What Is the Gospel?
Gospel Content and Gospel Proclamation
Douglas Moo rightly points out,
The noun [εὐαγγέλιον, “gospel”] in the NT denotes the “good news” of the saving intervention of God in Christ, referring usually to the message about Christ (1 Cor. 15:1; Gal. 1:11; 2:2) and, by extension, to the act of preaching that message (1 Cor. 9:14 [second occurrence]; 2 Cor. 2:12; 8:18;Phil. 1:5[?]; 4:3[?]).
What the Gospel Rescues Us From, and What It Saves Us For
Finally, if the gospel is the good news about what God is doing in Christ to rescue and redeem his rebellious image bearers, we must constantly bear in mind what it is we are being rescued from. The reason is that we will gain a clearer grasp of the gospel if we hold a clear grasp of the desperate situation the gospel addresses.
If we see that we are guilty, we will understand that for the gospel to be effective it must clear us of our guilt;
if we are alienated from God, we must be reconciled to him;
if we stand under his judicial wrath, that wrath must be propitiated;
if we are estranged from one another, we must be reconciled to one another;
if the entire created order lies under the curse, the curse must be lifted and the created order transformed; if we are, morally speaking, weak and helpless
(as well as guilty), we must be empowered and strengthened;
if we are dead, we must be made alive;
if the heart of our idolatry is abysmal self-focus and the de-godding of God, God must be restored in our vision and life to his rightful glory.
In other words, we gain clarity regarding the gospel when we discern what the gospel addresses, what it fixes. If we focus on just one element of the desperate need—say, our broken horizontal relationships—then by ignoring all the other dimensions of our sin, including the most fundamental dimension, namely, our rebellion against God and the consequent wrath we have rightly incurred, we may marginalize or even abandon crucial elements of the gospel that address our sin.
After all, the Bible speaks of the wrath of God more than six hundred times. If we cannot grasp how the gospel of Jesus Christ addresses all these dimensions of our desperate need, we will invariably promulgate an anemic and truncated gospel.
By the same token, many of the themes with which the gospel words are associated in the Scriptures bear out the same connection—the connection between plight and solution—from the other end. Thus the gospel not only forgives us, but holds out the hope of resurrection existence (Col. 1:22–23; 2 Thess. 2:14; cf. Romans 8; 1 Corinthians 15);
the gospel of the cross not only justifies us, it is the power of God that transforms us (1 Thess.1:5; 1 Cor. 1:18ff.).
It not only draws faith from us, but commands our obedience (Rom. 10:16; 1 Pet. 4:17) in line with its truth (Gal. 2:14; Phil.1:27; 1 Tim. 1:11).
It calls us not only to preach the unique suffering of Christ, but also to participate in his suffering (1 Cor. 9:23; Phil. 3:9–10;1 Thess. 2:8–9; 2 Tim. 1:8; Philemon 13).
In it God himself is vindicated and his own righteousness revealed (Rom. 1:17; 3:21–26).
Small wonder the apostle boldly declares that he is not ashamed of the gospel“because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes” (Rom. 1:16).