What is the Gospel?
January 12, 2020
Ask the question, “What is the gospel?” (even in the church) and you will get almost as many answers to that question as there are people. There just does not seem to be much consensus on that question.
In his book, What is the Gospel? Greg Gilbert recounts some of the more common responses to what the gospel is:
The good news is, God wants to show you his incredible favor. He wants to fill your life with “new wine,” but are you willing to get rid of your old wineskins? Will you start thinking bigger? Will you enlarge your vision and get rid of those old negative mind-sets that hold you back?
The message of Jesus may well be called the most revolutionary of all time: “The radical revolutionary empire of God is here, advancing by reconciliation and peace, expanding by faith, hope, and love—beginning with the poorest, the weakest, the meekest, and the least. It’s time to change your thinking. Everything is about to change. It’s time for a new way of life. Believe me. Follow me. Believe this good news so you can learn to live by it and be part of the revolution.”
The good news is that God’s face will always be turned toward you, regardless of what you have done, where you have been, or how many mistakes you’ve made. He loves you and is turned in your direction, looking for you.
The gospel itself refers to the proclamation that Jesus, the crucified and risen Messiah, is the one, true, and only Lord of the world.
Good news! God is becoming King and he is doing it through Jesus! And therefore, phew!, God’s justice, God’s peace, God’s world is going to be renewed. And in the middle of that, of course, it’s good news for you and me. But that’s the derivative from, or the corollary of the good news which is a message about Jesus that has a second-order effect on me and you and us. But the gospel is not itself about you are this sort of a person and this can happen to you. That’s the result of the gospel rather than the gospel itself. . . . Salvation is the result of the gospel, not the center of the gospel itself.
The gospel is the proclamation of Jesus, in [two] senses. It is the proclamation announced by Jesus—the arrival of God’s realm of possibility (his “kingdom”) in the midst of human structures of possibility. But it is also the proclamation about Jesus—the good news that in dying and rising, Jesus has made the kingdom he proclaimed available to us.
As a Christian, I am simply trying to orient myself around living a particular kind of way, the kind of way that Jesus taught is possible. And I think that the way of Jesus is the best possible way to live.… Over time when you purposefully try to live the way of Jesus, you start noticing something deeper going on. You begin realizing the reason this is the best way to live is that it is rooted in profound truths about how the world is. You find yourself living more and more in tune with ultimate reality. You are more and more in sync with how the universe is at its deepest levels.…The first Christians announced this way of Jesus as “the good news.”
My understanding of Jesus’ message is that he teaches us to live in the reality of God now—here and today. It’s almost as if Jesus just keeps saying, “Change your life. Live this way.”
As Gilbert notes in his response to those answers,
If you had never heard of Christianity, what would you think after [hearing] those few [statements]? You’d obviously know that Christians intend to be communicating some message that is good. But beyond that, it’s just a jumble. Is the good news simply that God loves me, and that I need to start thinking more positively? Is it that Jesus is a really good example who can teach me to live a loving and compassionate life? It might have something to do with sin and forgiveness. Apparently some Christians think this good news has something to do with Jesus’ death. Others apparently don’t.
We need to learn the basics of the gospel so that we can give an extended explanation or a short explanation (3 minutes or less). If the gospel is the source of eternal life and joy (and it is), the one thing we cannot afford to do is be unclear about what it is. Close may count in horseshoes and hand grenades, but it does not count in the gospel. To be “almost” saved is to be eternally lost.
So this morning I want to consider with you what the gospel is. Not every time you have a gospel conversation will you be able to tell everything about the gospel, but we need to be equipped to share whatever part of the gospel is appropriate at the needed time. So I want to ask and answer this question this morning —
How can we be more effective in communicating the gospel? By knowing the gospel.
I want to explain the gospel three ways: the basics of the gospel — (1) what are the components of the gospel? and then (2) the gospel in 3 minutes (or maybe five) — if you only have a brief time, what can you say about the gospel that will help someone come to know Christ? And then, (3) the gospel in one sentence.
- The Gospel in Six Words
- The Gospel in Three Minutes
- The Gospel in One Sentence
Download the rest of this sermon on the gospel.
The audio will be posted on the GBC website by tomorrow.