What is the Gospel? #1: Announcement

WHAT IS THE GOSPEL? 

Have you ever stopped to ask or answer this question?

It is fundamental to Christianity and yet many Christians will struggle to answer, or they might emphasise one area over the other. The truth is the gospel is bigger than we think, and often gets reduced down for evangelistic purposes or out of ignorance. Of course, at one level, there’s nothing wrong with reducing down the gospel in our conversations, we can’t say everything (and there is a gospel core that is rightly emphasised), but we must be aware of the various elements that make up the gospel to help us know what to say and how it all fits together.

If you read various books on the gospel there’s a good bet there’ll be some overlap, as well as some significant differences or omissions. Depending on your method the gospel can be a deductive list of points like God, man, Christ, response.[1] Or a pithy evangelistic method like ‘two ways to live’. But as helpful as they are, they don’t always help explain the gospel the way the breadth of the NT does.

So what is the gospel?

Whatever method we use will often determine our conclusion. With this in mind, there are three elements that I have used to construct an answer. We must:

1: Pay close attention to when the word ‘gospel’ is used in its immediate context, or when it is explicitly preached or taught.

2: Pay close attention to the Gospels themselves – since they are as Augustine says, ‘the four accounts of the one gospel’. In them we see the good news of Jesus and Jesus preaching the good news!

3: Pay close attention to the storyline of Scripture from Genesis to Revelation.[2]

SEVEN-FOLD SUMMARY OF THE GOSPEL

These three elements have helped me formulate a seven-fold summary of the gospel. Using the method above the answer to the question ‘What is the gospel?’ goes something like this:

The gospel is:

1: the announcement of good news concerning the glory of God in King Jesus

2: bringing to conclusion the story of Israel in his

3: life, death, resurrection, & return (which)

4: brings victory over sin, Satan and death, (which)

5: brings salvation by grace to all who 

6: repent and believe in Jesus as Lord and Saviour, 

7: following Him unashamedly with hope through suffering and life.

This is not so much a complete definition but a summary of the key elements the NT lists that makes up the gospel. At the core, or the centre are points, 3, 4, 5; these make up the heart of the gospel. Points 6 and 7 make up our gospel response, which is more than a one-time decision or commitment. It is a life-long response. But we must not ignore points 1 and 2 – the gospel announces something – and it is cemented in the background and story of the OT.

Before we look at each point in turn, ask yourself these three questions:

1: Which point do you often focus on when thinking of the gospel?

2: Which point(s) are you most surprised by, that you wouldn’t have added to your own summary?

3: Is there anything else you would add?

Since each statement is a summary, we can now spend some time fleshing out what they mean and why I’ve focused on certain themes, starting with – the gospel is:

1: THE ANNOUNCEMENT OF GOOD NEWS CONCERNING THE GLORY OF GOD IN KING JESUS

First, the gospel is:

…the announcement of good news

A proclamation of good tidings. It is good news verbalised. Good news proclaimed. Good news articulated. The word itself in Graeco-Roman times was often the type of good news announced at a great wedding or a great victory on the battlefield. A herald would arrive announcing it to all who could hear.

We see something similar in Isaiah 52:7: ‘How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns”.’ (ESV)

Here we see a ‘herald’ (CSB) declaring good news. Good news of peace, happiness and salvation. The word ‘good news’ there in the Greek translation of the OT is the same word used many times in the NT to describe ‘preaching the gospel’. Paul will use it when he quotes this verse in Romans 10:15, making this point exactly – people need to hear good news, and how can they hear unless someone announces it to them?[3]

We see the angels in Luke announcing this good news.[4] We see Jesus announcing this good news.[5] His apostles announcing this good news.[6] And we see normal Christians announcing this good news.[7] Because good news comes with words.

Paul at the beginning of 1 Corinthians 15 tells us this twice, before telling us what the content of the good news is. He states: ‘Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain’.[8] (ESV)

It’s the same word I’ve referenced above that appears about 65 times in the NT that literally means ‘gospeled’ or ‘gospeling’. Paul gospeled the gospel. Because first and foremost that is what the gospel is.

…concerning the glory of God in King Jesus

But what is this announcement about?

In a nutshell? It concerns ‘the glory of God in King Jesus’. We see this most clearly in 2 Corinthians 4:4-6:

In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness”, has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.’ (ESV)

Do you see what Satan is trying to do? He’s blinding people from seeing ‘the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God’. The gospel is about the glory of the Triune God in the face of Christ Jesus (v6), breaking into this world, destroying the veil of darkness – it is about God’s divine glory being revealed!

We know this is also the answer to a problem that Paul highlights in Romans 1:23. Humanity have ‘exchanged the glory of the immortal God’ for created things. Since we’ve exchanged it and supressed it, and substituted God’s glory for our own glory, the gospel is about the visible reality of God’s glory showing up like light in the darkness. Our foolish exchange is combatted and answered by God’s glory come to light in Jesus! It is light to rescue us from the darkness of our inglorious lives.[9]

John makes this clear in his gospel when he says in 1:14: ‘And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth’. (ESV)

When we see King Jesus – we see a glimpse of God’s glory. The weight of God’s power and holiness and his dazzling beauty in Christ!

Finally, ‘in King Jesus’ tells us who the main character in the story is – it is all about Jesus. It is making Jesus known so we might see the glory of the Triune God. It also tells us that this gospel is about God’s glorious kingdom breaking into the world – it is ‘the gospel of the kingdom’ and it centres on the arrival of the king – the promised Messiah.[10]

And as we see in our next statement – the Messiah brings to mind that the gospel is the conclusion to the story of Israel…


[1] See two very helpful books along these lines, Greg Gilbert What is the Gospel? (Crossway, 2010) and Ray Ortlund, The Gospel: How the Church Portrays the Beauty of Christ (Crossway, 2014).

[2] I’ve brought this summary together by paying close attention to the NT, but I’ve also been greatly influenced by several books that have challenged me and shaped my thinking. They are: Scot McKnight, The King Jesus Gospel: The Original Good News Revisited (Zondervan, 2011); Greg Gilbert What is the Gospel? (Crossway, 2010); Ray Ortlund, The Gospel: How the Church Portrays the Beauty of Christ (Crossway, 2014); Darrell L. Bock, Recovering the Real Lost Gospel: Reclaiming the Gospel as Good News (B&H, 2010); Michael F. Bird, Evangelical Theology: A Biblical and Systematic Introduction (Zondervan, 2020 2nd ed.), ‘What is the Gospel?’, pp. 30-37.

[3] See Romans 10:9-17

[4] Luke 1:19; 2:10

[5] See for example Luke 4:18; 4:43.

[6] For example Acts 5:42

[7] See Acts 8:4

[8] 1 Corinthians 15:1-2

[9] John 1:4-9. Paul also writes in 1 Timothy 1:11 that there is a way of living ‘that conforms to the gospel concerning the glory of the blessed God’. (CSB). This gospel is about the glory of God! I want to thank my friend Toby for pointing me in this direction.

[10] For references to the gospel and kingdom see for example: Mark 1:14-15; Matt 24:14; Matt 13:10-11; Luke 16:16; Acts 1:3; Acts 28:31 – and there are many more!

Recents posts

Discipleship

Love God

This was a discussion we had in our Sunday evening table talks. The importance of loving God and what that looks like…

Read more »