In his helpful little book, fittingly titled “What is the Gospel?” Greg Gilbert tackles this critical question. In his introduction, Gilbert gives a sampling of how some have answered this question.
“The good news is, God wants to show you his incredible favor. He wants to fill your life with “new wine,” but are you willing to get rid of your old wineskins? Will you start thinking bigger? Will you enlarge your vision and get rid of those old negative mind-sets that hold you back?”
“Here’s the gospel in a phrase. Because Jesus died for us, those who trust in him may know that their guilt has been pardoned once and for all. What will we have to say before the bar of God’s judgment? Only one thing. Christ died in my place. That’s the gospel.”
“The message of Jesus may well be called the most revolutionary of all time: “The radical revolutionary empire of God is here, advancing by reconciliation and peace, expanding by faith, hope, and love – beginning with the poorest, the weakest, the meekest, and the least. It’s time to change your thinking. Everything is about to change. It’s time to follow a new way of life. Believe me. Follow me. Believe this good news so you can learn to live by it and be part of the revolution.”
“The good news is that God’s face will always be turned toward you, regardless of what you have done, where you have been, or how many mistakes you’ve made. He loves you and is turned in your direction, looking for you.”
“The gospel itself refers to the proclamation that Jesus, the crucified and risen Messiah, is the one, true, and only Lord of the world.”
“Good new! God is becoming King and he is doing it through Jesus! And therefore, phew! God’s justice, God’s peace, God’s world is going to be renewed. And in the middle of that, of course, it’s good news for you and me. But that’s the derivative from, or the corollary of the good news which is a message about Jesus that has a second-order effect on me and you and us. But the gospel is not itself about “you are this sort of person and this can happen to you.” That’s the result of the gospel rather than the gospel itself…..Salvation is the result of the gospel, not the center of the gospel itself.”
“The gospel is the proclamation of Jesus, in two senses. It is the proclamation announced by Jesus – the arrival of God’s realm of possibility (his Kingdom) in the midst of human structures of possibility. But it is also the proclamation about Jesus – the good news that in dying and rising, Jesus has made the Kingdom he proclaimed available to us.”
“As a Christian, I am simply trying to orient myself around living a particular kind of way, the kind of way that Jesus taught is possible. And I think the way of Jesus is the best possible way to live….Over time when you purposefully try to live the way of Jesus, you start noticing something deeper going on. You begin realizing the reason this is the best way to live is that it is rooted in profound truths about how the world is. You find yourself living more and more in tune with ultimate reality. You are more in sync with how the universe is at its deepest levels….The first Christians announced this way of Jesus as “the good news.”
“My understanding of Jesus’ message is that he teaches us to live in the reality of God now – here and today. It’s almost as if Jesus just keeps saying, “Change your life. Live this way.”
It is not hard to see that those who are attempting to answer this question are all over the place with their answers. Gilbert uses this to illustrate the “fog of confusion” that exists in the Christian world today concerning the gospel. Obviously, some of these answers are better than others, but it is a sad indictment on Christendom that there is not more clarity concerning this critical question.
Let me throw it back at you – how would you answer the question of what is the gospel?