Easter Week: A Time to Recalibrate Our Gospel-Centeredness
By David Schrock–
When Paul spoke about the order necessary for church in Corinth, he compared speaking in church to the use of musical instruments. “If even lifeless instruments, such as the flute or the harp, do not give distinct notes, how will anyone know what is played? And if the bugle gives an indistinct sound, who will get ready for battle?” (1 Cor. 14:7-8)
The point Paul seemed to be making was that when the church gathered, it should do everything within its power to make clear the gospel proclamation. Static interference should be kept at a minimum. Thus, in regards to tongues and prophecies, there should be order in the Corinthian church (1 Cor 14).
Likewise, as we come to Easter week, we too should do everything we can to insure the clear communication of the gospel. For the sake of the extra attenders and listeners hearing the message this weekend, we should do everything we can remove distractions. Thus, it seems appropriate to call for a selah from the controversial and return to the confessional.
What does that mean? Well, throughout the year, on blogs, in classrooms, in conferences, in coffee shops and seminary cafeterias, theological debates often arise between gospel-loving Christians. Whether the debate regards God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility, predestination and evangelism, or being missional versus missions, it is easy to let the diversity of opinions overwhelm the unity of the faith.
While these discussions can be highly profitable, many times they become all-absorbing. What is meant to promote biblical literacy and understanding results in division and caricature. At such moments, a return to the cross of Christ is needed, both for the sin that inevitably accompanies impassioned debate but also to rightly understand who Jesus is and what he did. As a principle of gospel-centeredness: reiteration of the gospel should always accompany divergent views on lesser matters of doctrine.
In this vein, Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday should be accompanied by a hiatus from tertiary arguments. The gospel of Jesus Christ (Rom 1:1-7; 1 Cor 15:1-11) should be fore-fronted and labels such as Calvinist, Non-Calvinist, Charismatic, Cessationist, Emergent, and Traditionalist should be intentionally checked-in. Like in the MLB all-star game, every divergent uniform should be exchanged for similar threads. The reason for this is to promote the only all-star, Jesus Christ.
Why make such a plea? Because it rightly re-places Christ and him crucified at the center of our evangelical confession. When so many other important, but lesser matters, catch our attention and fill our airspace during the year, Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday give evangelical Christians a chance to recalibrate and to re-announce the message that shook the world—Christ the Lord is risen today! Moreover, it causes us to remember who the real enemies are (sin, Satan, death, and hell), and that our intramural sparring partners are often our allies. More than that, it reminds us that the work of the Spirit is far more expansive than our own ministry, church, or denomination.
Indeed, as the Preacher says in Ecclesiastes, “There is a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted… a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing…a time to keep silence, and a time to speak… a time for war, and a time for peace” (Eccl. 3:2-8). On Easter weekend, it is time to proclaim the all-powerful message of the Cross and the Resurrection without the static of otherwise important issues. It is not a time to throw darts at other Christians.
I say this cautiously, because there is always a place for defending the faith from malicious attempts to downplay and deny the Trinity, the Deity of Christ, Justification by Faith, and the Resurrection (just to name a few). Still, this weekend gives discerning Christians the chance to put down their swords and embrace fellow believers who we disagree with on secondary and tertiary matters of doctrine. The point is not ecumenism but the evangel!
In fact, the inability to discern the times and seasons of theological debate, may indicate a misunderstanding of the gospel. For those individuals who let controversies like the extent of the atonement consume Good Friday, or who chastise the use of evidential arguments on Resurrection Sunday, may miss the whole point. Jesus didn’t come and die to give us theology. He came to give us life from the dead, forgiveness from sins.
There is a time and place to debate how Jesus did that, but on Easter weekend, when the world tunes in to the reports of Jesus raised from the grave, they don’t need (and shouldn’t have) to hear Christians disagreeing on lesser points of the law. Instead, I pray that God will give his churches a strong, unanimous announcement that Christ has been raised and that sin, Satan, death, and hell have been defeated for all those who are trusting in Christ.
In truth, the debates may pick back upon Monday, and that is well and good, but perhaps after such a focused hiatus devoted to meditating upon the cross and resurrection, gospel-loving Christians will have greater sense to know when and where and how to contend for the faith once for all delivered to the saints, because after all even Jude, the ‘patron saint of apologetics’ (see Jude 4), was inclined to write about our “common salvation” until he was a pressed into apologetic service.
May the Lord bless your upcoming services and may your trumpet blast be unmistakable as you proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ—dead, buried, and raised on the third day.
David Schrock is a Ph.D. candidate in systematic theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is Pastor of Calvary Baptist Church (Seymour, IN). David also blogs at Via Emmaus. He is married to Wendy and is the father of Titus and Silas.