The Effect of the God-Centered Gospel

by Mike Ratliff

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete. (1John 1:1-4 ESV)

Most, if not all, of the contention that I have experienced in this ministry has to do with people’s demand to be “justified” on their own terms. For instance, one fellow angrily told me that the genuine gospel was to do good works, to feed the hungry and minister to the homeless. Another one insists that all he has to do is love God and love everyone and that is how he experiences “salvation.” Are these valid forms of the Gospel?

Dr. James White wrote that the heart of the Gospel is “Justification.” He said, “The word [Justification] should bring to mind “the gracious act of God the Father through the perfect work of Jesus Christ whereby I have been pardoned and made right before God!” It should be a personal word, a thrilling word, a word filled with rich meaning. For many, by God’s grace, it is. And by that same grace, it always will be.”1

Martin Luther wrote, “[Justification is] the chief article of Christian doctrine. To him who understands how great its usefulness and majesty are, everything else will seem slight and turn to nothing. For what is Peter? What is Paul? What is an angel from heaven? What are all creatures in comparison with the article of justification? For if we know this article, we are in the clearest light; if we do not know it, we dwell in the densest darkness. Therefore if you see this article impugned or imperiled, do not hesitate to resist Peter or an angel from heaven; for it cannot be sufficiently extolled.“2

When the Gospel is preached biblically, God-Centered rather than Man-Centered, then those God supernaturally regenerates will believe. They have saving faith. (Ephesians 2:1-10) As a result God justifies them.

‘You are justified only when God the Father, based upon the meritorious work of Jesus Christ in your place, declares you to be so upon the exercise of the gift of faith. This faith is directed solely to the God who “justifies the ungodly” (NASB). To be justified means to be declared right with God by virtue of the remission of sins accomplished by Jesus: Christ’s righteousness is imputed to the believer, and the believer’s sins are imputed to Christ, who bears them in His body on the tree. Justification is from beginning to end a divine action, based upon the mercy of God the Father and the work of Jesus Christ the Son.’3

After a new believer is justified by faith, God sanctifies them. What is sanctification? I heard a good definition today from John MacArthur. He said, “Sanctification is to be removed from sin, to become separate from it.” Both Justification and Sanctification are actions of God’s free grace. All who are justified will also be sanctified. The act of removing a believer from sin is God making each believer experientially holy and conformed unto the image of Jesus Christ. They are made more like Him through spiritual growth by and in the grace and the knowledge of Christ. We clearly see the uniqueness of Justification and Sanctification in the following passage.

“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1-2 ESV)

This passage tells us that our Justification is the grounds and basis of our peace with God. That means that is clearly a past action in relation to our Sanctification. Justification is a declaration by God that happens once and is done forever. However our Sanctification is what we experience for the remaining length of our lives.

As a result of genuine salvation, which is the result of the working of the God-Centered Gospel, believers, having been declared righteous by God, are now able to fellowship with Him. Here is part of the passage I placed at the top of this post.

“that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.” (1John 1:3 ESV)

Genuine believers, having been justified by faith, have fellowship with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. The Greek word for “fellowship” is “κοινωνιαν” or “koinonia.” This word literally means “partnership” or “participation.” This would be impossible without God’s declaration of righteousness for He is Holy and perfectly Righteous while we are imperfect and sinful people as the result of the fall. (Genesis 3) Therefore, the effect of the Gospel in salvation is Justification, which enables and establishes a relationship between God and people who are now new creatures by His grace. They are actually joined together in Christ by faith as the sons of God. Notice the fellowship starts between God and those whom He saves then it joins together all believers as sons of God in Christ.

Sadly, there is a rampant problem in the church of the 21st Century. It has departed sound doctrine and has melded marketing techniques with a man-centered gospel. This “other” gospel starts with people and their need to “go to heaven.” Since there is no mention of the need for sinful people to be justified in order to be reconciled to God who is Holy, people are told to pray a sinner’s prayer and become part of a local “church” then be religious. Since the gospel they hear is man-centered it is powerless to save anyone. Why? There is no need of grace in the man-centered gospel. It is all a matter of will power. It is a decision. It is an act of man’s will. Salvation is seen as a reward for making that decision. There is no mention of being reconciled to God nor is sanctification given any emphasis. Because of this and the fact that repentance is never mentioned in the man-centered gospel, these unregenerate professing Christians or nominal Christians have no spiritual power to become removed from sin.

“This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” (1John 1:5-8 ESV)

The Greek word for “light” here is “φωςS” or “phos.” This word refers to light that is not kindled nor put out by men such as the light of the Sun. In a spiritual sense it refers to joy and peace with God. To walk in God’s light is to live one’s life in fellowship with Him thereby being Spirit-filled and walking in repentance. The Greek word for “darkness” here is “σκοτια” or “skotia.” It means dimness or obscurity. It carries with it the idea of unhappiness or ruin. In a spiritual sense it refers to the consequences of sin. To walk in darkness, therefore, would be to continue in sin and suffer its consequences.

With whom do genuine believers who have been justified by faith and are being sanctified enjoy fellowship? They walk with God in His light so they fellowship with Him, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. They also have fellowship with other genuine believers. These practice the truth because the truth is in them. On the other hand, there are many who profess some form of salvation, but who are walking in darkness because they are unregenerate and, therefore, the truth is not in them.

The fruits of genuine saving faith declare whether the believer is joined in God. God is the essence of purity and light and will not have fellowship with those who lie in their sin and the walk in the resultant darkness. The genuine believer who is walking in the light will not be looking for loopholes to see how far he or she can go in a certain direction and it not be called sin. No, they are walking in repentance and that means they are moving in the opposite direction from their past sins. They seek holiness and purity in their lives because that is the nature of God to seek our sanctification. On the other hand, a Soul that is enslaved to the flesh will do the opposite. The nominal Christian may want to be justified, but that desire is that it be on one’s own terms. They want to know how far they can go down paths of darkness and it not be called sin.

The effect of the God-Centered Gospel is new life in those whom the Lord touches with His grace. Justification creates fellowship with God and other believers while sanctification results in them walking in the light down the narrow path of repentance. There will be good fruit produced by it. On the other hand, the Man-Centered Gospel only leaves people in darkness, but fooled into believing they are on the road to heaven.

Soli Deo Gloria

1James R. White, The God Who Justifies (Bloomington: Bethany House Publishers, 2001), p. 31.

2From his exposition of Galatians 2:11 in What Luther Says: An Anthology, Vol 2, ed. Ewald M Plass (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1959), p 705, entry 2200.

3White, Ibid p 73

18 thoughts on “The Effect of the God-Centered Gospel

  1. Mike:
    Thanks once again for pointing out the biblical basis of justification. We must hold fast to the truth for many are falsely assured that they are true Christians when they are not. Matthew 7:15 – 23 is a sober warning. I am reading through Dr. White’s “The God Who Justifies” –ever slowly–and find it a treasure trove of defense for sole fide.

    I know posts like this (and perhaps comments like this) anger a great number of people, but truth cannot be compromised. The enemy is the father of lies and deception is rampant today. We don’t need more “love” in the world today, we need more truth. God Bless. Grateful for His Grace, Wendy

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  2. Mike,

    The Lord be praised. For this is where the battle will have to be focused because the majority in the American Christian Church believe in synergism. I’m sad to be led to the conclusion that this has so produced many, many false converts who are trying to follow Christ in the flesh only.

    As you mention, with the man-centered “marketing” techniques, the Church Growth Movement is a menace to the genuine Gospel of Jesus Christ with its false hope of some flesh-pleasing Purpose Driven Life, and with its sister the emerging Emergent rebellion against the Bible, which is crippling the faith of our young.

    What people don’t seem to realize Mike is: If the Gospel really is the monergism taught by the Reformers then God isn’t honoring most of what is preached today. And the reason so many “Protestants” are heading back to Rome is because the Gospel preached by people like Dan Kimball, Rick Warren, and Rob Bell is really not that far from the synergism taught by of the apostate Roman Catholic Church.

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  3. Great article. You alluded to this but there is no man-centered gospel, only a man centered religion. The “gospel” is good news and man at the center is bad news. Over the centuries the cults were formed based upon one man, now an entire movement is based upon mankind.

    I do believe everything that has been or will every be done will redound to the glory of God, but I believe some things God has done, specifically redemption, was not done primarily for His own glory but out of His amazing and unexplainable love for us which of course still glorifies Him. His motivation for Calvary was His love for us not adding to His perfect glory.

    But everything, and I mean everything, we do as believers must be done to God’s glory. Praying, worshiping. witnessing, fellowshiping, and everything we do should be motivated by our desire to glorify our Heavenly Father. It should be none of us and all of Him. We must die so He can live through us. A man centered message is simply and most profoundly a LIE. A perfect lie constructed by the father of lies. We must be careful not to let even parts of this falsehood to compromise the gospel.

    It is the gospel of Jesus Christ not the gospel of Adam’s fallen family.

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  4. Well Mike if more people would know this and be taught this, the 21st century church wouldn’t be in the mess its in now. All I can think of though is that its the great falling away and the delusion has been sent and thats why they believe the lie. If the wicked aren’t getting more wicked and the righteous getting more righteous, I’ll eat every Bible we own!!

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  5. Amen Wendy,

    Yes, Dr. White’s book is one to be devoured slowly and carefully. I read it in 2005. I plan on taking it up again soon as a refresher. 🙂 Let us be joined together in agreement to never compromise on our Lord’s truth that He has placed in us.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

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  6. Ken,

    Yes, it is a sad conclusion. It is one that grieves anyone who loves God and desires for Him to be glorified in His people. However, we must remember that only those with “ears to hear” actually hear and respond to the call of the Gospel.

    Justification by Faith was where the battle was fought in the Reformation. We are in the midst of the very same battle now. Many are being reclaimed by the RCC, but I have become convinced that those who are genuine are being drawn into the truth more and more by our Lord. I think we are a Remnant. That also means that God has also given a voice to some to proclaim the truth to encourage the Remnant and to setup judgment against those who hear not.

    Let us never stop being obedient to that calling.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

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  7. Paul,

    I don’t think you will have to fulfill that vow. 🙂 I agree with you. Therefore, we must continue to proclaim the truth even when it is disparaged and cast into the dust before our eyes by those who are deceived. May God wake up those who are His.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

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  8. Mike,

    What you described in the first paragraphs is very familiar to me as I grew up in it during the 1950’s and 60’s. It’s called liberal Protestantism. These churches are now imploding and shrinking. But now sadly, the emergent and seeker-sensitive churches are replacing them. Satan does nothing new does he.

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  9. We are all god and part of oneness. I feel strongly that the teachings from the bible are strongly misinterpreted and creating more problems than good in many situations. Surely we need to look at traps that religions create for people who believe in its teachings, is it not important to remember for example, that the Vatican, performed the worst atrocities and would have tainted the true teachings with their psychotic delusions?

    God centered absolutely if it is clarifying that we are one with god and not that god is some guy in the sky with a white beard separate from us. In separating god from us we are worshiping separation and must be vigilent to traps of the ego mind

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  10. onenesreality,

    Nope, your religion is pantheism. It is paganism. Your descriptions of “christianity” are of a religion that I have no part in. I am a Biblical Christian who uses scripture to interpret scripture never by laying down what I want it to say then making it saying it through verbiage. To lay the evil works of evil religious people at the feet of Jesus is absurd. Those acts are not the acts of genuine Christians. We are not God. He is God and will judge your words in which you have misrepresented Him.

    In Christ

    Mike Ratliff

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  11. Re: the article: amen, preach it. We so need to get this truth out, for general instruction, and for encouragement for us who are desiring to share/preach the true God-Centered gospel. This issue of God centered gospel/evangelism is so important as we see not only paganism and new age increase, but also the apostacy of false and really watered down gospels within the visible church.
    http://witnessingencouragement.wordpress.com/2007/12/15/the-candy-cane-gospel-vs-the-
    glorious-gospel/

    In AZ we were visiting relatives, and we went to a church in which 11,000 people watched a video for 45 minutes and then heard this gospel: “God wants to be with you” and “Do you see it?” (see Jesus I guess). After an hour and 15 min. we left, and that was all the gospel message we heard. There was no true worship for believers, no exalting Christ, and no true or clear gospel message for unbelievers. It was so sad.
    love, Loretta

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  12. To clarify further, the video was about a man and his success story, of being someone who had a hidden talent who was ‘discovered’. In other words, ‘he was wonderful but no one knew it, and Jesus is like this guy’. The video was a bio on the man for 45 minutes!
    Also, this was supposed to be a “Christmas eve” service; for Christians that supposedly means we want to worship Christ, give Him glory, and thank God for His incarnation to save us, or at least for “seeker churches”, that means they are supposedly wanting to share the gospel to people who come to church at Christmas. This service was not either. People were talking, playing, and sleeping through the whole thing.

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  13. Nikourem,

    What good is it for us to read Bible verses in latin? The purpose of reading the Bible is to understand it. The purpose of the Bible is to teach, rebuke, exhort, discipline, and encourage. I want nothing to do with worshipping Mary, praying to the saints, nor the recital of the Bible in a language which I cannot understand. These idolatrous practices do not deal with man’s sinful nature, Nikourem.

    Jesus is the bridge between man and God, not Mary. The saints are human beings who are not deities. Our focus and reliance is to be fully on the Lord. The saints cannot save you from the judgment seat of God. Only the blood of Jesus has the authority to do that.

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