The conversation in Michael’s recent post on Life Church highlighted one crucial element of the church – the preaching of the gospel.  The gospel is the backbone of the church.  It is what Christ did so that lost people can be reconciled to God.  So the issue of whether there is a clear articulation of it is crucial for those who have not trusted in Christ to understand.

And this is the crux of the argument involving seeker sensitive churches, as was noted in the Life Church conversation.  The issue is whether church is for believers or to invite the lost in and have a service geared towards them.  Being geared towards them will involve a proclamation of the gospel.  In this way, it is common to reference the gospel with evangelism.   However, the inference behind this statement is that the gospel is just for beginners.  I believe that the underlying sentiment with this stance is that once a person has accepted the gospel, it is time to move on to other things involving sanctification.  We preach the gospel for the lost but believers need something different.

This has been my experience in the evangelical churches I have been a part of, to more or less degrees.  There is worship in music, worship in giving, worship in preaching of the Word.  This is all for believers.  We know what Christ did and are reminded from time to time, most notably through the Lord’s table.    But there is a sense that believers do not need to hear the gospel preached.

But I would assert that the gospel is just a part of the sanctification for the believer as it is the message for the unbeliever.  The gospel proclaims that

  • All mankind is condemned before God because of sin
  • We are separated from God and without hope
  • God made provisions for sin to be atoned for
  • Jesus Christ took the penalty of sin on the cross
  • He lives and sits on the right hand of the Father, making intercession

The believer is justified in Christ.  But the same justification serves as the foundation for a fruitful walk with Christ.  Christ’s sacrifice  enables the believer to rest in the provision of that sacrifice.  This is why I believe Paul indicated his main job was to continually point to Christ in whom the previous mystery was revealed, so that each person would be taught who they are based on this provision and how spiritual maturity is sourced in the work and person of Christ. (Colosssians 1:24-29).  When Paul talks about the equipping of the saints for the work of service it is so members of the body of Christ will “attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12-13).  This knowledge is not some esoteric, supernatural insight of something that the gospel hasn’t revealed.  Rather it is deeper insight into the gospel itself.

The gospel reminds the believer that they brought nothing to the table with respect to their right standing with God.  That is not something we leave at the front gate to pursue Christianity without.  In fact, that is why Paul got so miffed at the Galatians citing that they begun in the Spirit but deemed it necessary to carry out their Christian life absent the very thing that gave them life (Galatians 3:3).  They apparently thought, as do many Christians today I believe, that the gospel was for beginners but not necessarily pertinent to what they needed to grow in their walk.

Without the foundation of the gospel, sanctification can become a process of sin management.  It places a focus on the dos and don’ts of Christianity.  Avoid this, don’t go there, do this….This is precisely what new life in Christ was intended to avoid.   Paul indicates in Romans 7:7-14, that highlighting the sin to avoid will only make one gravitate towards it.  He then indicates in vv 15-23 there will always be a struggle with sin such that only the power of Christ through the spirit will enable victory (Romans 7:24-8:13).

Therefore, the gospel ensures dependence on the work of the Spirit, since it is he who enables the believer to walk according to the gospel.  The Spirit bears testimony to Christ and facilitates obedience to the gospel.  I am convinced that when Jesus talks about obedience to him, he is not referring to an emulation of activities per se, but of a reliance on his work and person that produces works sourced in what he came to accomplish.  We are able to accomplish this work because of the indwelt Spirit and his gifting.

This also extends to the work of the body of Christ as an extension of Christ himself.  The body of Christ, the church, is to expressly carry out the purpose of God through Christ (Ephesians 3:9-11).  That requires a dependence on Christ and an interdependence on one another. Our ability to love one another and serve the body, both individually and corporately, is sourced in the work of Christ and should be carried out according to our individual gifting and desire to see the work of Christ accomplished.  1 Corinthians 12 is very telling in this regard.  The corporate function is to reveal Christ.  That is gospel.

The gospel is the foundation of our Christian being. Spiritual maturity requires the gospel on an on-going basis.  Growth and true fellowship cannot happen without it.  So the next time we think the gospel is just for beginners, or that it is a message for only the lost, lets think again.

C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Find him on Patreon Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. Join his Patreon and support his ministry

    12 replies to "The Gospel is Not Just for Beginners"

    • Rick

      One reason it is sometimes viewed as for beginners is because it has been seen as just a “get to heaven” card.

      People are missing the fuller scope of the gospel.

    • ScottL

      Lisa –

      What I would encourage us to remember is that, if we summarise the gospel as simply the five bullet points in your article above, then we have missed the greater picture of the gospel. Jesus came proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, that the rule of God had come to restore God’s people and Christ’s resurrection by the power of God points to the reality that all things will one day be made new, and we taste of this even now as new creations.

      If we proclaim the full reality of what the good news is about, that God is redeeming and renewing the whole cosmos, of which includes reconciling and redeeming sinful human beings back to the Father, then we realise that we are to keep proclaiming that Christ is making all things new and we can even now, though redeemed, participate in this good news.

      New creations proclaim the good news of God making all things new, including humanity.

    • Leslie Jebaraj

      “Without the foundation of the gospel, sanctification can become a process of sin management.”

      I absolutely love the statement!!

    • Rick

      I have appreciated Tim Keller’s definition of the “gospel”:

      “Through the person and work of Jesus Christ, God fully accomplishes salvation for us, rescuing us from judgment for sin into fellowship with him, and then restores the creation in which we can enjoy our new life together with him forever.”

      As ScottL and I have mentioned, it is much broader than described in many settings. Keller discusses that here:

    • cherylu

      It places a focus on the dos and don’ts of Christianity. Avoid this, don’t go there, do this….This is precisely what new life in Christ was intended to avoid. Paul indicates in Romans 7:7-14, that highlighting the sin to avoid will only make one gravitate towards it.

      Lisa, while I agree with what you are saying here and what you said in the next paragraph about dependence on the Spirit being what enables us to walk according to the Gospel, I think we need to be careful here.

      The New Testament writers over and over told the Christians they were writing to about specific sins of the old nature that were to be put off and the specifics of the new nature that were to be put on.

      I think the danger of getting away from highlighting these things was clearly shown in a recent lenghthy blog discussion where a person insisted that a committed homosexual relationship was not wrong because it was not against the command to love your neighbor in his eyes. (Please note: I am not trying to reopen that conversation here. Simply using it as an example to illustrate my point.)

      So while I truly understand what you are saying, I think a balance is certainly needed here. We can either fall into a trap of legalism on the one side, thinking we have to do it all ourselves. Or we can fall into the trap on the other side where we don’t think that God’s definite commands have any meaning because we aren’t being led in that direction or we don’t see what is unloving about the action involved in disobeying them.

    • From The Balcony

      Lisa – excellent post. I can’t agree with you more. The gospel needs to be preached each and every Sunday for all of us to hear.

      The gospel runs through the entire Bible. Why not teach it that way?

      Romans 1:16

    • Ed Kratz

      Cheryl, as to this statement here

      Or we can fall into the trap on the other side where we don’t think that God’s definite commands have any meaning because we aren’t being led in that direction or we don’t see what is unloving about the action involved in disobeying them.

      Nothing I’ve written supports this position. Ephesians 4:1 indicates that we walk in a manner worthy of our position in Christ. I believe this is a pivotal point in the epistle that identifies how everything that preceded it (ch 1-3) should result in a lifestyle that is fitting of the position and avoidance of that which is not (ch 4-6). Its not a matter of not identifying sin but understanding how we can effectively avoid it, which is not by emphasizing the sin but by emphasizing Christ. The gospel facilitates in this regard to divert affections to Christ.

    • jim


      You ROCK!!! I have sat in many church planning sessions where all the focus is on the unsaved”lost’. We run tons of programs designed to get them into our buildings , then apply a light salting of the gospel and expect everyone will grow into mature christians. Generally better than 90% of the youth we lose in their early teens. I know God tells us to reach the lost, I agree wholeheartedly, but we really don’t instruct or focus much on making disciples of people (young and old) who make a decision for the Lord.

      I see many kids who don’t get that foundation grounding of the gospel who live unchallenged and unchanged lives , not able or willing to eat of the solid food of the gospel that is spread before us.

      In Christ,

    • cherylu


      It is very possible that I have misunderstood what you were saying here.

      I have just seen how it is possible to fall into the trap of a person believing he is led by the Spirit and what he is embracing is fine because he doesn’t believe it is not loving–even when God’s Word says it is wrong. The meaning of the Word has to be totally reinterpreted to fit this way of living.

      I have seen the extremes on both sides and don’t want to fall into either one or see others go there either.

    • Dr Mike

      Good stuff, Lisa.

      As others have noted, we must understand the gospel in terms of Rom 8.29-30, i.e., as including all aspects of salvation, not limiting it to the eternal. From foreknowledge to glorification, the gospel addresses it all.

    • John From Down Under

      And Romans 1:15 is perhaps ‘evidence’ that Paul was preaching the gospel to mature believers (v.7)

    • Susan

      I’ll second Balcony’s response.

      In addition, believers need to hear the gospel often for many reasons.

      1) Reminder of God’s grace in our lives…and that we should extend that to others.

      2)affirms in our hearts that God really DOES love us

      3) reminder that we are but sinners who deserve His wrath….but are set free (Keeps us humble)…and keeps us from Expecting things from God because we are after all ‘doing what He expects of us’. (that ol’ self-righteous equation which creeps into our thinking.)

      4) And here’s a big one: If we don’t know the gospel inside-out, backwards and forwards, we will be hesitant to speak it to others!

      The Mission of the Church is: To Proclaim the Gospel!

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