A Matter of First Importance

If someone were to ask you: “what is the most important thing in all of Christianity?” Considering everything the Bible teaches, in all its 66 books and 31,000 verses, what is it that matters the most?

The importance of the Gospel is stressed throughout the entirety of Scripture, in fact, the gospel is foreshadowed as early as Genesis 3. As we can recall, it wasn’t long after God had created the world and everything in it, that Adam and Eve, the ambassadors for mankind in Eden, chose to disobey God. And through their willful rebellion, sin entered the world. But unfortunately, sin didn’t just enter quietly through the backdoor in order to hide out and keep quiet. Rather, sin came running rampantly into our world with such voracious force that it broke and enslaved, not only humanity, but creation itself (Rom. 8). God immediately questions Adam and Eve, “what have you done?” And then speaking to the serpent, who had just played a role in their deception, God says:

“Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. I will put enmity (hostility/opposition) between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”

In this text, we’ve just seen a promise; foreshadow of the gospel. Already, in Genesis 3, three pages into the Bible, we read that the offspring of the woman - a very special, powerful Son, is going to be born. And although this Son will be injured on His heel in the battle against the serpent, the serpent will be dealt a lethal blow to the head. The serpent will be defeated. And this Son, who is promised, who will reign victorious against Satan and all his demons, is Jesus Christ - The Lord and Savior of the world.

There is nothing deeper, smarter, cooler, or more glorious than the gospel.

The rest of the Bible is simply the outworking of the Savior King Jesus Christ, accomplishing and applying redemption to the people of God, and preparing for the ultimate reuniting of man and God at the last day - when Christ the King returns again. Jesus, and His gospel is the melodic line of Scripture. The gospel is the big idea of the Bible. The Gospel is the main point; the thesis statement. The Church is often deceived in thinking that the gospel is an elementary belief on which we build deeper, smarter, cooler doctrine. There is nothing deeper, smarter, cooler, or more glorious than the gospel.

About the gospel, the Apostle Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4: “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures…”

Now, prior to these verses in ch. 15, Paul has just hammered the Corinthian church, for 14 chapters, with good, sound, necessary doctrine. He has written meticulous instructions concerning: divisions and quarrels amongst them…moral and ethical disorders amongst them…marriage and singleness…questionable practices (eating food that has been offered to idols, head coverings, and the Lord’s Supper)…and he’s given them instructions concerning public worship, and giftings, and unity… And lest anyone in the Corinthian church be tempted to put those matters before the real matter, Paul stops them in their tracks, reminding them that the Gospel: Christ crucified, buried, and resurrected as the sacrificial atonement for sinners, is of first importance.

Theology and Doctrine provide the necessary framework for rightly understanding and rightly applying the gospel to our lives.

So, we must understand, that in our pursuit of good theology and sound doctrine concerning the details of the Bible…we must understand that theology (the study of God) and doctrine (what we believe about God) exist in service to the gospel…not the other way around. Our desire to study and know the finer points of Scripture flows out of our desire to better know, understand, and celebrate the gospel. It’s a paradox of sorts, but the gospel is as basic, and, as deep as we can go in our understanding of God in His Word. This does not negate the importance of good Theology and sound Doctrine - quite the contrary. Theology and Doctrine provide the necessary framework for rightly understanding and rightly applying the gospel to our lives.

If the gospel were a garden, Theology and Doctrine would be the fence and posts that surround it. They draw attention to the center - they protect it - and establish necessary borders and boundaries around it. Good theology and sound Doctrine help us to discern what is and what is not the true Gospel. The Gospel is the center of the Bible’s system of Theology, as well as, the climax of its story.