Phil Wages • Senior Pastor, Winterville FBC

Review: Trevin Wax: Gospel Centered Teaching

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A Review of “Gospel-Centered Teaching:  Showing Christ in All the Scripture” by Trevin Wax

            I was first acquainted with the terms “Christ-centered” and it’s counterpart “Gospel-centered” while doing doctoral work in expository preaching.  I was introduced to these concepts through the ministry of men like  Sidney Greidanus in his Preaching Christ from the Old Testament and Graeme Goldsworthy in his Preaching the Whole Bible as Christian Scripture.  Trevin Wax, who blogs daily at “Kingdom People,” and works at LifeWay Resources of the Southern Baptist Convection has added a significant contribution to this area of theological learning.

            Wax’s book is not near the tome that Greidanus and Goldworthy have produced, but it is just as instructive and significant.  This 109 page paperback book is a must read for those who teach the Bible regularly in small groups, Sunday School classes, discipleship groups, and those like myself who have a regular preaching ministry.  The book is comprised on five, short chapters that can help anyone keep Christ as the focus of any biblical text.

            In chapter one, “Something’s Missing,” Wax addresses the issues in many Bible study small groups in that they are shallow and not outwardly focused.  He asserts that the solutions are not quick fix issues.  The real solution is a return to the gospel message in order to restore groups to being outward focused and life changing.  The author asserts (17), “It’s Jesus who changes lives, and the goal of your Bible study is to continually reintroduce people to Him.”

The author argues in chapter two, “Back to Basics,” that what is needed in many small group ministries is a return to the gospel and centering all Bible teaching in the gospel.  This is necessary because the gospel is the power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16) and the basis for sanctification (1 Corinthians 15:2).  Wax contends that it is this same gospel that provides motivation for our mission.  He asserts that in order to stay gospel-centered teachers should ask three tough questions of every Scripture that they are teaching:  How does this topic/passage fit into the big story of Scripture?  What is distinctively Christian about the way I am addressing the topic/passage? and How does this truth equip God’s church to live on mission?

Wax acquaints readers with the storyline of the Bible in chapter 3, “Connect the Dots and Tell the Story.”  He states that there are essentially four movements in the story of the Bible:  Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Restoration.  It is important for Christians to be taught the grand narrative of the Bible for many reasons, including to gain a biblical worldview, and to keep our focus on Christ.  The author asserts that Bible teachers can learn and review the grand theme of the Bible regularly by reading through the Bible chronologically, pointing to Jesus as the ultimate answer to our sin problem, and challenging people with the truth of Scripture. 

Chapter four centers on the topic of application.  Teachers should learn to ask themselves the question, “What is distinctively Christian about the way I am addressing this topic or passage?”  Wax formulates three questions that Bible teachers should ask about their teaching to insure that it is distinctively Christian:  Is there anything about my treatment of this Old Testament text that a faithful Jew could not affirm?  Is there anything about my treatment of this New Testament text that a Mormon could not affirm? and Is there anything in my application that an unbeliever off the street would be uncomfortable with?  The author closes this chapter with several scriptural examples of gospel-centered application.

Chapter five, “Overflow with Passion for God’s Mission,” ends the book.  The thesis for this chapter is formed around the final question, “How does this truth equip God’s church to live on mission?”  Wax asserts that if you “mission the mission, and you’ve missed the point of gospel-centrality” (97).  He claims that the mission of the gospel was birthed by God Himself, it is motived by the gospel, and recognized when people come face to face with God’s greatness.  Lastly, he asserts that worship is what births this passion to be on mission with God.  “Lack of mission is rarely a knowledge problem it’s a worship problem (103).”  Wax contends that this worship is fueled by reading God’s Word for personal growth and continuing to grow as a disciple of Jesus.

Wax’s book is perfect for the Sunday School teacher, small group leader, or discipleship leader who may not be familiar with the terms “gospel-centered” or “Christ-centered.”  Many Bible teachers will recognize the main thrust of the book once they begin to read it.  The material found in Wax’s book is not necessarily new, but it is refreshing and a necessary reminder.  The chapters could be used for leadership development in the teaching ministry of the church.  I heartily commend it.

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