What is the Gospel?

by | Mar 16, 2022 | Bible & Theology | 0 comments

People sometimes ask me how I would summarise the Gospel. It’s a good question. I usually define the Gospel with reference to eight things:

1. 2 Timothy 2:8 – The Gospel is the story and message of “Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my Gospel.”

2. 1 Corinthians 15:1–28 – The Gospel is of first importance. 1 Corinthians 15:3–4 tells us that the Gospel is “of first importance.” What is the Gospel? “Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, he was buried, and he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.” How does this Gospel shape our lives, communities, and theology? “For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.”

3. John 3:16–21 – The Gospel is the message that God loves a sinful, broken, suffering world and sent his only Son to redeem, save, and heal. Those who believe in him are saved, but those who reject him stand condemned. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.”

4. Luke 4:18–19 – Jesus’s mandate gives us a window into how this Gospel is outworked. It challenges us to apply the Gospel in compassionate, just, and holistic ways – in word, sign, and deed.

5. The sermons in Acts (such as Acts 2, 7, and 17) give us a window into how the Early Church understood, contextualised, and communicated the Gospel.

6. In a broader sense, the Gospel is the story of Jesus unpacked in the four Gospels. There is a reason why they were called “the Gospels.”

7. The Gospel is the story of God restoring all things (humanity and creation) to God’s original goodness, wellbeing, peace, and intent (i.e. shalom). This shalom extends to creation (Is. 11:6–8), humanity (Is. 11:9), and nations (Is. 2:2–4). Shalom is God’s gift now in Jesus Christ – but it is only experienced fully in the future. Jesus Christ is shalom. Jesus Christ brings shalom – the healing and restoration of and between all things (humanity, creation, God-humans), both now and then entirely in the future (our eschatological hope).

8. The Gospel is also the story of God the Father (Genesis to Revelation), reaching its climax in the person and work of Jesus Christ. The Gospel is the climax of the defining narrative. This narrative is the story of the triune God, reaching its pinnacle in Jesus Christ’s story. The Gospel is the climax of this defining narrative. The entire, defining, biblical story (Genesis to Revelation) describes our being. It frames our identity. It determines our purpose. It gives us our mission. And it reveals our hope. This story of God (reaching its climax in Christ) must frame, infuse, and shape all Christian beliefs, practices, and theologies. This includes, of course, our understanding of Jesus Christology, the Holy Spirit, mission, the church, salvation, and the final age to come.

The Gospel story extends from creation to the end of history and the consummation of God’s kingdom. A Gospel-shaped theology is a Christ-centered vision that acknowledges the centrality and value of the whole biblical witness and narrative. At the same time, it honours the climax of that story, in the person and work of Jesus Christ (as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15). So, the Gospel calls us to attend to personal salvation and restore all things in Christ. The Gospel is an invitation to join the story of the triune God, of biblical Israel, of the Jewish Jesus, and God’s reign. The story of Jesus defines our vision of the church, mission, and discipleship. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the climax of that story (the defining moment in history and for our lives, the church, and all humanity and creation).

When asked to define the Gospel, I always go back to 1 Corinthians 15:1–28 and John 3:16–21.

What am I missing? What would you change or add to my summary of the Gospel?

Rev. Dr. Graham Joseph Hill, Ph.D.

Graham Joseph Hill (Ph.D., Flinders University) is State Leader for Baptist Mission Australia (Western Australia). He was formerly the Principal of an Australian theological college and Assoc. Professor of the University of Divinity. Graham has planted and pastored churches and been in ministry since 1988. Graham is the author or editor of 12 books. He also directs The Global Church ProjectGraham writes at grahamjosephhill.com

© 2022 All rights reserved by Graham Joseph Hill. Copying and republishing this article on other Web sites, or in any other place, without written permission is prohibited.

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