Thursday, August 18, 2011

What is the Gospel?

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="192" caption="Cover via Amazon"]Cover of "God Is the Gospel: Meditations ...[/caption]

The other day I posted on 7 phrases the Gospel is not. Today, I would like to focus on what exactly is the Gospel. You've heard the saying, "we must preach the Gospel to ourselves." Perhaps, you've heard about living out the Gospel, sharing the Gospel with others, or living the Gospel-centered life. What does all of that mean and what is the Gospel that we should be preaching, living, and sharing? Merriam-Webster defines Gospel as the following:

1 a often capitalized : the message concerning Christ, the kingdom of God, and salvation b capitalized : one of the first four New Testament books telling of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christalso : a similar apocryphal book c : an interpretation of the Christian message <the socialgospel>

capitalized : a lection from one of the New Testament Gospels

: the message or teachings of a religious teacher

: something accepted or promoted as infallible truth or as a guiding principle or doctrine <took her words as gospel><spreading the gospel of conservation — R. M. Hodesh>

: gospel music

Literally taken from the Bible, the word translated "Gospel" means "good news." Here's the full Greek definition:


nominative,singular, neuter

  1. a reward for good tidings

  2. good tidings

    1. the glad tidings of the kingdom of God soon to be set up, and subsequently also of Jesus the Messiah, the founder of this kingdom. After the death of Christ, the term comprises also the preaching of (concerning) Jesus Christ as having suffered death on the cross to procure eternal salvation for the men in the kingdom of God, but as restored to life and exalted to the right hand of God in heaven, thence to return in majesty to consummate the kingdom of God

    2. the glad tidings of salvation through Christ

    3. the proclamation of the grace of God manifest and pledged in Christ

    4. the gospel

    5. as the messianic rank of Jesus was proved by his words, his deeds, and his death, the narrative of the sayings, deeds, and death of Jesus Christ came to be called the gospel or glad tidings

gospel, gospel of Christ, gospel of God, gospel of the Kingdom, misc

This is the same word that we get our words, evangelist and evangelism, from. The problem I see is that we have distorted the message. The Gospel is a message. We speak of the Gospel so much, but we rarely define what the Gospel is. We attempt to apologize the Scriptures to people, to attempt them to see that the Scriptures are true and calling that, sharing the Gospel.  We attempt to prove the Trinity to people, using egg or water illustrations, and we call that the Gospel.  We declare that Jesus is coming back and we call that the Gospel. We tell them that God loves them and has a wonderful plan for their life and call that the Gospel. However, we've missed the Gospel.

Jesus preached the gospel of the kingdom often (Matt. 4:23, 9:35, 24:14). He told His disciples to preach the Gospel often. They were to preach it in all the world, making disciples, teaching all that Jesus had commanded, and baptizing (Matt. 28:18-20). What is the Gospel that they preached? One word: Jesus. Jesus is the Gospel. The Gospel is not the Romans Road, the Four Spiritual Laws, or whatever other "evangelism" method you choose to come up with. Now, the Romans Road, is pure scripture and contains truth about the Gospel, but as I continue to think about this, I think we often start at the wrong place. All people are sinners, yes, but in today's culture, that's a little hard to pull off telling someone. That might be the place that God is putting someone, but overall, it might not be the best place to start with most people.

Let me explain where I think we should start. The apostle Paul said it best:

[2:1] And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom.
[2] For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.
[3] And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling,
[4] and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power,
[5] so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.

(1 Corinthians 2:1; 1 Corinthians 2:2-5 ESV)

We don't see Paul arriving in a private jet, limo, or some other fancy means. We don't see him sitting on a stage on a gold throne next to a woman doled out in enough paint to cover a house three times over. He doesn't tout his seminary and doctoral degrees as proof that he knows what he's talking about. What is the message or Gospel that Paul is preaching? It's found in verse 2: Jesus Christ and him crucified. That is the Gospel. That is what we are to preach, both to ourselves and to the world.  Is that too simplistic? Sure sounds like it, but it worked for Paul. It worked for Jesus as well. All through the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, we find Jesus consistently preaching Himself and the fact that He was going to be crucified and raised to life. It's the very same message. God wants us to know Jesus Christ. He wants us to know him as Yahweh, the name above all names, our Savior and our Lord. That is the Gospel. That is the message we need to preach. John Piper said it best when he called his book, God is the Gospel, because that is the truth. God, Jesus Christ, is the good news to all mankind. Let us stop all this non-Biblical apologetics and give people Jesus instead. Their hearts will be changed to believe the rest once Jesus has changed their hearts to believe in Him.