What is the gospel?
It’s a straightforward question that yields a remarkable range of responses. Greg Gilbert surveys some characteristic examples on p. 18 of his book on the subject.
“The good news is, God wants to show you his incredible favor. He wants to fill your life with “new wine,” but are you willing to get rid of your old wineskins? Will you start thinking bigger? Will you enlarge your vision and get rid of those old negative mind-sets that hold you back?
The radical revolutionary empire of God is here, advancing by reconciliation and peace, expanding by faith, hope, and love – beginning with the poorest, the weakest, the meekest, and the least. It’s time to change your thinking. Everything is about to change. Its’ time for a new way of life. Believe me. Follow me. Believe this good news so you can learn to live by it and be part of the revolution.
The good news is that God’s face will always be turned toward you, regardless of what you have done, where you have been, or how many mistakes you’ve made. He loves you and is turned in your direction, looking for you.”
There’s truth in each of these statements, but also a really big problem. None of these definitions of the gospel reflect the way Scripture defines the gospel. The Apostle Paul could not be clearer in 1 Corinthians 15:1-5:
“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 believe in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in the accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.”
Jesus died for our sins and rose from the grave that we might be saved. That’s the heart of the gospel. And we must receive it, stand in it, and hold fast to it if we are to experience Jesus’ saving power in our life, not just once, but every day of our life. Did you notice Paul doesn’t speak of the gospel as “that which saved us long ago.” He describes the gospel as that “by which you are being saved.” There is a point at which the saving power of the gospel breaks into the life of every genuine Christian. But once it breaks in, it doesn’t go away. It remains the means by which God keeps and transforms us until the day we see His face.
The gospel isn’t merely that “Christ died for our sins,” though that’s true. Nor is the gospel that Jesus was “raised on the third day,” though that’s also true. Jesus’ death and resurrection are equally necessary for our salvation. We must to “hold fast” to the importance of both, taking care that we continue to stand in what we once received. Good Friday and Easter Sunday are equally significant. Neither one would be good news without the other. Held together, they are the best news the world has ever heard.
That’s one of the reasons I’m grateful for our church tradition of hosting both a Good Fridayservice and an Easter Sunday service. On Friday evening, we “hold fast” to the word of Christ’s substitutionary death. On Sunday morning, we “hold fast” to the word of Christ’s glorious resurrection. We’re not saved by part of the gospel. We’re saved by the whole gospel, and we need to celebrate all of it. So don’t pick one service to attend this weekend. Come to both of them because your heart needs both of them.
Our Good Friday service will be held at 7:00 pm this Friday, April 14th. Our Easter Sunday service will be held at our regular meeting time of 10:00 am this Sunday, April 16th. We hope to see you there.