“David, how is Shona?”

“Oh, the marriage is great. It goes from strength to strength. It enriches, edifies, and encourages me no end. I’m just so humbled by it. I feel so privileged.”

“And Shona?”

“I tell everyone that being married is so amazing. I don’t know why more don’t try it. I suppose you have to experience it to really know.”

“Yes, David, but how about Shona?”

“Well, I’ve written a book about false marriages. And I have a few conferences ahead where I hope to speak on marriage-centered homes and churches. O yes, I just love marriage.”

“Eh, is Shona still alive?”

Too much Gospel, not enough Christ?

I’m concerned. I’m hearing and reading the word “Gospel” at least ten times more than the name of Christ.

Let me give you a sample of the kind of phraseology that is beginning to worry me. This is just a selection from recent reading: “the finished work of the Gospel,” “marinated in the Gospel,” “the Gospel of justification,” “the grace of the Gospel,” “promoting the Gospel,” “the Gospel-centered life/marriage/home,” “contemplation of the Gospel,” “the church that loves the Gospel,” “the Gospel for Christians,” “talk to non-Christians about the Gospel,” “preach the Gospel message,” “I love the Gospel,” “the Gospel of grace,” “enjoying the Gospel,” “a radical Gospel,” “give them the Gospel,” “empowered by the Gospel.” I could go on and on.

“Well, what’s wrong with these words?”

These are indeed wonderful words. They all come from the pens and mouths of good men and women who love the Lord. But they appear in almost Christ-less contexts. For all the talk of the Gospel, there is often little or no mention of Christ.

I’m sure that writers and speakers are often thinking of Christ when they use these phrases. But why not use Christ’s name? That’s what worries me. Is the name and person of Christ being replaced by a soteriology?

I’m not sure why this is happening. I know it’s not intentional. Could it be a bit of embarrassment? Are we more comfortable speaking about loving the Gospel than about loving Jesus? Are we more comfortable commending the Gospel than pressing Christ on our hearers?

But surely that’s what we are all about – we’re about the Christ of the Gospel (or the Gospel of Christ.) And it’s Christ I want preachers and writers to give me. I want to meet Jesus and walk away with Jesus.

So, the next time you are tempted to say or write “Gospel,” may I suggest that you consider using the name of Jesus Christ instead, at least sometimes. Try to redress the present imbalance.

I’m challenging myself here as well. I know from experience that it’s fearfully possible to preach a soteriology but not the Savior; to preach a set of principles, but not a person. The Devil is able to take one of the best words in the world (“Gospel”) and use it to obscure, or even replace, the very best person in the world.

Let’s not have people leaving our churches, articles, blogs, and conferences wondering, “Eh, is Jesus still alive?”

  • Dick


  • Eric

    Excellent. I have been thinking the exact same thing lately. Glad to know I am not alone. Thank you, David.

  • Bob Kellemen

    David, Good post and point taken. I think the current “Gospel-centered” language was/is an attempt to redress a perceived imbalance where everything was “seeker-sensitive” and about “us.” The desire has been to make everything “All About Him.” It was/is also an attempt to redress an imbalance that seemed to focus on “felt needs” and perceived shallow preaching/teaching instead of upon our ultimate need of salvation and of robust preaching of the Word. I think that for many/most/all using “Gospel” they are hearing themselves say and write “Christ.” But your post, especially the opening illustration about your wife’s name, drives home your point well. In trying to pull the pendulum one way, perhaps it has been pulled too far the other. Thank you for your courageous reminder.

  • se7en

    Brilliant post. Thanks for making me stop and think rather than just accept what comes my way!!!

  • Michael Allen Davenport

    …excellent observations…

  • M. Trawick, assoc. mem./Dr. Beeke’s church

    Yes! you have put into words what I’ve tried to… Just to mention the name of Christ in a sermon is NOT preaching Christ. “oh, we preach the Gospel, and we preach Christ” is said over & over from the ministry we came out of, but the actual sermons are nothing but man’s opinion about a variety of subjects. HNRC has blessed us beyond words BECAUSE the actual Christ is preached & we have grown in grace & in the KNOWLEDGE of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. He is ALIVE in my heart and life–not just a being out there somewhere that I would pray to. We serve a LIVING GOD!! we love your observations; your messages yesterday were for ME!! thank you so much.

  • Carine

    This is piercingly true. Could it be that we are in danger of leaving (or perhaps have already left) our first love? …”And it’s Christ I want preachers and writers to give me…How my soul is nourished and invigorated when I meet Jesus and walk away with Him! Thank you, David. The Lord be with you.

  • David Murray

    Thanks for your encouraging words, friends. And, Bob, that’s very helpful context that you’ve given me – helps me to understand the holy motivation for this language.

  • Stephanie

    How true…I’m guilty of this at times, and I’m going to make a conscious effort to use my Saviour’s beautiful name more often. Thank you for such an insightful post.

  • Dane Ortlund

    Thanks for this thoughtful and appropriate post, David. I can only speak for myself, but one reason for my frequent use of ‘gospel-centered’ and such phrases is the other imbalance, which you don’t mention–using the name Jesus all the time, but using it in a non-biblical/non-gospel/non-grace way–a way that Jesus would never approve! WWJD, e.g. There’s the name Jesus–in service of moralism. I hasten to add, though, that I have found myself at times getting distracted from the Person for all my talk of the (more abstract) ‘gospel. There’s a timely and valid point in your post. Thanks.

  • David Murray

    Thanks for your response, Dane. Helpful perspective. Someone else told me that they use this kind of “Gospel” phraseology to distinguish their message and ministry from the legalistic Christ-less moralism that has been so pervasive in the USA. Three years on, I’m still learning the lingo!

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