It is, perhaps, the prevailing ecclesiological cliché of our day to describe your church as “gospel-centered.” Not that that description is unimportant, but because there are many “gospels” around which varying assemblies center. Accordingly, there is a grave need for clear articulation and definition of the gospel that serves as the propellant for your church’s gatherings of worship and fellowship. To that end, I offer the following paragraphs from G. Campbell Morgan’s commentary on Mark which, I contend, provide some of the clearest lines that articulate and define what it means when I say “gospel-centered.” Morgan writes:
The word ‘Beginning’ refers, not to the paragraph, not to the ministry of John, not to the ministry of Jesus. It refers to the Gospel. In this book we have the story of the beginning of the whole Gospel. Here Mark has written the story of how the Gospel which Isaiah predicted became historic . . . The reference to Isaiah admits us to the spirit of all that is to follow, and so constitutes the key to its spiritual interpretation. What Isaiah predicted, Jesus fulfilled. Isaiah foresaw that the way of comfort was the way of the coming of Jehovah in His suffering and victorious Servant, to deal with sin and bring in righteousness. Here then is the story of how that Gospel became a fact in human history . . .
The Gospel is in itself a message of salvation, a message of comfort, a message of hope, a message of joy; a message that should always thrill to the tireless music of a psalm, a message that has nothing to do with denunciation. The Gospel is not preached when sin is denounced. The Gospel is good news to sinning men, a message of salvation from sin . . .
In this opening word, ‘the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God,’ everything is gathered up. By these words we are at once reminded, as we commence to study this book that the centre and circumference of the Gospel is Christ Himself; for whatever may be the harmonies of the varied notes of the infinite music, they are all homed and centred in Him. Not carelessly does this writer name Him at the commencement by the Old Testament word, Jesus. That is the name that places Him upon the level of my comprehension; for in the Man Who bore the name we find the point of contact between ourselves, and the One Whom He supremely came to reveal. Take Him away from me, and remind me merely of the administrative power of God in His universe, and I am lost, for I cannot grasp the unfathomable truth. Take Him away from me, and speak to my soul of God in all the wonder and mystery of His being, and He is utterly incomprehensible to me. A gospel that is a Gospel of God, but is not spelt out into my language and rendered observable by my finite nature, becomes no Gospel to me. Mark commences where God began to fulfil the prophecy of His servants. The charm of this Gospel is that through it we shall be following Jesus, walking with Him, watching His gestures, listening to the very habits of His speech.
In the title ‘Christ,’ Mark suggests the way by which God administers that salvation, the proclamation of which is good news. Christ is the Messiah, the anointed One. The name Jesus brings us into the presence of the Galilean peasant. But Messiah, the anointed One, brings us into the presence of One upon Whom the holy chrism rests, the chrism of the Holy Spirit; enduing Him for service; and empowering Him for dying, for it was through the eternal Spirit that He offered Himself.
The ultimate phrase of the great description, ‘Son of God,’ suggests the infinitude of His power, reminded us that whereas men lay the hand of flesh imaginatively upon the hand of His flesh, they will yet be conscious of the thrilling power of essential Deity when His hand closes upon theirs; reminding us that men may look into human eyes, capable of human tears, the gleams of human laughter, and the tragedy of human sorrow; and yet see shining through them the light of essential Deity. Jesus, the anointed One, Son of God. It is the Gospel of One, sent, anointed of the Spirit, of the very nature of the Father. What He says is the Gospel. What He does is the Gospel . . .
The Gospel is the good news of Jesus, the Anointed, Son of God. Alas that men sometimes proclaim it, as though there were no music in it! It is the music of all music; the inspiration of all music; the inspiration of all music that is worthy the name: The Gospel!1
Soli Deo Gloria! Amen.
G. Campbell Morgan, The Gospel According to Mark (Old Tappan, NJ: Revell, 1927), 12–15.