What is the Gospel?

My husband made an interesting comment after reading my post from last week on Abusers of Grace. He said that I probably need to define the term “gospel” and that many people’s problem with understanding grace and humility is that they had a shallow understanding of the gospel itself.

So it was with interest today that I read this article by Michael Spencer, also known as the Internet Monk, in the Christian Science Monitor. I like, though don’t always agree with, the IMonk–he gave a relatively nice review of my book early on, and he often writes spot on analysis of the problems within the evangelical church. I particularly appreciated an article he wrote recently on the problems with the public face of the Christian pro-life movement.

In the article in the Christian Science Monitor, Spencer made a couple of stingingly true points that resonated with me as I meditate on the depth of the gospel as Scripture presents it.

Evangelicals have identified their movement with the culture war and with political conservatism. This will prove to be a very costly mistake. Evangelicals will increasingly be seen as a threat to cultural progress. Public leaders will consider us bad for America, bad for education, bad for children, and bad for society.

The evangelical investment in moral, social, and political issues has depleted our resources and exposed our weaknesses. Being against gay marriage and being rhetorically pro-life will not make up for the fact that massive majorities of Evangelicals can’t articulate the Gospel with any coherence. We fell for the trap of believing in a cause more than a faith.

I can not say strongly enough how much I agree with him. But rather than spending more time analyzing the problem, let’s focus on the solution–a better understanding of the gospel. How would you define the gospel? How would you explain it to an unbeliever? How do you preach it to yourself? I grew up in a segment of Christianity in which the “gospel” could be articulated in a 3 paragraph tract. If you got that, you got the gospel. It’s taken me years to realize that while the gospel is fairly simple in some ways, it still has a depth to it than can not be fully plumbed in a lifetime. 3 paragraphs won’t really do it.

Our church just offered a Sunday evening class on the book of Ephesians, and the teacher pointed out how Ephesians articulates the gospel from multiple perspectives. A study of Ephesians 1 and 2 reveals the depth of the good news of all we have in Christ.

He has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing.

He chose us in Him before the world began.

He predestined us in love to be adopted into His family.

He has lavished His grace on us.

We have obtained an inheritance in Him.

We are sealed by the Holy Spirit who is the guarantee of our inheritance in Him.

Though we were dead in our sins and by nature deserving of God’s wrath, God in His great love and mercy brought us to life in Christ.

He has saved us by His grace through faith–not of our own works but purely as a gift from Him.

We are God’s workmanship.

He has created us in Christ to fulfill the good works He has prepared for us.

Each of these statements is deserving of pages and pages of discussion and meditation. And when you put them all together, you could write volumes about this gospel–this GOOD NEWS–of all we have in Christ Jesus. It is not something that can be summarized in a 3 paragraph tract. Understanding it for ourselves and teaching it to the next generation should be the pursuit of our lifetime.

I have found 2 different sermon series at my church particularly helpful at unpacking the layers of the gospel of grace–the series Exodus: Blueprint of Salvation and The Real Jesus: The Gospel According to Mark. Both can be found here. Today’s sermon on Amazing Grace from Exodus 17 was especially helpful.

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