people affirm the doctrinal centrality of the gospel of Jesus Christ, but then they press on to other things as if the gospel has no bearing on how we go about ministry thereafter. This undermines and sometimes denies, often not by design but by default, the truth of the gospel.
For example, it was the functional centrality of the gospel in ministry and relationships that Peter compromised when he pulled away from table fellowship with the Gentiles in Galatia. This is why Paul confronted him so strongly (Gal. 2:11-14). Peter’s functional response undermined the doctrinal centrality of the gospel.
It is vital that we affirm both truths, that we get the order right, and that we understand how they relate to one another. If not, we will end up with a dead orthodoxy (denial of its functional centrality), or we will end up with a different gospel (extending the meaning of the gospel to what we need to do).
As you ponder and pray about this, how are you doing?