What is the Gospel?
About a year ago, a dear friend and brother in Christ asked me the question; what is the Gospel? He was conducting an informal survey amongst His Christian friends to come up with a solid, concrete, definition of what the Gospel really is. I gave about a three-sentence response that he said was one of the best that he had received, but still seemed incomplete. I was flattered and humbled at what the Lord has shown me, but felt like something was missing as well. This raised my curiosity to hear what others had said, because I, like him, saw this as a huge problem that professing Christians had differing views of what the Gospel was. The responses varied from: the first four books of the New Testament, the story of Jesus, Jesus died for our sins, etc. All of them were accurate, but lacking. This sent me on a quest to search into what the Gospel really was. You have probably heard “preach the Gospel to yourself daily”, but if we do not know what the Gospel is, it will possibly bring more harm than good.
As I dig further, I see that the Gospel has been tainted. It has become soft and led to professing Christians that are squishy, lukewarm. Paul, Peter, and the others weren’t squishy, why are we, why am I? Maybe it is because we have lost the whole meaning of what the Gospel is. I want to hopefully paint a picture that lends itself to a better understanding of what the Gospel is. This is my humble attempt to become less squishy. I hate being squishy.
The early church wasn’t squishy. Peter preached the Gospel this way:
22 “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— 23 this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. 24 God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.
25 For David says concerning him,“
‘I saw the Lord always before me, for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken; 26 therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced; my flesh also will dwell in hope.27 For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let your Holy One see corruption.28 You have made known to me the paths of life; you will make me full of gladness with your presence.’
29 “Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. 30 Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, 31 he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. 32 This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. 33 Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. 34 For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says,
“‘The Lord said to my Lord,
“Sit at my right hand, 35 until I make your enemies your footstool.”’
36 Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” (Acts 2:22-36)
This sermon, it says in verse 37 “pierced their heart”. When is the last time my heart was pierced? Had it ever been?
Peter wasn’t squishy. He couldn’t afford to be. In fact, when two of his converts Ananias and Sapphira tried to be squishy in Acts 5, we see God blows them up as if to say, you are not just going to dip your toes in the pool, I want to see a cannon ball!
Paul wasn’t squishy either. He said in Romans 1: 16 “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “But the righteous man shall live by faith.”
We find his succinct outline of the Gospel in two places. First, in 1 Corinthians 15, one of the earliest New Testament writings, he spends the entire chapter explaining it. Then, in Romans, he breaks it down this way.
“19 Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, so that every mouth may be closed and all the world may become accountable to God; 20 because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin. 21 But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22 even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; 25 whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; 26 for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.”
You may have heard of the “Romans Road to Salvation”. I researched five different sites and there were five different compilations of verses. Although the gist was the same, the list was slightly different. This one, taken from http://www.teenmissions.org/resources/roman-road-to-salvation/ was the most extensive.
Romans 3:23 NKJV – for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
Romans 3:10 NKJV – As it is written: “There is none righteous, no, not one;
Romans 5:12 NKJV – Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned–
Romans 6:23 NKJV – For the wages of sin [is] death, but the gift of God [is] eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 5:8 NKJV – But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Romans 10:9-10 NKJV – that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation
Romans 10:13 NKJV – For “whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.”
Romans 10:17 NKJV – So then faith [comes] by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
This systematic approach to the Gospel is good, it is truth, it is God-breathed scripture, but I think this might be why we are squishy. It is only part of the story. Don’t get me wrong, it is a GOOD part, but it is only part. Where is the focus? I may be wrong, but it seems to be on me, us, I need this to get that. The focus is not how Awesome God is! It needs to be, that is why we are put on this earth, to glorify Him, not the other way around. The Gospel must include the preeminence of Christ.
“15He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. 17 He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. 18 He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything. 19 For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, 20 and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven.” (Colossians 1 15:20).
“5 For He did not subject to angels the world to come, concerning which we are speaking. 6 But one has testified somewhere, saying,
“What is man, that You remember him?
Or the son of man, that You are concerned about him?
7 “You have made him for a little while lower than the angels;
You have crowned him with glory and honor,
And have appointed him over the works of Your hands;
8 You have put all things in subjection under his feet.”
For in subjecting all things to him, He left nothing that is not subject to him. But now we do not yet see all things subjected to him.
9 But we do see Him who was made for a little while lower than the angels, namely, Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone.
10 For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to perfect the author of their salvation through sufferings. 11 For both He who sanctifies and those who are sanctified are all from one Father; for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren,” (Hebrews 2: 5-11).
The apostles weren’t squishy, their Gospel was not soft. It couldn’t be, their persecution was real. They were commanded to stop, yet they replied they couldn’t. They weren’t worried about losing friends, family members, jobs, because their persecution would require their lives. Their response:
“For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21)
I wonder what my response would be…
The Gospel is the story of Jesus, but it doesn’t start with Mary hearing from Gabriel; it doesn’t start with Isaiah, David, Abraham, or Moses. The story of Jesus starts with the very first line in Genesis: “In the Beginning…” This story also doesn’t end at the cross, or even the empty tomb. It ends in the very last line of Revelation: “Amen” Jesus is the beginning and the end, the maker of heaven and earth, He is the Gospel, He is the focus, He is amazing.