the full and complete gospel

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I’ve made clear my beliefs that:

  • We’ve been marketing a small portion of the gospel as the whole package — and our inattention to the fullness of what Jesus considers to be the gospel has created a narrow-minded understanding of salvation and the Christian life.
  • The gospel is not a shallow and elementary concept adopted by new believers until they can move on to the weightier matters of Christianity — but the gospel is the weightier matter of Christianity.  And it’s deep enough that its goodness compounds and intensifies as we live in Christ, allowing the good news to be good no matter who we are, and at what station in life we may found ourselves.

These two ideas make a strict definition of the gospel difficult, but I want to at least attempt to offer a more biblical and complete explanation of the good news. Any attempt at describing the gospel must include the following:

  • The kingdom of God.
    • Jesus ushered in a kingdom in which God’s sovereign rule is recognized, and all citizens of that kingdom are his loyal subjects.
    • He did this through his incarnation, perfect life, death, burial, and resurrection — in which he conquered sin and death for all time (and even made possible our entry into this kingdom).
    • This kingdom signifies a return to Eden of sorts, a restoration of right relationship between mankind and God — and all earth is involved in this regeneration.
    • When the kingdom comes in its fullness, there will be no sickness, poverty, oppression, or death — but love will reign.  [Jesus offered a glimpse into this when he healed the sick and raised the dead.*]
  • Our entry into the kingdom of God.
    • Jesus, through his life, death, and resurrection, made it possible for us to enter into his kingdom.  This has great significance and multiple repercussions:
    • We are returned to a right relationship with God. We have been justified and given Christ’s righteousness, all of our sins having been forgiven (both past and future).
    • We are being sanctified by the Holy Spirit to be pleasing to God, so that our faith exhibits itself through obedience.  We are free from sin, and have power over it.
    • We are serving a good, perfect, and loving king, who created life, knows how it should be lived, and wants us to experience it.
    • We are free from the ways and rules of this world.  And so, we have turned from useless things to what is of true value.  We live by faith.
    • We have entered into the land of peace and rest, made possible by God’s grace.
    • We are given true life, which lasts through our “death” and into eternity. We have, then, been granted power over death and all evil.
    • We will be present for the coming fullness of the kingdom, and will share in the glory of Christ for all eternity.
  • This gospel is the power of God to save EVERYONE who believes.
    • As citizens of his kingdom, God reveals Christ in us, to the world.
    • The gospel is hope for a dying world, and displayed through us by the Holy Spirit.  God’s presence is demonstrated in our love.
    • All nations and all peoples will be blessed through Abraham, Christ, and us.
    • The gospel will be advanced, always bearing fruit and growing, as people recognize Jesus as their Lord and enter into his kingdom.
  • God, who is alone worthy of praise and honor, will be glorified in all earth and heaven. This is both the foundation and the objective of the gospel, it’s driving force and its culmination, its beginning and its end. God’s glory powers the gospel, is responsible for its goodness, and is the result of its acceptance among men. May God be glorified.

Because of how my mind works, I have neatly listed and categorized each detail of the gospel as best as I can.  But I should be clear that this is not necessarily the best way to discuss the goodness of the news we’ve been given.  In reality, the categories are not as isolated as I’ve made them appear; I’ve found it difficult to stress the overlap and interrelatedness of each facet of the gospel.  But know it is there.  [Also, how often is good news really conveyed in bullet points?]

In summary (and if forced to do so briefly), I’d define the gospel as:

God came to earth in the flesh to establish his kingdom, a kingdom in which his sovereignty is recognized and all is good and perfect.  Jesus made this kingdom — and our entry into it — possible by defeating sin and death, once and for all, through his perfect life, death, and resurrection.  As a result we are extended an open invitation into the kingdom of God and into a right relationship with him.  The Holy Spirit empowers us to live the kingdom life, and we become a sign to all men everywhere that Jesus is Lord and that life in him is perfect and good.  God is glorified, and as the fullness of the kingdom comes, we will share in his glory.

* It seems Jesus’ preaching of the good news was always accompanied by healing the sick and raising the dead.  Paul says he “fully proclaimed the gospel” and describes his having used signs, words, and miracles.  I will address this in a future post:  preaching the gospel today — accompanied by service and ministry or miracles and healings?



Filed under evangelism, gospel, kingdom

19 responses to “the full and complete gospel

  1. Pingback: the vastness of the gospel « aliens and strangers

  2. Pingback: the vastness of the gospel « aliens and strangers

  3. How do you include the Old Testament into your definition of the gospel?

    It is late here and I need to get some sleep.. but I will check back in the morning.


    • Hey that’s what I asked:)

    • well, i’ve given my attempt at a definition, and much of it is indeed based on the old testament. i think i’d argue that most of what i’ve listed is at least pointed to from the old testament, if not named outright. then there are some passages in the ot that carry a whole lot of gospel weight, and cover much of what would be considered the good news (ie. isaiah 61 and the like).

      because i see the kingdom as being at the core of the gospel (mostly because that’s what Jesus preached), i think it makes a really interesting ot study. we move from the establishment of the garden of eden to the starting again with just noah’s family to the setting aside of a certain nation as the people of God to the idea of kingdom we now understand as explained and demonstrated through the life of JC.

  4. The significance of the gospel is emphasized by the fact that the New Testament contains four books that have been called gospels for a long time. This message of the reign of God being fully demonstrated through Jesus’ life, death and resurrection is so significant that it must be contextualized for all the nations (ethno-linguistic people groups) to fulfill the promises made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

    Matthew proclaims this good news for people of Jewish heritage, Mark for the Romans, Luke for Gentiles and John for every individual. Almost half of the New Testament is taken up by these four tellings of the good news. Our ministries would be much more fruitful if we spent half our time proclaiming the kinds of things they do.

    Matthew summarizes the ministry of Jesus as preaching the message of the kingdom, teaching the nature of discipleship and demonstrating the reality of that reign through healing. We too should have the mind of Christ with regards to these emphases.

    Thanks for spurring us to think on these matters. Blessings.

  5. This is so funny that you wrote this because I was challenging myself to summarize the Bible in a one pager last week.

    I have a question (kinda related) do you think we can explain the entire gospel of Jesus Christ just with the books in the Old Testament? It’s amazing to me as I study that the Holy Spirit, Messiah, Repentance, Grace, Forgiveness etc are all available in the Old Testament.

    • There is actually a great study of Prophet, Priest, and King which were mostly separate functions as defined in the Old Testament.

      Christ fulfilled all 3 in the New Testament.

      You will see that I asked a similar question to monsieur Brett… he must be off studying up an answer. 🙂

    • just for the record, jess, if i were summarizing the bible, it’d be a very different story.

      as for your question: “do you think we can explain the entire gospel of Jesus Christ just with the books in the Old Testament?”

      do i think i can? i’m not sure how well, but yes. but do i think it’s possible? entirely, i do. Jesus did it — as did peter, paul, and many, many others. but (also just for the record) i think the gospel is meant to be demonstrated at least as much as it is explained, and probably more. i think that’s something we’re missing these days.

  6. The great African theologian Athanasios of Alexandria wrote in the third century, “God became man that man might become God.”

    That’s the most straightforward translation of the Greek; the rest of his book On the Incarnation makes clear the proper interpretation of this statement: God became truly human in order that humans might be united to God, restored completely to our divine image in body, spirit and soul.

    A later theologian clarified that we become by grace what God is by nature. We remain truly created humans, with our unique identities and personalities. But there is no distance, no tension, no quarrel separating us physicially or spiritually from God Himself.

    Given a proper interpretation of that statement, I think it is the best brief summary of the Gospel I’ve ever read.

    For a slightly longer summary of the Gospel, your several points are as good as any I’ve seen. I think I’d emphasize a little more than you do the physical, fleshly reality of the Incarnation and the Resurrection of the dead. Nevertheless, yours is a better summary than I could create on my own.

    This said, I think there’s a reason we have four entire books called “The Gospel.” Summaries of the Gospel are useful but they are not adequate; to really ‘sum up’ the Gospel takes– at minimum– four entire books written by four different guys who bear witness to the Word in human flesh. Any summary we might produce is a study aid at best, not a replacement for the fulness of the Gospel.

  7. This is not unrelated, and is worth the read.

  8. Pingback: whatever happened to being sorry? « aliens and strangers

  9. Pingback: contextualization and paul in athens | aliens and strangers

  10. Pingback: checking our religious traditions | aliens and strangers

  11. Abby

    In response to your third main point, I really think that the good news is not only to bring salvation and shalom to humans who believe, but also to the entirety of creation, and that this is not a minor point, but should be an “essential” when announcing the good news. i.e.,

    Colossians 1:15-20 “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.”

    Romans 8:19-23 “For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.”

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