First things matter, first things are bread and butter. When Christians enter into what Bunyan called the “very miry Slough,” it is the first things that get them through to the other side. It was the recollection of the first things that separated Christian from Pliable; an eye on the narrow Gate, the Celestial City. 
This idea of returning to the first things is incredibly important, particularly in Bible college country. I am especially prone to getting caught up in debates over the millennium, baptism, the covenant, or whatever else. The problem is, though, that unless our eyes are constantly focused on the first things, all these other important issues will become last things. They will become in themselves a very miry Slough.
So what are these first things? Those things which are proported clearly in the Creed. The Triune God: Father, Son, and Spirit. Jesus Christ, crucified under Pontus Pilate. Buried. Raised on the third day. Ascended to the right hand of the Father, from whence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead. The Church universal. These are the first things.
There is much we can learn from the sixteenth century Protestant Reformers. One thing is that they never forgot their roots in the first things. Evidence of this can be seen in the fact that many Reformational creeds and confessions took their shape out of the Apostle’s Creed. The Reformers understood first things. They understood that the only thing that could get anyone, ultimately, through the very miry Slough was Christ crucified and raised. Calvin said of Christ,
He came to quicken the dead, to justify the guilty and condemned, to wash those who were polluted and full of uncleaness, to rescue the lost from hell, to clothe with his glory those who were covered with shame, to renew to a blessed immortality those who were debased by disgusting vices.
First things are always Gospel things.
- The reference here is to The Pilgrims Progress, by John Bunyan.↵
- I have to be careful when making distinctions like these; the history of the Church is one in which all things matter. All things, in reality, are Gospel things. All of Scripture is a good and perfect gift. The Christian life is not about individual people getting everything right, but rather about God saving individual people through Christ. We can’t let our dogmas do the saving, Christ does that. Cf. John 5:39↵
- From Calvin’s Harmoney of the Evangelists, commenting on Matthew 9:12.↵