This should be a simple answer for Christians, but sadly there has been much confusion about the gospel. We seem to bring out what the gospel effects in Scripture and in life to being the gospel. The focus of the gospel will turn to the story of Scripture or to the implications of the gospel. The story of Scripture can be summed up as God created, Man sinned, Jesus saves, and God restores (peace with God in heaven). While the story of Scripture is biblical, God creating is not the gospel. Yes, all things have been created through and for Jesus (Col. 1:16), but creation is not the gospel. Gospel means good news, but creation is not the gospel Paul mentions in 1 Corinthians 15. The gospel of John starts with creation, but good news comes to trump bad news and the bad news came after the fall in Genesis 3, not Genesis 1.
Another focus on the gospel is the implications of the gospel. For instance, the gospel changes the way we live. One of those is racism. During the New Testament, there was hostility between Jews and non-Jews (Gentiles). The Jews even called those who were not Gentiles the uncircumcised. Name designation is hate, just like racism. But Jesus came to bring peace between us and God. There is no peace with God because of sin, but because of Jesus we can have peace with God. This peace transforms us to have peace with others. Christ tore down the dividing wall of hostility between the Jews and Gentiles to put hostility to death through the death of Jesus on the cross (Ephesians 2:11-16). Peace with others is an effect of the gospel, but that is not the gospel. Ending racism in one’s heart is good, but this is the not the good news that leads one to salvation. Not being racist toward someone can lead that person to salvation, but that is not the message we share. The gospel brings transformation, but the transformation is not the gospel. Peace with God comes before peace with others. The implications of the gospel are great when applied, but the implications are not the gospel.
So what is the gospel? The gospel is the story of Jesus. The story of Jesus points us to the person of Jesus and the works of Jesus. The gospel (good news) takes us to a person who made the way to fix the sin in our lives (bad news). The story of Jesus is as follows:
- Jesus came.
- Jesus died on a cross.
- Jesus was buried.
- Jesus rose from the grave.
- Jesus is coming back.
Simply put, the story of Jesus is Jesus came into this world to live a sinless life. While Jesus lived a life without sin, Jesus was betrayed by one of his own disciples and handed over to Jewish and Roman authorities to be punished to death, even though no one could find a fault in him. Innocently, Jesus was sentenced to die a criminal’s death on a Roman cross leading him to pay the penalty for our sins so we would have forgiveness of sins. Our sin is a serious offense against God with the wages of sin leading to death. This is why Jesus needed to die on the cross, so we would not bear the punishment for our sins and instead have our sins forgiven through the death of Jesus. It was at this moment that Jesus died on a cross. After Jesus died, he was buried in a tomb, but the story is not over. The tomb Jesus was placed in was on loan. On the third day of Jesus’ death, He rose from the grave! The stone in front of Jesus’ tomb was rolled away not so Jesus could escape, but so we would believe Jesus won the victory for our forgiveness of sins and fear of death. Jesus rose from the grave, is now with the Father, and is waiting until God’s appointed time to come back. Jesus is coming back, and when he does, it will be for another reason. Jesus came first to rescue us from our sins, but the return of Jesus will be to judge whether we have received or rejected Jesus. To receive Jesus is to repent of your sins and believe in Jesus as God’s Son to save you from sin. To reject Jesus is to see what Jesus did for you as hogwash. But this receiving of Jesus is not so you will have fire insurance, but so you would live the life you were created to live before sin entered the DNA of humanity. Jesus brings a change of life molding us to live like Him.
The story of Jesus is the gospel. Not the story of Scripture nor the implications of the gospel. The story of Scripture points to Jesus, but it is not the gospel. The implications of the gospel come from Jesus, but those implications are not the gospel. The gospel is Jesus and what He did to save us from our sins.