What Is The Gospel Meant To Be?

Published on March 15, 2010 by CT in Blog, Questions


Last week, I asked the question:  “Can we overemphasize the gospel?”  Hundreds have considered this question, and a number have weighed in on the issue.  One reader in particular, Russ, ended his comments by asking:  “What is the gospel scripturally meant to be?”  I posed the question back to him, and here’s what he said:

I do not know in full.  The scriptures you provided were a good and proper start.  I think that in some sense, the gospel is to function as our everything.  Or to borrow from Tim Keller, the gospel should function as a complete worldview.  I have recently been affected by the all-encompassing tone of Paul’s self reflection in Philippians 3:7-15, a text where Paul essentially seems to say that he wants to know the gospel well.  We usually focus on the “knowing Christ” aspect of the passage, but Paul seems to include other aspects of the Gospel as personal and effecting, or at least as informing the dynamic of His relationship with Christ.

I feel that the underlying concern here has more to do with the heart than with language or a movement.  I think your post could stand with using the exact same reasoning but could address an over-emphasizing of the terms “Jesus” or “Glory of God” in an unedifying polarity just as well.

The punditry with movements can be good a thing, especially to preserve and refine them, but I also feel that there is really only one true movement:  Christ moved from heaven to earth, from the cross to the grave for our sins, and victoriously back to the Father, and so now we move in that reality.

Personally, I am not very far removed from the error which we wish to avoid here.  So what is my hope?

My hope ultimately is Christ.  But how can I hope on Him and His grace?  I have come to learn only through the gospel alone. I am looking for God to tend to my heart, but I am expecting that to happen only through a deeper realization of the gospel.

So I ask you the same question Russ asked me:  “What is the gospel meant to be?”

*Comments have been edited for form and not content (emphasis added by editor)

  • http://www.jodylynne.blogspot.com Jody

    Making it my goal to let scripture interpret scripture. Jesus is the image of the invisible God…he is the head of the body, the church. For in him(Jesus) all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell…and through Jesus we are reconciled to God…making peace by the blood of his cross. (Colossians 1:18-20)
    I was an enemy of God, God loved me before I loved Him, He sent Jesus to die in my place to bring together God and sinners by the death, burial and resurrection of my Savior. That's what the gospel is meant to be.
    My recent post God's Day

    • Russ K.

      Hey Jody,

      I think this is a great start…and finish….
      We must always begin and end with a clear, concise view of what the Gospel is…
      so that we can be steadfast in communicating it to ourselves as well as others…

      You have definitely defined the content/meaning of the Gospel…
      I'd love to hear what you think the role of the Gospel is…in a Christian's life…

  • Dan Trabue

    I think this is a great question. In reading the NT, we come across the word gospel fairly regularly (ten times in the NIV, mostly uttered by Jesus), and yet, it remains undefined in context. We know the word translated means "good news," but beyond that, we don't have many clues. Jesus says, for instance…

    …no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age; and…

    For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it.

    Perhaps the closest thing we have to a textual hint comes from Jesus in Matthew 24…

    And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.

    And again in Matt 4 and Matt 9, there is the reference to the good news or "gospel of the kingdom."

    Additionally, when Jesus is offering "proof" to John the Baptist that he, Jesus, is the Expected One, Jesus tells John specifically, "the poor have the gospel preached to them."

    Along those lines, when Jesus is beginning his ministry, he proclaims (in the words of Isaiah), I have come to preach good news to the poor…

    So, we know textually that it appears to be

    1. good news of some sort and,
    2. good news specifically of the kingdom of God
    3. for some reason, the goods news of the kingdom of God is preached especially or specifically to the poor.

    We don't see ANY evidence (that I can find) of what "preaching the good news" looks like in the gospels or the words of Jesus. Does it look like presenting the "Romans Road," like many evangelicals have summarized the gospel? Perhaps partially, but I see little or nothing of that specifically in the Gospels.

    Interesting that this term to which we attached such great significance seems to go undefined in the Bible.

    What now?

    • Russ K.

      Good points. 1 Corinthians 1:18 comes to heart and mind for me…

      I consider a questioning (or an examining according to the scriptures) of the role of the Gospel in a Christian's life as immensely progressive…in terms of walking with Him.
      I look forward to other posts and (the Holy Spirit posting it on our hearts) the answer to your question of "What now ? "

      (I am reminded too that Chris started this off right with his first searching of the scriptures…in the linked article at the top of this page entitled "can we over emphasize the Gospel ?")

  • Dan Trabue

    Thanks for the gracious welcome.

    I would think that we might ought to simultaneously consider what the Gospel is NOT, as well as what the Bible does and doesn't say about "the gospel."

    My point: Modern Evangelicals have almost exclusively defined "the gospel" (which, again, goes undefined in the Bible) as "the story of how we're lost and in need of a savior and how Jesus died and rose again, paying the price for our sin so that we might be saved into eternal life. THIS is the whole of the good news of Jesus."

    And that is certainly a central theme (THE central theme?) in the Bible, don't hear me wrong. But I don't think the Bible supports the notion that this entirely defines the gospel of the kingdom, which was to be preached especially and specifically (but not exclusively) to the poor.

    My main concern is that that version of "the gospel" is almost entirely a Pauline gospel and goes awfully light on Jesus actual teachings. In the so-called "great commission" in Matthew, Jesus tells his disciples (charges them with the task?) to, as they are going into the world, make disciples, teaching them "ALL things that I have commanded you."

    Is the Gospel the good news that we, who are so needy, can be saved by God's grace? Absolutely, but I don't think it stops there. The Gospel is also that good news to the poor, that we are beginning our salvation now, that we are beginning kingdom living NOW, that because we are living into the kingdom (by God's grace), that we are freed (or "being freed") to a life of simplicity, to a life of sharing, to a life free of hatred, killing, envy, greed, where the least of these are cared for, where deadly power struggles are a thing of the Old Way and where we are walking in a New Way, in Jesus' steps, overcoming evil with good, tending to and with the least of these.

    ALL of this and more, THIS all is the good news of Christ. Not the strictly excised stuff of part of Paul's teachings.

    Am I making sense? I fear that modern Evangelicals have too tightly (and sometimes harshly) defined down the good news of the kingdom to one overly strict and less than biblical answer.

    You think?

    • Russ K.

      You are very much making sense…we do limit the Gospel when it hardly touches on the main story arc of the Bible.

      I think the majority of the NT epistles take to task the question of which you have raised…in terms of Gospel vs. anti-Gospel….or what the Gospel is not….

      Personally, I operate out of the Pauline perspective (1 Cor. 15:1-4) because it's extra personal (vs. societal) hoping that the implications will be inclusive of the rest of what you offered. (Ex. My sins are personally forgiven, my poverty and debt have been met with grace…this is personal and real…and therefore implies that I should treat any of the poor with the same grace as Christ commands.)

      (I will also offer this, I believe that all of Jesus's teachings were utterly exemplified on the Cross through the Gospel acts and themes of sacrifice, intersession, resurrection and the like.) (I think this often goes overlooked…that every aspect of the way of Jesus, or the way of Kingdom living…can be seen in it's brightest Glory, on the Cross rather than in ourselves…….and seeing that brightest Glory in Christ's darkest hour = wonder, awe.) (May we live out of that personal sense of worship.)

      I confess though, that I struggle with keeping these understandings of the Gospel (which you succinctly described) in their proper balance/ tension. What can I say ? Sin and flesh do not handle the Gospel as well as Spirit and Grace.

      I think that the following article seems to very much be along the same track as your wise comments.

      • Dan Trabue

        Thanks for the thoughts. I do like that Christianity Today article, for the most part. Very helpful thoughts, I think.

        • Russ K.

          I'm glad that you shared.