At Bible Study this week our Pastor quoted the following two definitions of the Gospel:
“The Gospel is the good news about the great salvation purchased by Jesus Christ, by which He reconciled sinful men to a holy God.”
– Lorraine Boettner
“The gospel is the good news of God’s saving activity in the person and work of Christ. This includes his incarnation in which he took to himself full (yet sinless) human nature; his sinless life which fulfilled the perfect law of God;his substitutionary death which paid the penalty for man’s sin and satisfied the righteous wrath of God; his resurrection demonstrating God’s satisfaction with his sacrifice; and his glorification and ascension to the right hand of the Father where he now reigns and intercedes for the church.”
– Jeff Purswell
After hearing these two quotes I jotted down my own definition of ‘The Gospel’ in my notes…I think it is a sort of meshing of the two together:
“The Gospel is what God has done, and is doing through Christ to redeem and reconcile a sinful people and His creation to Himself”
I’m still meditating on my definition and phraseology, so that may get tweaked…but nevertheless I think it communicates what I believe to be the central message of what the Gospel is, and what it does. My Pastor summed up the Gospel by saying that, “Christ is the Gospel”. John Piper has similarly said, and has even written a book entitled, “God is the Gospel”.
I rejoice that there seems to be a new awareness of “The Gospel” and what it really is. For so long we simply thought of it as something we needed hear in order to be saved(get to heaven) or a presentation we had to make for someone else to be saved. We thought of “The Gospel” as the entry point into the Christian life, and then we graduated from there and got into the real “meat” of the Christian experience. I rejoice that there is a new attempt at defining what “The Gospel” means, and it’s implications in every area of our life. Books are still being written on the subject of defining “The Gospel”. Just look at the two quotes I posted above…You have one rather short and simple quote, and you have another more detailed and complex quote. This sort of begs the question: “So, is the Gospel simple or complex? How exactly can you define what “The Gospel” is and what it isn’t?”
To the first question I say yes, and yes. The Gospel is both simple and complex. For me that is the beauty of it. It is a well so deep that we can never reach its depths, or exhaust the life giving qualities…yet the simplest among us can come with our dixie cups, and skim from the top enough of it’s living water that we can be eternally secure in Christ. The Gospel is an ocean so deep that we can never plunge it’s depths, yet shallow enough for the smallest, and most timid among us to frolic along the shore with our water wings on. I’m sure those last couple of lines are similar to someone else, and if I knew who, or wanted to take the time I would give them credit…I wanna say C.S. Lewis has said something similar, but honestly right now I have no idea where I’ve read it, or even if it was an original thought.(though I confess I’m not very original…just stay with me for now though) God is so amazing and so vast that He has chosen to reveal Himself in ways that we can understand, yet we will never fully know Him on this side of heaven. I’m thankful I will have an eternity to get to know Him, and to learn His ways…
To the second question I would say you can read all of the definitions I’ve given thus far and have an accurate picture of “The Gospel”. That being said, I don’t know that they completely and fully define it, at least in ways that we completely understand. (Stay with me) The fullest and most accurate definition I would say would be that “God is the Gospel”. Everything that “The Gospel” is, God is. Everything that “The Gospel” does, God does. “The Gospel” was personified in the person of Christ, so in effect(or actuality) Christ is indeed “The Gospel”. That being said though, I think all of our attempts at defining “The Gospel” in human words fall short. Words tend to be exclusionary by nature. If we say something is this, then this can’t be that. But “The Gospel” is so vast, that it includes so much(everything?). So I think any attempt at defining what “The Gospel” is falls short because it is a part of every fabric of our lives…every fabric of our world even. I say this because there is nowhere that God is not active, and nowhere that God is not at work. “The Gospel” I believe is the truth that God is working all things together for His glory, to the completion, and fruition of His plan for all of creation.(Perhaps this is a better definition than the one I gave earlier?)
So many times in our definitions we say that the Gospel is this, but not that. The Gospel is that, but not this. My pastor even said the other night that, and I think this is a John Piper quote, missions is not the Gospel, but a result of the Gospel. I’ve heard others say that social justice is not the Gospel, but an outworking of the Gospel. I say yes, but these things are “The Gospel” because they are the Gospel at work. I believe this to be true of many other things that people say “aren’t the Gospel”. I think it better to say that these things alone are not the Gospel, because the Gospel is so much more. Perhaps this is splitting hairs…perhaps I’m missing something…but hopefully my point is being made.
God is awesome, God is amazing. We can’t fit Him, or His Gospel into a box. Ultimately all of our words fall short in defining Him, and what He is doing. Yet we can know Him, and cling to Him and His Gospel. We can embrace His Gospel, and live it, (at least to the degree in which He enables us to), and let it flow out of us onto and into others. The Gospel truly is good news for a world that so desperately needs it. Let us continue to explore the depths of what His Gospel is…yet know in our hearts, that ultimately His truths are simply too much for our finite minds. But isn’t that what makes Him God? Isn’t that what makes “The Gospel” good news? He brought His vastness down to us…He has given us a glimpse into who He is. He has given us enough to want Him, and desire Him more…He has given us a thirst that only He can quench. Oh how I thirst for you God…
“As a deer pants for flowing streams,
so pants my soul for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God,
for the living God.”
“Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!…
“For who has known the mind of the Lord,
or who has been his counselor?”
For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.