As 2012 comes to an end and 2013 looms, I reflect once again on the nature of the gospel. Our work in training pastors is to help them understand the gospel, practice it in their lives, and proclaim it to others, all with a view to helping the nations worship God when they have understood him through the gospel. In thinking through how God has used TLI and many other ministers of the gospel, I cannot help but think again on the nature of the gospel of which we are all ambassadors. Following are some observations on what the gospel is. These are not new, but simply reminders of what we already believe and hold onto. We must be reminded of these things lest we became lazy and presume to know them when we don’t.
Simply, the gospel is the good news about God (and Christ). It is a message of salvation addressed to a lost world, that tells what God has done to save sinners and how those saved ought to live before God. The high point of the gospel is not what we must do to be saved but what God has done in Christ to save us.
The Nature of the Gospel Message
As we proclaim the gospel message, there are certain elements that we must be conscious of and take seriously. Only then will we proclaim it well and expect it to do its work. We note the following elements of the gospel:
The Gospel is Power
The gospel is God’s power that accomplishes salvation for all who believe (Rom. 1:16). God works through the gospel message to bring people to himself. Through the gospel, those who believe are reconciled to God, redeemed, delivered, and justified (see Rom 3:23, 24; 8:1; 1 Cor. 15:1, 2; 2 Cor. 5:18-21; 1 Tim. 1:15; cf. Acts 3:13; 4:27).
Source of the Gospel
The source of the gospel or the author of the gospel is God and Christ. We read that it is “the gospel of God” (1 Thess. 2:9), or “the gospel of Christ” (1 Thess. 3:2). God and Christ as the source of the gospel mean that both are the author of salvation. As such, it is not from man (Gal. 1:11, 12; 2:16) since man cannot produce the means for his own salvation. He is unable to do so and so depends only on God (Eph. 2:1, 5, 9). Therefore, from beginning to end, it is God alone who works in Christ to save man.
Emphasis of the Gospel
In the gospel message, the emphasis is not on man but on God. The emphasis is placed on God’s sovereign work to save, and his unmerited grace. Thus, it is the “gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24; see also Rom. 3:23-24; Eph. 2:6-10; Titus 3:4-7).
The Message of the Gospel
What does the gospel communicate? Again, we look to Scripture for an answer. We find that the message of the gospel centers on the person of Jesus Christ. It reports the historical events surround the life of Christ (Luke 1:1; 24:14, 18) and centers on his death and resurrection, all in fulfillment of Scripture (1 Cor. 15:1-5; Acts 2:23; cf. Gal. 2:20). His death was a saving event, in that he died for our sins (1 Cor. 15:3; Gal. 1:4). His resurrection was for the vindication of Jesus (Acts 2:23, 24; 3:13-15; 5:30, 31), vindication of God (Rom. 3:25-26), and for our justification (Rom. 4:25)
Witnesses of the Gospel
By witnesses, we are referring to the evidence that supports the gospel message. The apostles appealed to evidence to support their gospel, and that evidence is Scripture itself (1 Cor. 15:3, 4; Rom. 3:21; Acts 26:22, 23). All of the Old Testament bears witness to Jesus, who is the center of the gospel (see Luke 24:24ff). The apostles themselves were witnesses of the gospel message, so what they proclaimed was true (Acts 1:8; Luke 24:48; Mark 3:14; John 15:26; Acts 2:32). The witness of the Old Testament and the apostles is primary in giving support to the truthfulness of the gospel message.
Demands of the Gospel
The gospel demands repentance, faith, and baptism. The gospel clearly calls sinners to accept the gospel and repent from sin (Acts 3:19; 17:30; 2 Cor. 7:10; 2 Tim. 2:25), and turn to Christ in faith. The gospel is not something to be ashamed of, since it is the power of God and through it God saves sinners (Rom. 1:16, 17; Gal. 3:11; Eph. 2:8; Phil. 2:12, 13). The gospel then appeals very strongly that we be reconciled with God (2 Cor. 5:20) and this is more so because there is no other means of salvation except the means provided by God.
Messengers of the Gospel
Knowing the implications of the gospel, how are sinners to hear it in order to be saved by it? God does not only send the gospel, he sets aside people to proclaim its message (Rom. 1:1). Those set apart for the gospel feel an obligation to proclaim it (Rom. 1:14; 1 Cor. 9:16). We can say that all believers are indeed ambassadors (messengers) of the gospel of God’s grace (2 Cor. 5:20).
Those who believe the gospel must affirm Jesus; that Jesus is Lord and Christ (Rom. 10:9; 14:9; Phil. 2:9-11; Acts 2:36; 5:31); that God has exalted him at his right hand and therefore he rules over all (Acts 2:32-33; 10:36).
Promises of the Gospel
The gospel comes with promises, but not material promises. Rather, the gospel promises the forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit to those who believe (Luke 24:47; Acts 3:19; 10:43; 13:38).
Being reminded over and over about the essential elements of the gospel helps us to keep these things in focus and communicate the gospel message to the nations in a way that is true to Scripture.
And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come (Matt. 24:14).