What is the Gospel?
Caesar Kalinoski asked a group of pastors this question: “What is the gospel?” Their answer... Well, they had many different answers such as “creation, sin, Jesus, the cross, or the kingdom.” How confusing!
While each of these answers may be a part of the gospel, it is a sad day when the leadership of God’s people is not able to clearly articulate the gospel. My hunch is that if we were to take a poll of people in the seats with the question, “How would you define the gospel?”, there would be a wide variety of answers. Is it any wonder that sharing what the Christian faith is all about leaves many people muddled and uncertain?
Let me ask you, “How do you define the gospel?” Go ahead! Take a moment to write out your answer.
The Apostle Paul gave us a clear definition of the Gospel in First Corinthians 15:3-5. He wrote: “For I passed on to you as most important what I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the scriptures and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve.”
This was Paul’s message in town after town. It is a powerful statement. However, if you don’t understand the significance of each point, it may seem that Paul was just piling up words. This statement conveys the idea that you and I are so loved by God that He sent His only Son to die as the penalty, so we could be forgiven our sins and reconciled to a new, God-empowered relationship.
Here is a more modern definition that might give us a better sense of what Paul meant by the gospel: “The gospel is that God himself has come to rescue and renew creation in and through the work of Jesus Christ on our behalf.” (From The Gospel Primer, p. 2).
The gospel is all about Christ Jesus. The gospel is Jesus front and center in who He is, what He has done for us, and how we are to respond to Him. The gospel is the “great exchange.” Jesus takes away my sin but in the process, He offers me His very life, eternal life. What was once all about “me” now becomes all about “Him.”
I like Frank Viola’s reflection on this issue. He says, “Conversion is more than a change of direction; it’s a change of connection.” (Jesus Manifesto) The gospel is the good news of how we broken, alienated sinners can be personally connect with the God of the universe through His son, Jesus.
All this is to say we must get serious about understanding the meaning of the gospel. It is one thing to talk about having a personal relationship with Jesus and another to start living like it. If I am connected to Christ, then I am living in a love-relationship with Him. My heart is transformed on the inside, and my relationships and service are transformed on the outside. The focus is now on Christ.
We live in a Christian culture that has lost its identity and purpose, because it has lost sight of Jesus. Wasn’t it Jesus who focused all his teaching on the Kingdom of God? Wasn’t it Jesus who taught the values of the kingdom – love of God and neighbor, humility, extra-mile servanthood, generosity, righteous living?
The gospel is to be so connected to God that my one desire is to exalt Him. Let’s stick with the true gospel – nothing more or less than Christ.