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“It is easy to sound prophetic from the margins; what we urgently need is to be prophetic from the center”
Despite its centrality to the Christian faith, it’s easy to overlook the gospel and instead speak out on more peripheral issues. This is a far cry from the New Testament emphasis on the gospel as the foundation of everything we believe.
In this passionate cry for gospel reform, D. A. Carson argues that if secondary issues consume our passions, then we’re in danger of sidelining the gospel. We may be able to make compelling arguments for how we should live, but if these are not rooted in the gospel then we aren’t speaking God’s truth.
Carson shows us that if the gospel is centralized, prioritized, and pondered, it powerfully directs us on how to think about everything else. In fact, the best way to speak God’s truth on secondary issues is to stand firm on the gospel.
"This book is brilliantly simple and simply brilliant. It is a crystal clear exposition of the gospel and its implications, much needed in an age of swelling definitions and blurring boundaries." ~ Jonathan Gemmell, The Proclamation Trust
My general rule is this; if Carson writes it, I must read it! I was not disappointed! ‘Gospel’ is a word that is thrown around in Christian circles, but very rarely defined, most would say that it is the death, resurrection and return of Jesus, but it is far more than that. Not many churches take time to explain the whole gospel as we are satisfied with a very reductionist gospel which does not do justice to what we see in the Bible. Churches can assume that people know what the gospel, Carson warns us of the dangers of this approach. “If the gospel is merely assumed, while relatively peripheral issues ignite our passion, we will train a new generation to downplay the gospel and focus zeal on the periphery.” The book has three chapters all absolutely packed with gems! Eight summarising words, five clarifying sentences and one evocative summary all explaining and pointing the reader to the gospel and its beauty from 1 Corinthians 15:1–19. I couldn’t add in all of the great quotes from this book, but I highly recommend that you pick up this book and read it. Prophetic from the center is only 54 pages long, it is very small, but it will challenge how you speak about, think about and live out the gospel in your own life. “The good news must be announced, heralded, explained; God himself visits and revisits human being through his word” Therefore, we must understand and know what we are heralding to the world. If we are to be followers of Jesus, then we must be faithful to His Word and all of our speech should be rooted in a faithfulness to the gospel that He has revealed to us in the Bible.
Don Carson’s latest book, is a call for all Christians to get back to the gospel. Rather than standing at the margins, we need to get right back to the center of the faith, and stand on its foundations. At a time when modern society is going through major upheaval, and the core convictions of previous generations are being thrown under the bus, Carson reminds us that the gospel really has power. To do this, he walks us through 1 Corinthians 15 – a place where Paul clearly states the gospel he preaches and stands on. He does this with 8 summarising words, 5 clarifying sentences, and one evocative summary. And they indeed are! Don echoes Paul’s call, of how the gospel changes everything, and aims to reorientate our thinking about speaking into today’s society. It is easy, he says, to sound prophetic from the margins – from the periphery – but it downplays the gospel. What is it that we get fired up about when speaking to others? That question is one that got under my skin. Another reminder (among many in this short book) was that ‘we are not saved by theological ideas about Christ… we are saved by Christ himself’ (page 31). As I study the Bible for college, and for preaching, I need to constantly remember this. The power of the gospel is not in facts, but in who the facts are about. May I never forget that. I recommend this book to all Christians, young or old. It is a very short, but powerful read, at only 54 pages (you can actually read it in one sitting!). We desperately need to move back to the center of the faith – back to the foundation of the gospel – back to Christ crucified. It is that gospel that has the power to save, and to change. So let’s get back to the center and be prophetic from there.
Christians have a bad habit of diverting their early passion for the gospel into a subsequent passion for peripheral issues. In this 50–page booklet Carson challenges us to be passionate most of all for King Jesus and His saving work for the world. Our world needs to hear how it can flee from the coming judgement of God, and only prophetic gospel preaching and evangelism can achieve that. We miss the mark when we assume the gospel and give our energy to secondary concerns. Carson structures his plea around Eight Summarising Words, Five Clarifying Sentences and One Evocative Summary. He has strong emphases on the life of Jesus as historic fact and on how Jesus’ work is aimed at saving us from the just wrath of God directed at our sins. Our proclamation must stress these “loudly and repeatedly, in a generation that feels slightly embarrassed when it has to deal with the cognitive and the propositional.” It must also make clear that response to the gospel is indicated by the fruit of transformed character. All in all a robust, relevant and challenging booklet, which pulls no punches theologically or in its linguistic register. It will have an impact on anyone who wants to get to the heart of what the gospel is saying to the present age.
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