Most evangelical denominations claim to be “Christ-centered” and preach the “gospel of Jesus Christ.” In contrast, other denominations — such as the original Worldwide Church of God (WCG) — believe that a true Christian should rather focus on God the Father and honor Him more than they should Christ. That is, that the focus or center of the church’s worship and preaching should be God the Father and the “kingdom of God” – not Jesus Christ and the “gospel of Christ.”
Some Scriptural support for being “God-centered”
Among the Scripture passages used to support the case for being “God- or Father-centered” versus being “Christ-centered are the following:
• John 14:28 – “…My Father is greater than I.” The “Sender” (God the Father) is greater than the One “Sent (Christ).” [NKJV throughout] Jesus often said that He could do or say nothing except what the Father had sent Him to do (John 6:38; 7:16; 8:26, 28-29; 12:49-50; 14:31).
• Matthew 6:9 — “In this manner, therefore, pray: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name.” (See also Matthew 6:6; Jesus Himself prayed to His Father, Matthew 26:53; John 14:16; 16:27; 17:1-26; Luke 22:42; 23:34, 46.)
• 1 Corinthians 15:27-28 – “For ‘He has put all things under His feet.’ But when He says, ‘all things are put under Him,’ it is evident that He [the Father] who put all things under Him [Jesus] is excepted. Now when all things are made subject to Him, then the Son Himself will also be subject to Him who put all things under Him, that God may be all in all.”
• John 17:11, 6 – “…Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me, that they may be one as We are… They were Yours.” That’s why the WCG was named, based on 12 New Testament scriptures, “Church of God” – not “Church of Christ.” [For more understanding of the true, Biblical name of God's Church, see this link: http://www.herbert-armstrong.org, click ENTER HERE, select "Books & Booklets," and scroll down to the booklet titled "A True History of the True Church."]
Because of this emphasis, the WCG had been accused of putting more weight on the Old Testament, and the Old Covenant, and thus minimizing the honor due Jesus and the New Covenant.
On the other hand, some have asked: Do we thus lay aside or make “inferior” God the Father when we make Christ the center of our worship and our gospel?
Considering the “whole counsel of God”
Following the example of the apostle Paul, who said: “For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27), let us consider The “Whole Counsel of God” – through His word, the Bible, on the matter.
1. Without Christ we cannot know the Father.
In John 14:6 Jesus said: “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”
• John 1:51 – “…I say to you, hereafter you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.” Like the ladder to heaven and angels ascending and descending on it in Jacob’s dream at Luz or Bethel (Genesis 28:12), Jesus is the true “Stairway to Heaven” – our one and only access to the Father in heaven.
• 1 Timothy 2:5 – “For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus.” “Mama Mary” – or other dead “saints”– cannot be such, in addition to Christ! [See: Mary Worship.]
• Luke 10:22 – “…no one knows who the Son is except the Father, and who the Father is except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.” Without Christ, we cannot even know God the Father, let alone worship Him.
• John 14:9 – “…He who has seen Me has seen the Father.” There is so much unity and oneness between the Father and the Son that seeing the Son is like seeing the Father also. Jesus is the faithful and true image of the Father (Colossians 1:15 – “He is the image of the invisible God…”). This doesn’t mean, however, that God the Father and Jesus His Son are one and the same Person, as Unitarians wrongly believe and preach. [See: The Trinity Doctrine Reconsidered.]
• John 5:37 – “And the Father Himself, who sent Me, has testified of Me. You have neither heard His voice at any time, nor seen His form.”
• John 1:18 – “No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.” Unless Christ had declared or revealed who God the Father is, we wouldn’t know nor worship Him rightly. [See: True Worship.]
2. The Father Himself tells us to hear His Son.
Because the Father Himself has not personally spoken to men, He has appointed or sent Jesus to be His “Spokesman” (Greek, Logos) to declare who He is, and what His will is for us.
• Matthew 17:5 – “…This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!” (see also Mark 9:7; Luke 9:35). This wasn’t the Father’s actual voice, however; otherwise it would be a contradiction to what Jesus said in John 5:37. It seems more likely that the “voice” heard was that of an angel speaking on behalf of the Father. “…Then a voice came from heaven, saying, ‘I have both glorified it and will glorify it again.’ Therefore the people who stood by and heard it said that it had thundered. Others said, ‘An angel has spoken to Him’” (John 12:27-28).
• Hebrews 1:1-2 – “God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds…”
• Mark 9:37 – “…whoever receives Me, receives not Me but Him who sent Me.” (See also Luke 9:48.) To receive Jesus is to hear and obey Him – accept His Words and do them – and thereby also receive the Father.
• John 10:27 – “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.” As those whom God the Father has chosen to draw to His Son (John 6:44, 65) and as His “elect” now, God’s true people hear Jesus’ voice and follow or obey Him only.
3. God the Father has given all power and authority to Jesus Christ.
“All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth” (Matthew 28:18). We might compare this to the relationship between the Chairman of the Board and the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of a company or corporation. Like, for example, company owner Henry Ford “making” cars (not personally) but through his executive officer or manager.
• Hebrews 1:2 – “…through whom [Jesus] also He [the Father] made the worlds.” Jesus is the Creator God who made the visible and invisible heavens and the earth. [See also John 1:1-3; Ephesians 3:9; Colossians 1:16.] John 1:1 calls Jesus “the Word” (Greek logos), because — as also God Himself — He created the worlds through His word or command. “When He commanded, they were created,” as Psalm 148:5 affirms.
• Hebrews 1:3 – “…upholding all things by the word of His power…” Colossians 1:17 says, “…in Him [Jesus] all things consist.” Jesus has both the power to create and sustain the creation through the power of His word. Even as God incarnate [God in the form of human flesh], Jesus had full powers over the material universe and the spirits. He could walk on water, calm stormy waters, heal the sick, raise the dead back to life, read people’s thoughts, cast out demons; He had the authority to call legions of angels to His aid if necessary, etc. He was the YHVH of the Old Testament who dealt with mankind, from Adam to Noah, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to Moses and all the prophets of old. He struck a covenant with the children of Israel, according to His unconditional promise to the fathers, and gave them His law at Mt. Sinai. [See: Peter Knew “The Holy One” and The True Christ.]
• John 5:22 – “For the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son” – that is, at Jesus’ return. At His first coming, Jesus did not condemn or judge the world (John 3:17). While Jesus hasn’t returned, His words (both the Old and the New Testaments) will judge mankind – especially those called to salvation now, in this present age (John 12:48; 1 Peter 4:17).
• Acts 4:12 – “…for there is no other name [than Jesus] under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” Jesus is “the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). And, as our risen Lord, He is our “High Priest” at the right hand of the Father to intercede for us (Hebrews 4:15-16; 7:25). We are to look to Jesus for help in our time of need (Hebrews 12:1-2) – physical or spiritual.
• John 17:6-7 – “I have manifested Your name to the men whom You have given Me out of the world. They were Yours, You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word. Now they have known that all things which You have given Me are from You.” While the church is kept in the Father’s (God’s) name, the church also belongs to Jesus Christ. That is why Paul mentions “the churches of Christ,” in Romans 16:16.
4. Jesus is worthy of worship.
The angels, “living creatures” and spirit-elders in heaven worship Jesus: “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom, and strength and honor and glory and blessing” (Revelation 5:11-12, 14).
• Acts 3:14-15 – “But you denied the Holy One and the Just, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, and killed the Prince of life, whom God raised from the dead, of which we are witnesses.” Jesus was the Holy One of Israel (Isaiah 45:11-12, etc., etc.) whom the Israelites worshiped (or should have!).
• Matthew 28:9, 17 – “…So they came and held Him [the resurrected Jesus] by the feet and worshiped Him.” See also Luke 24:52 and John 9:38.
• Philippians 2:9-11 – “Therefore God also has highly exalted Him [Jesus] and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
5. We honor the Father when we honor Jesus.
“For the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son, that all should honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him” (John 5:22-23). We honor Jesus best by imitating Him! Paul’s goal for the church was that Christ be formed in the brethren (Galatians 4:19).
• John 10:30 – “I and the Father are one.” [See also John 17:22.] Jesus and the Father are so close and harmonious in their relationship that they are “one” in much the same way that in a healthy relationship a husband and his wife become “one” although they are two distinct persons |(Genesis 2:24; Matthew 19:4-6). For this reason, when we honor Jesus, we automatically honor the Father as well.
• Luke 6:46 – “But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say?” We honor and love Jesus as our Lord when we keep His commandments and words: “If you love Me, keep My commandments…He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me…If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word…” (John 14:15, 21). Jesus’ commandments are found not only in the New Testament, but also in the Old, because it was He (before His mysterious human birth) who gave Israel the commandments to live by. “For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them [Israel in the wilderness], and that Rock was Christ” (1 Corinthians 10:4). [See: Is Jesus Your Lord -- Really? The Law of Christ, and The True Christ.]
• Acts 7:59-60 – “And they stoned Stephen as he was calling on God and saying, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’ Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, ‘Lord, do not charge them with this sin’…” While Jesus taught that our prayers should, in general, be addressed to the Father (Matthew 6: 6,9), we have the example of Stephen to show that it is not wrong to address Jesus directly in our prayers when the occasion calls for it. It’s like Peter, who while sinking in the water, called out to Jesus, “Lord, save me!” (Matthew 14:30).
From these scriptural testimonies, I trust that it is clear and inevitable that our focus of worship and obedience should be Jesus. We do not thus disregard God the Father, nor do we make Him inferior to Jesus Christ. We need to look to Jesus as “the author and finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2). God the Father has so appointed Him, that Jesus tells us: “…without Me, you can do nothing” (John 15:5).
That is why the apostle Paul has declared, in Colossians 1:18 – “And He [Jesus] is the head of the body, the church…that in all things He may have the preeminence.” Jesus should be preeminent and central in the life of the church!
That is why we are to preach “the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” My certificate of ordination to the rank of “preaching elder” on Feb. 5, 1982 done by Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong when he was in Manila designates me as a qualified “minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” We preach not only Jesus’ person, but also – and more importantly – what He taught [the “gospel or “good news”] through His Holy Word (the Bible) about the way to salvation from sin and to living a life that is pleasing to Him and the Father and leading to everlasting life. “More than Thy name, Thy Word is enlarged,” (as Psalm 138:2 has been paraphrased).
Those in the evangelical circles who claim to be “Christ-centered” and are preaching “the Gospel of Jesus Christ” and call Him “Lord, Lord” but do not do what He says (Luke 6:46) are not centered on the true and real Jesus! Instead, they worship someone they “know not what or who”(John 4:22) – a false Christ! Jesus prophesied that, in these our end times, many “false Christs” and “false prophets” would proliferate (Matthew 24:24), deceiving many – even, if it were possible, the “elect” – the true people of God! [See: Fake News , Beware of False Prophets and Is Jesus Your Lord -- Really?]
Claiming to be “Christ-centered,” these evangelicals observe “Christmas” – supposedly in honor of Christ. But since the Bible definitely shows that Jesus could not have been born anywhere near December, these evangelicals (among them, sadly, brethren in the WCG, now renamed “Grace Communion International” or GCI) are observing a lie!
Jesus said that the Father seeks those who will worship Him “in spirit and in truth” (John 4:23-24). Celebrating a lie honors neither Jesus nor the Father! Nor does celebrating the Lord’s memorial of His death (Passover) on the wrong date honor Jesus. [Evangelicals, following the dictum of Pope Gregory centuries ago, observe “Maundy Thursday” (Maundy means “commanded” – by the pope!) and “Good Friday.” Those who have studied the Hebrew or Jewish calendar know very well that Jesus wasn’t crucified on a Friday, nor was He resurrected on a Sunday, which most observe as “Easter.”) [For more understanding concerning these issues, see this link: https://www.herbert-armstrong.org., click ENTER HERE, select “Books & Booklets," and scroll down to the booklets titled “The Plain Truth About Christmas,” "Pagan Holidays or God’s Holy Days—Which?””How Often Should We Partake of the ‘Lord’s Supper?’” The Plain Truth About Easter,” and“The Resurrection Was Not on Sunday!]
As a result of this deception, these evangelicals have turned against the Holy Days of God as some kind of “bondage” – even, as one church leader suggests, a stumbling block to Gentiles accepting the Gospel of Jesus. Nothing could be more wrong! God’s festivals are actually all about Christ and His saving work! [See: God’s Feasts in the Book of Acts: Mere Time Markers – or to Be Observed? and True Worship.]
To evangelicals, the “Gospel of Jesus Christ” tells about such love of God for sinners that He gave His only begotten Son to die for our forgiveness from sin and our ransom from death (as John 3:16 famously declares). [See: The Ransomed of the LORD.] All Christians should believe this, too – absolutely! Evangelicals glory in the sacrifice of Christ at Calvary – and rightly so, as true Christians should also. But evangelicals stop short at that. They refuse to see that the grace and forgiveness of God given us through Christ empowers us, through Christ’s Spirit, to obey God’s laws and do good works. [See: The Higher Law of the Spirit and God’s Spirit and Obedience.]
Paul wrote to Titus: “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people zealous for good works” (Titus 2:11-14). Paul also wrote: “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10). [See: Saved for Good Works and “I Never Knew You!”]
Evangelicals, through their lopsided gospel of grace, have blinded themselves (and others) to Jesus’ reply to the young ruler who asked Him the way to eternal life: “…if you want to enter into life [everlasting], keep the commandments (Matthew 19:17). Jesus also reveals: “Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may enter through the gates into the city [the New Jerusalem]” (Revelation 22:14).
In reality, the “Gospel of Jesus Christ” is not only about His person, but also about the Kingdom of God, and how one may enter it. The apostle Paul preached about both Jesus and the Kingdom of God (Acts 28: 23, 31).
We are heading in the right direction when we become Christ-centered and preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and the kingdom.
Why should we be Christ-centered and preach the real Gospel of Jesus Christ?
Jesus gives us a good reason: “If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honor (John 12:26). The Father will not honor us if we worship Jesus in a way He has commanded us not to – by applying pagan holidays and practices and “claiming” them for Christ – to use these to worship Jesus (Deuteronomy 12:30). To them, Jesus would say: “‘In vain they worship Me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.’ For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men…” (Mark 7:7-8).
When we love and honor Jesus by keeping His commandments, He and the Father will love us in a special way: “He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him” (John 14:21).
Is it any wonder that The True Christ has not really revealed Himself to these evangelicals? Instead, they have preached a false “Christ” and a false “gospel.”
The greatest honor we can hope to receive from the Father is to be called His very own children in the fullest sense! To become truly a part of His glorious household, His divine family, His everlasting kingdom – and to enjoy “at [His] right hand…pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11)! Pleasures now unimaginable! [See: Are We All God’s Children?]
In order to receive that honor, let’s be truly Christ-centered — as I have explained –and be 100% behind the preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ!
Pedro R. Meléndez Jr.
26 02 2011/090320019