It’s not a matter of Christ should be the center of our theology. Scripture shows us that he simply is the center of our theology. Herman Bavinck is certainly right when he says, “The doctrine of Christ is not the starting point, but it certainly is the central point of the whole system of dogmatics. All other dogmas either prepare for it or are inferred from it.” Let’s briefly (!) consider how this is true by looking at every major theological loci.
The Doctrine of Scripture
God gave us Scripture to set forth his plan of salvation in Christ to provide the knowledge of this salvation (Luke 24:27, 44; 2 Tim 3:14-17). Christ is the fulfillment of the Old Testament Scripture (Matt 5:17), but the Pharisees missed it: they studied the Scripture, but they did not see Christ as the centerpiece and Savior to which the sacred text pointed (John 5:39-44). The written Word is given to bring us into relationship with the incarnate Word (John 1:14; Heb 1:1-2) on whose words we feed in Scripture (John 15:6-7).
The Doctrine of God
Christ is fully God (John 1:1-3; 14; Col 1:15-16; Heb 1:3-4). He has existed from all eternity in fellowship with the Father and the Holy Spirit (John 17:5). He is one in essence and purpose with the Father (John 10:30) and he is worthy of equal reverence, obedience, and worship with the Father (John 5:23-24; Heb 1:6; Rev 5:8-14).
The Doctrine of Creation
The universe was created specifically to showcase Jesus Christ (Col 1:15-16) and unite all things in him (Eph 1:9-10). God the Son created all things (John 1:1-3; Heb 1:1-3) and presently upholds all things (Col 1:17; Heb 1:3). It was God’s plan that the entire cosmos would be reconciled through Christ’s work on the cross (Col 1:20).
The Doctrine of Salvation
The doctrine of salvation and all its sub-categories relate directly into the Person and work of Christ. We are justified by faith alone in Christ (Rom 5:1); we are elected to inherit salvation in Christ so that the benefits of grace alone are enjoyed only in union with Christ (Eph 1:3-14). Christ is our sanctification (1 Cor 1:30), and only Christ’s cross work atones for all our sin (Rom 3:21-26; Col 2:13; Heb 9:14-15, 26). Christ’s resurrection secures our justification (Rom 4:25), raises us to new spiritual life (Eph 2:5-7), and guarantees our future bodily resurrection (1 Cor 15:20-23). Christ presently intercedes on our behalf (Heb 7:25), holds us fast in his hand (John 10:27-30) and supplies us with the Spirit whose joy is to exalt Jesus Christ in the hearts of his followers (John 16:14).
The Doctrine of Humanity
Fallen man is being renewed and restored by Christ (Heb 2:6-18). Christ is the picture of perfect humanity (Col 1:15). God’s providential control of the entire cosmos is focused on transforming his people into the image of his Son (Rom 8:28-29). God’s people will someday be raised to life and receive a new body like the body of their Lord Jesus Christ (Phil 3:20-21).
The Doctrine of the Church
Christ is the builder of his church (Matt 16:18) and the head of it (Eph 1:22; Col 1:18) because the church is Christ’s body (Col 1:24). The Church universal is the bride of Christ (Eph 5:22-33) that has been purchased by the blood of Christ (Acts 20:28; Rev 5:9).
The Doctrine of Angels/Demons
Christ rules over the angels and demons. They are not his spiritual siblings; they are his creatures over which he is God and King (Col 1:15-16). The angels presently worship Christ (Heb 1:6); and the demons bow down in his presence (Mark 5:6-7).
The Doctrine of the End Times
The Father’s plan of salvation terminates on the universe bowing down before Jesus Christ as the Lord and God of the universe (Phil 2:10-11). Therefore, God’s people long for the appearing of their great God and Savior, Jesus Christ (Titus 2:14) so that they might see his glory (John 17:5) and marvel at him (2 Thess 1:10). Meanwhile, Christ’s people purify themselves in anticipation of his coming (1 John 3:3). Christ will soon be the judge of all the people on earth (Acts 17:31; John 5:23-24) and he will be the centerpiece of life and worship in the New Heavens and New Earth (Rev 5:8-14; Rev 22:2).
Every theological discussion, interest, and loci, in order to be properly understood and spiritually useful, must center itself around the Person and work of Jesus Christ. Failure here will lead to misinterpretation and misapplication of Scripture, misuse of theology, spiritual instability, mysticism, and pride. May we keep Christ at the center of our theology for the good of our souls and the glory of God (Phil 2:10-11).
Herman Bavinck, Sin and Salvation in Christ, vol. 3 of Reformed Dogmatics ed. John Bolt, trans. John Vriend (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2006) 274; quoted in Wellum, Christ Alone, 22; emphasis added.