Trevin Wax|12:10 am CT

Why Should Your Teaching Be Gospel-Centered? 3 Reasons

Sometimes people will ask, What’s all this talk about being “gospel-centered?” What’s the big deal? Why do I need to make sure my teaching is gospel-centered? 

In the video below, I give three reasons (outlined in more detail in Gospel-Centered Teaching).

1. Because the gospel is the power of God unto salvation.

2. Because the gospel is the power of God for sanctification.

3. Because the gospel provides the motivation for mission.

What’s the Point? :: Gospel Centered Teaching – Trevin Wax from The Gospel Project | LifeWay on Vimeo.





Trevin Wax|3:26 am CT

Gospel Definitions: Daniel Montgomery & Mike Cosper

For a few years now, I’ve been collecting and posting Gospel Definitions from pastors, theologians, and scholars. It’s been interesting to see other authors and church leaders work through and comment on the various definitions of the good news.

Daniel Montgomery and Mike Cosper’s new book, Faithmapping: A Gospel Atlas for Your Spiritual Journey, includes a section called “The Whole Gospel,” in which they speak of the gospel in three aspects: kingdom, cross, and grace:

What is the gospel of the kingdom? It is the good news that life with God under the rule of God is available to all who would turn from their rebellion and trust in King Jesus. (43)

What is the gospel of the cross? It is the good news that through faith in Jesus’ perfect life, death for our sins, and victorious resurrection from the dead, we are justified and reconciled to God. (67)

What is the gospel of grace? The gospel of grace is the good news of God’s wonderful acceptance of us not because we have earned it or deserve it but because he gives it to us freely at Christ’s expense. (85)

Daniel and Mike encourage us to embrace and proclaim the “whole” gospel:

“The great temptation is to allow one aspect to overshadow or compete with the others… The case we’re making is that the gospel is not simply a kingdom message or a cross message or a grace message – it’s all three. Our tendency, for a variety of reasons, is to splinter the message, to exalt one aspect over the others, and to diminish the scope and impact of the others. By doing this, it is we who suffer, missing out on the totality of the message of the gospel.” (90)





Trevin Wax|3:27 am CT

Gospel Definitions: Lesslie Newbigin

“We know that sin and suffering belong together, not as an accident, but by a necessary connection. They ought to belong together - and that is another way of saying that God punishes sin. That is not an Old Testament doctrine abrogated by the gospel. It is taught by Jesus in the Gospels with an absoluteness that is nowhere exceeded in the Old Testament.

“But it is just because we know and cannot escape from that fundamental certainty, that the cross is what it is to us, the demonstration that the God against whom we have sinned and who rightly punishes sin, Himself drinks to the very dregs, deeper than even the foulest sinner has to drink, the cup of punishment.

“The paradox reaches its climax when He whom we know as the Word made flesh cries out ‘My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?’ God bereft of God that He might save those who have sinned against God.

“I know it is sheer paradox, but I firmly believe that the heart of the gospel is there, and that if you remove one side of the paradox, and say that in the cross belief in divine punishment was shown to be an error, I think you both undercut all real moral experience and also take the power out of the cross itself.”

Signs Amid the Rubble: The Purposes of God in Human History, 43.

“[By the word 'gospel'] we don’t mean Christianity. We’re not talking about religious experience. We’re talking about a factual statement.

“Namely, that at a certain point in history, the history of this world, God who is the author, the sustainer, the goal of all that exists, of all being and all meaning and all truth, has become present in our human history as the man Jesus, whom we can know and whom we can love and serve; and that by His incarnation, His ministry, His death and resurrection, He has finally broken the powers that oppress us and has created a space and a time in which we who are unholy can nevertheless live in fellowship with God who is holy.”

Signs Amid the Rubble: The Purposes of God in Human History, 113.

(Check out the ongoing series entitled “Gospel Definitions” - the largest grouping of gospel definitions on the internet today.)





Trevin Wax|3:55 am CT

Gospel Definitions: John Stott

John Stott – from Christian Mission in the Modern World:

What is the one, the changeless New Testament gospel? The first and the best answer would be to say that the whole Bible is God’s good news in all its astonishing relevance. Bible and gospel are almost alternative terms, for the major function of the Bible in all its length and breadth is to bear witness to Jesus Christ. Nevertheless, God’s revelation recorded in Scripture.

What is [the gospel]? God’s good news is Jesus.

How did the apostles present Jesus? Their good news contained at least five elements.

  • The gospel events, as saving events.
  • The gospel witnesses, by which I mean the evidence to which they appealed for its authentication.
  • The gospel affirmations. (They concern not simply what he did more than nineteen centuries ago, however, but what he is today in consequence. “Jesus is Lord.”)
  • The gospel promises (what Christ now offers and indeed promises to those who come to him – a new life in the present through the regeneration and indwelling of the Holy Spirit, who is also the guarantee of our future inheritance in heaven).
  • The gospel demands (repentance and faith – and (in public) baptism.

What is the Good News?
The good news is Jesus. And the good news about Jesus which we announce is that he died for our sins and was raised from death. In consequence he reigns as Lord and Savior at God’s right hand and has authority both to command repentance and faith, and to bestow forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Spirit on all those who repent, believe and are baptized. And all this is according to the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments. It is more than that. It is precisely what is meant by “proclaiming the kingdom of God.” For in fulfillment of Scripture God’s reign has broken into the life of men through the death and resurrection of Jesus. This reign or rule of God is exercised from the throne by Jesus, who bestows salvation and requires obedience. These are the blessing and the demand of the kingdom.

- adapted from Christian Mission in the Modern World

(Check out the ongoing series entitled “Gospel Definitions” - the largest grouping of gospel definitions on the internet today.)





Trevin Wax|3:51 am CT

3 Questions to Ask of Your Sermon

There has been a lot of talk in recent years about making the gospel announcement of Jesus Christ front and center in our preaching and teaching. As our society becomes increasingly post-Christian, it is critical for us to not assume lost people know who God is, what He is like, and what He has done for us. We need to be clear in what we teach, with a laser-like focus on Jesus Christ our Savior.

But how do we make sure that Jesus is center-stage in our church?

How do we keep other things from taking His place in our sermons, our Sunday School classes or our small groups?

In other words, how do we maintain Christ-centeredness when there are so many other good things vying for our attention and time?

As editor of The Gospel Project, I’ve wrestled with this question. It’s one thing to have “core values” like “Christ-centered” and “mission-driven” written on the page. It’s another thing entirely to make sure that these values are actually expressed in the lessons. To help our writers, we’ve put together three big questions we want them to ask of every lesson.

The more I’ve thought about these questions, the more I am convinced that pastors ought to ask these questions of every sermon they preach. Teachers ought to ask these questions of every lesson they prepare. The questions are a helpful guide to keeping Christ as the focus of our ministry.

1. How does this topic/passage fit into the big story of Scripture?

It’s not uncommon anymore for me to talk with lost people who have little, if any, knowledge of the Bible. Surprisingly, I even meet church-goers who know individual Bible stories and some of the morals taught in the Bible, but don’t know how they connect to the gospel. They don’t know the overarching storyline of the Bible that leads from creation, to our fall into sin, to redemption through Jesus Christ, and final restoration.

If we are to live as Christians in a fallen world, we must be shaped by the grand narrative of the Scriptures, the worldview we find in the Bible.

Asking the “big story” question will help you as a pastor or teacher to connect the dots for your people. We need to help people learn to read the Bible for themselves, to understand the flow of the narrative, how the different genres fit into that narrative, and how to apply the truths of the Bible with wisdom.

2. What is distinctively Christian about the way I am addressing the topic/passage?

Here’s the question that will lead you back to the gospel. The distinctively Christian thing about Christianity is Jesus and His grace. It’s the good news about how He died on the cross for our sins and rose from the grave on the third day.

So how do we ensure that our preaching and teaching gets to Jesus? I suggest three follow-up questions under this one.

  • Is there anything about my treatment of this Old Testament text that a faithful Jew could not affirm?

If we preach the story of Moses, for example, without ever pointing forward to our Passover Lamb (Jesus Christ), then we are preaching the Old Testament much like a rabbi, not like a Christian herald of the gospel. On the road to Emmaus, Jesus told His disciples that the Old Testament pointed to Him. The Baptist Faith and Message says “All Scripture is a testimony to Christ.”

So when we preach from the Old Testament, it’s imperative that we point people forward to the Messiah.

  • Is there anything about my treatment of this New Testament text that a Mormon could not affirm?

Ed Stetzer often says that this is one of the questions he asks of every sermon he preaches. The issue isn’t whether or not you talk about Jesus. Mormons talk about Jesus. Jehovah’s Witnesses talk about Jesus. Self-help preachers talk about Jesus.

The question here is about how we present Jesus. Is He Savior and Lord? Or is He just a helper? Is He God in the flesh? Or is He just a good teacher?

We must make sure we do not present Jesus only as a moral example, but that we present Him as the only Savior, the One who calls for repentance and faith.

  • Is there anything in my application that an unbeliever off the street would be uncomfortable with?

We’re not asking this question from the seeker-sensitive perspective that wants to alleviate any discomfort. We’re asking this question from the perspective of the pastor who wants to make sure that application goes beyond “be nice.”

In other words, if the application at the end of your message is “Husbands, love your wives,” we should ask: Would an unbeliever have a problem with that? Probably not. We could survey people from different religions and they’d probably agree that husbands ought to love their wives.

So how do we tighten up this application to focus on Jesus? By doing what Paul did. By saying, “Husbands love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her.”

When we tell people to forgive, we ought to ground it in the gospel: forgiving one another, “as Christ loved and forgave you.”

When we tell people to be generous, we ought to ground it in the gospel: “for Christ, though He was rich, became poor for your sakes.”

Ground your application in the gospel.

3. How does this truth equip God’s church to live on mission?

There is no true gospel-centeredness that does not lead to mission, because the gospel is the story of a God with a missionary heart, a Father who desires that all come to repentance, a Shepherd who seeks and saves the one lost sheep.

The purpose of God’s Word is to reveal God and His plan to us, in order that we might then be empowered to fulfill His Great Commission. God’s plan is that people from every tongue, tribe and nation would bring glory to Him. When we study the Bible, we ought to see it in light of its purpose – to equip us to be God’s missionaries in our communities and around the world.

Be clear!

If there’s one thing we need to be clear about in our preaching and teaching, it’s the gospel announcement that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, lived a perfect life in our place, died on the cross for the sins of the world, rose again to launch God’s new creation, and is now exalted as Lord of the world. In response to this message, we must call people to repent and believe. And as Christians, we must continue living every day in repentant faith, witnessing to the love of our great God.

- first published in Baptist Press





Trevin Wax|11:57 am CT

Gospel Definitions: Jonathan Pennington

“Consistently throughout the New Testament Epistles the ‘gospel’ refers to the oral proclamation about Jesus the Christ (meaning the anointed Davidic King) – who he was; what he accomplished through his life, death, and resurrection; the promise of his future return to establish God’s reign; and the concomitant call to repent and have faith. This is not a message of moralism or a call to greater religious obedience but rather is a proclamation of God’s grace and the invitation to hope. This is why it is rightly called ‘good news.’”

“The New Testament authors, building especially on the Isaianic vision, define the ‘gospel’ as Jesus’ effecting the long-awaited return of God himself as King, in the power of the Spirit bringing his people back from exile and into the true promised land of a new creation, forgiving their sins, and fulfilling all the promises of God and the hopes of his people. This Isaianic vision is itself based on God’s work at the exodus, which the prophets take up and reappropriate to describe God’s future work. Because of this vision, described as the proclamation of good news, the apostles call their kerygma ‘gospel,’ and it is why the evangelists likewise describe the work of Jesus and the narratives about him as euangelion. In this there is univocality; Paul and the Gospel writers all understand their message to be one of God’s reign coming in the person of Jesus through the power of the Spirit. The ‘gospel,’ whether in oral or written form, is the message of God’s comprehensively restorative kingdom.”

- Jonathan Pennington, Reading the Gospels Wisely: A Narrative and Theological Introduction, 5, 16-17.

Check out more posts in the Gospel Definitions series here.

Also check out my review of Pennington’s new book and an interview I conducted with him.





Trevin Wax|3:02 am CT

Gospel Definitions: Matt Chandler, Josh Patterson, Eric Geiger

“In its simplest form, the gospel is God’s reconciling work in Christ – that through the life, death, and resurrection of Christ, God is making all things new both personally for those who repent and believe, and cosmically as He redeems culture and creation from its subjection to futility.”

- Creature of the Word: The Jesus-Centered Church by Matt Chandler, Josh Patterson, and Eric Geiger

Check out more “Gospel Definitions” here.





Trevin Wax|3:14 am CT

Gospel Definitions: Trevin Wax

For several years now, I’ve been collecting definitions of “the gospel” on the blog. There are more than 60 definitions now. I’ve seen the collection referenced in multiple college and seminary classes.

From time to time, people have asked me to weigh in with my own definition. If you’ve read Counterfeit Gospels, this won’t be new to you. But here is my take on “the gospel” in a nutshell.

The Gospel Proper (The Announcement)

The gospel is the royal announcement that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, lived a perfect life in our place, died a substitutionary death on the cross for our sins, rose triumphantly from the grave to launch God’s new creation, and is now exalted as King of the world. This announcement calls for a response: repentance (mourning over and turning from our sin, trading our agendas for the kingdom agenda of Jesus Christ) and faith (trusting in Christ alone for salvation).

The Gospel’s Context (The Story of Scripture)

The Bible tells us about God’s creation of a good world which was subjected to futility because of human sin. God gave the Law to reveal His holiness and our need for a perfect sacrifice, which is provided by the death of Jesus Christ. This same Jesus will one day return to this earth to judge the living and the dead and thus renew all things. The gospel story is the Scriptural narrative that takes us from creation to new creation, climaxing with the death and resurrection of Jesus at the center.

The Gospel’s Purpose (The Community)

The gospel births the church. We are shaped by the gospel into the kind of people who herald the grace of God and spread the news of Jesus Christ. God has commissioned the church to be the community that embodies the message of the gospel. Through our corporate life together, we “obey the gospel” by living according to the truth of the message that Jesus Christ is Savior and Lord of the world.

All Together Now

Put these three things together and we have a gospel-focused summary of the entire Bible (which we used for The Gospel Project).

In the beginning, the all-powerful, personal God created the universe. This God created human beings in His image to live joyfully in His presence, in humble submission to His gracious authority. But all of us have rebelled against God and, in consequence, must suffer the punishment of our rebellion: physical death and the wrath of God.

Thankfully, God initiated a rescue plan, which began with His choosing the nation of Israel to display His glory in a fallen world. The Bible describes how God acted mightily on Israel’s behalf, rescuing His people from slavery and then giving them His holy law. But God’s people – like all of us – failed to rightly reflect the glory of God.

Then, in the fullness of time, in the Person of Jesus Christ, God Himself came to renew the world and restore His people. Jesus perfectly obeyed the law given to Israel. Though innocent, He suffered the consequences of human rebellion by His death on a cross. But three days later, God raised Him from the dead.

Now the church of Jesus Christ has been commissioned by God to take the news of Christ’s work to the world. Empowered by God’s Spirit, the church calls all people everywhere to repent of sin and to trust in Christ alone for our forgiveness. Repentance and faith restores our relationship with God and results in a life of ongoing transformation.

The Bible promises that Jesus Christ will return to this earth as the conquering King. Only those who live in repentant faith in Christ will escape God’s judgment and live joyfully in God’s presence for all eternity. God’s message is the same to all of us: repent and believe, before it is too late. Confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, and you will be saved.





Trevin Wax|3:37 am CT

We Are The Gospel Project

As thousands of churches prepare for the launch of The Gospel Project (see most recent news story here), we’ve been receiving various pictures from different congregations – all doing creative things with the reality that we are God’s gospel project.

The Scriptures teach that the gospel is the message by which we are being saved, in the present. God intends the gospel to work on us and form us into the image of Christ.

Here are some of my favorite pictures sent in via Twitter.





Trevin Wax|3:50 am CT

When We Say “Gospel,” Do We Really Mean “The Spirit?”

Evangelicals love to speak in theological shorthand. We employ phrases and terms that become popular, become a badge of identification, and over time get emptied of their meaning.

Obedience Fueled by the Gospel?

Take “gospel-centered” language as an example:

  • Our obedience is fueled by the gospel.
  • The gospel is what motivates our obedience.
  • We need to be captured again by the gospel.
  • We need be refreshed in the gospel every day.

And on and on.

The more I hear this kind of talk, the more I’m convinced that we are using the word “gospel” where we really mean the Holy Spirit. We often talk about the gospel doing stuff when actually it’s the Spirit who is working. So we say, “The gospel fuels our obedience,” but what we really mean is the Spirit captures our affections with the gospel in order to fuel our obedience. 

Now, knowing the Spirit, He probably doesn’t mind all that much that we’re devoting so much attention to Christ. That’s who He’s about, after all. But I do think we can overlook the Spirit in such a way that believers miss out on the Spirit’s work in their daily lives.

The Powerful Gospel and the Empowering Spirit

There is certainly biblical precedent for thinking of the gospel as having a power of its own – an innate power inherent to its message. Paul spoke of it as “the power of God unto salvation.” The Book of Acts refers to the Word “increasing and multiplying.” So there is nothing unbiblical about using “gospel” in a way that gives the good news a personification.

But let’s make sure we don’t get carried away with our lingo to the point that we give short shrift to the person and work of the Holy Spirit.

If we only think of power as flowing from the gospel (which is a message), we might unintentionally communicate that we are changed by knowledge of a message and not by personal acquaintance with the Messenger.

Is it possible that we are using “gospel reflection” language as buzz words that reduce the Christian life to continual reflection on a set of propositional truths instead of the dynamic Word that brings us into relationship with Persons – the Father, the Son, and the Spirit?

Knowing the Spirit

Some might push back and say that we are really using the word “gospel” as a synonym for “the Scriptures.” Okay. I agree that the Holy Spirit is the One who is working in and through us. And I agree that the instrument the Spirit uses is the Word. And yes, within the Word, the gospel is the central message of the Bible. Granted. So don’t think I am pitting the gospel over against the Spirit.

My point is to make this truth explicit rather than implied – to show the Spirit is the actor and the gospel is the instrument. In other words, to make the relationship front and center again.

Why does this matter? Because the point of knowing more about God is that we would know God more. The point of reflection on the gospel is relationship with the God of the gospel.

All this talk about being constantly reminded of the gospel and refreshed in the gospel is another way of saying we need the Holy Spirit to bring to mind the good news of Jesus and what He has done. (According to John 17, that is one of His roles.) So yes, we need to be refreshed by the Spirit as He once again applies the truth of the gospel to our wayward hearts.

Here’s my concern: If we lose the personal connection to the Holy Spirit, we miss the intimacy God wants with His people as well as the power God intended us to have.

So, by all means, let’s be all about the gospel. But let’s make sure that whenever we talk about the gospel, we have the God of the gospel in mind. He is the unchanging substance behind our changing terminology.