The center of every faithful biblical theological recovery and renewal must be Christ alone. Even our evangelical emphasis on Scripture and grace must be centered upon Christ alone. Christ is the center of everything for the faithful Christian, not just the one who helps pull life together. He is not simply my Savior, or my helper, he is all, he is Lord. Paul’s argument in Colossians 1:15-23 make this all quite plain—Christ is supreme!
Evangelicals have lost the supremacy of Christ! By marginalizing Christ in our movement we have made him something other than Christ the theme of our best-selling books, the emphases of our popular ministries, and the thing that attracts people to our cause. It is not Christ we preach, but Christ plus whatever else makes people connect to our teaching or our movement.
I noted on August 29 the comments of David Bryant re: the national periodicals which recently surveyed the evangelical movement in America. In these articles Bryant noted that the mention of Christ occured only five times in over 150 pages of reporting. These various articles included scores of quotes and comments from evangelical sources. The emphasis in all of them was on just about everything but Christ alone. Bryant wrote that "As reporters dug around in today’s church life, they found virtually nothing about our walk and talk that compelled them to even reference—let alone grapple with the claims of—the One by Whom we are called, for Whom we exist and toward Whom everything we do was meant to point." David added the observation that the best-selling book of all time, besides the Bible, is now Dan Brown’s The DaVinci Code, soon to be a Tom Hanks movie, which virtually guarantees it block-buster success. At least fifty million Americans have supposedly read Brown’s book. What is Dan Brown’s agenda? That is not entirely clear to me but one thing does seem quite certain—the book is an attempt to detrone the supremacy of Christ in our culture and replace him with ancient goddess worship. Bryant asks, "Are Christians really equipped to answer and counter such an insidious siege on the the gospel? Very few, I’m afraid. Our own blindness to Jesus’ Lordship has reaped grave consequences."
Think about the solas of the Protestant Reformation again. Grace alone really means that God alone, through Christ alone, saves guilty sinners. And faith alone means that God saves sinners solely on the basis of faith in his Son, thus salvation is in Christ alone. And Scripture alone means, ultimately, that the central figure of human history, the theme of all divine revelation, and the subject of all true preaching from the whole of Scripture, is Christ alone. In a very obvious sense the person and work of Christ is the necessity behind all other doctrinal foundations.
The tragedy that Bryant speaks about in modern evangelicalism didn’t just show up yesterday. For decades we have had an emphasis on just about everything but Christ. We have taught people how to reach heaven, how to prosper, how to discern the times in view of the imminent rapture, how to have better marriages and families, how to elect conservative political candidates, and how to stop moral evil. And we have done virtually all of this without ever explaining or applying the supremacy of Christ. You say, "That’s just not true. I hear about Jesus all the time in my church." Maybe, maybe not. You may "hear about Jesus" but that doesn’t constitute a clear and effective preaching of his supremacy. And it doesn’t mean that he is the center of all that passes for worship, for teaching or for Christian practice in your life or church. Let’s be honest about this. Even in our most conservative churches we have substituted a particular emphasis upon eschatology, or and emphasis upon the ministry adn gifts of the Holy Spirit, to use but two popular examples, all the time pushing Christ to a place of less and less prominence in the minds and hearts of our people. Ask yourself: "What do people talk about, think about, and center their affections upon because they come to my (our) church?"
The glory of God is seen in the face of Jesus Christ. If we would truly worship God, restore our lives to his image day by day, and find our way forward again in the modern world, we must restore Christ alone to the proper place that he should have in our thinking and living. Pastors must rediscover how to preach Christ from every part of the Bible. Churches must see him as all glorious. And we must all show and tell the world that Jesus Christ is Lord over all.
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Couldn’t agree more, John! Your question, “What do people talk about, think about, and center their affections on because they come to my church?” is penetrating to the max. I fear we would be surprised and chagrined to hear their honest responses. Frankly I’m afraid at times of what my own response might be. Is it just a coincidence that, when our Lord instituted his Supper, he said, “Do this in remembrance of me”? Was he addressing our tendency to forget?
Armstrong: Christ Alone or Christ Plus?
John Armstrong hits the ball out of the park once again with Christ Alone or Christ Plus?
As a Sunday School teacher, I wonder, how do we apply your concerns practically? What can I do? My class is heavy on theology and politics, which can be a bit esoteric or theoretical. Specific remedies to the malady would be helpful.
Just for once I wish you would write something that I could disagree with. 🙂 Seriously, as I pondered this “blog”, I wondered if a re-discovery of the mystery, wonder, and practicality of the doctrine and reality of the Trinity would help us regain a true Christ exalting focus, or if this works the other way around. It seems to me that one very valuable truth we Evangelicals could learn from our Catholic and Orthodox brothers and sisters is a re-discovery of emphasis that we worship an Eternal Triune God who has revealed Himself in the Incarnate Person of Jesus Christ. Sometimes I wonder if we just can’t get our Christology straight, and don’t realize that our Lord is both God and Man in one Divine Person. I don’t know, but these are just my thoughts. God bless!
Catholic brothers and sisters?