Tim Keller, ‘Center Church,’ “Ch. 1, The gospel is not everything.” Reflection

Chapter Summary

Keller challenges us to clarify what we think The Gospel is.  He presents the following framework.

The gospel:

  • …is good news not good advice
  • …is good news announcing that we have been rescued or saved
  • …is good news about what has been done by Jesus to put right our relationship with God
  • …is not the results of the gospel
  • …has two equal and opposite enemies
    • Enemy 1 – Unbelief
    • Enemy 2 – Religion
  • …has chapters
    • Ch1. Where did we come from? From God: the One and the relational
    • Ch 2. Why did things go so wrong? Because of sin: bondage and condemnation
    • Ch 3. What will put things right? Christ: incarnation, substitution, restoration
    • Ch 4. How can I be put right? Through faith: grace and trust
  • …is not “doctrine for beginners” that preacher/teachers should move on from once they have taught “the basics”


I find this framework rings true for me.  I remember experimenting with different ways to explain the gospel.  Many years ago, I tried explaining the chapters differently.

  • Ch 1. The world/life is amazing (why because God made it that way)
  • Ch 2. But the world/life is also terrible (why? because of sin and the effects of the fall)
  • Ch 3. What will put things right? Christ: restoration, Romans 8 etc
  • Ch 4. What is the hope? The hope of recreation of the whole universe when Jesus returns – Revelation 21, Isaiah 65 etc

The problem I found with my explanation is that people never became Christians. I think it’s because they weren’t really hearing the gospel.  According to Keller’s framework, they weren’t really hearing about being rescued or saved, or about their relationship with God (it was more about the restoration of the universe): it emphasised the results of the gospel rather than the gospel itself.  At one point Keller summarises the gospel in three words as “Christ saves sinners.”  I have found this a helpful reference point when I’m checking to see if I’m communicating the gospel.

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