Do We Really Know What The Gospel Is?

Yesterday I saw a “gospel tract” that someone had given a friend.  It was very simple and straight to the point, and was written as a testimonial from someone who was a high-profile Christian athlete.  I can’t remember the exact wording, but it went something like this:

I was once wandering through life with no meaning or purpose.  I was living for myself and I was not living right.  Then I discovered how to have a relationship with God through His Son Jesus Christ, and since that time, all my troubles have been taken care of…now there is meaning and purpose, and I’m not living the wrong way any more.

Is that the Gospel?  Can we really call that a “gospel” tract?  Does it tell the Gospel as outlined in Scripture?

Then this morning, I listened to a well respected pastor as he gave a short talk on the radio.  He lamented that there are so many people living today in sin and throwing their lives away with “sorry living”.  He used a popular day-time talk show as an example, where guests are encouraged to flaunt their sin and the crowd encourages them through raucous applause to air their dirty laundry and display how “sorry” they are.  I see this tendency in our culture as well, and I share this pastor’s lament in this respect, but then he said something that greatly disheartened me.  After lamenting the moral failures of these people, this pastor said, “that’s why God sent Jesus….to save us from our ‘sorryness’”.  The implication was that if you want to rise from the mediocrity of “sorry living”, then just turn to Jesus, because He will help you improve how you live.

Is that the Gospel?  Is that the “good news” that Paul tells us we should proclaim to a lost world?

I think this is what happens when we begin to assume the gospel, instead of clarifying it.  When we assume the gospel (especially in a post-Christian culture like ours), then the gospel becomes a nebulous message of moral self-improvement, instead of the glorious hope of divine rescue from certain and eternal judgment because of sin.

But maybe I’m wrong.  Am I off here?  Do these examples accurately display the Biblical Gospel?  If not, then what IS the Gospel?

If we’re told to proclaim it to a lost world, and share it with our friends, neighbors, and coworkers, then shouldn’t we know what it is we’re supposed to proclaim?  And if (as we discuss so often), the gospel still has application to our daily lives, then shouldn’t we be clear about what the good news is?

What IS the gospel?  Let’s discuss this here and in our personal conversations, so that we guard ourselves from “assuming” (and in so doing, marginalizing), the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ.

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One thought on “Do We Really Know What The Gospel Is?

  1. Hi Ken,

    I’m glad you have opened up this conversation! During my early years of knowing Jesus, I was taught that the Gospel was the way to have a personal relationship with Jesus. Over the years, I have engaged in many different methods to share my faith, but over the past few years my thoughts of what the Gospel is has changed a little:

    In Romans (and really every time Paul refers to the Gospel), Paul isn’t saying that the “Good News” is not some set of things we can do to be saved, nor is he saying that there is a way to salvation that is now available to all. I’m sure those things are true, however, I think when Paul is talking about the Gospel, the “Good News”, he is saying that Jesus, the Son of the living God has been crucified and raised from the dead, which proves that He is the risen Savior and Lord. He’s not saying “Here’s how to become a true Christian: Recognize that you are a sinner, nothing you could have done could ever overcome the separation from God that your sin created, recognize that the only way to have a relationship with God is to know in your heart the Jesus died to pay the price for your sins and rose from the dead, and that you must change your mind about what you thought was the way to a relationship with God and realize that only the gift of God through His son Jesus made a relationship possible, and then make Him Lord of your life…all that is true, but Paul’s Gospel, the true Gospel is actually much simpler: Jesus the Messiah is LORD!

    Think about it like a Jew for a minute: Here was an entire nation that had been looking forward to a single event for centuries, which would be their complete salvation: The coming of the Messiah. The culmination and fulfillment of everything they had experienced, both good and bad, as a nation, would take place when the Messiah came. The Gospel is that culmination and fulfillment. The simple fact of His being the long-awaited Messiah and Lord was enough to reach those who were blind. The proclamation that He is the risen Christ is enough to move the hearts of sinful man! Not only the Jew, but the gentile as well! Is it necessary to say more when we share? As the spirit leads, brother, but at LEAST we can say that with confidence, and allow God to do the rest.

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