There is a lot of talk about the gospel these day. Yes, it's all gospel and gospel-centeredness, and yet many are still fuzzy when it comes to defining the good news of Jesus Christ.
In my Missional Church class at ReTrain this week, I share some thoughts on the gospel. Why? Well, I believe that what you believe about the gospel will be the foundation for your understanding of the mission.
To do that, I first reviewed some gospel definitions assembled by Trevin Wax at his blog Kingdom People. You can find a PDF and lists by names by clicking this link. Then, I shared a few of them (at first I did not identify the source). You can download a PowerPoint of the ones I shared here: Gospel Definitions.ppt. I took some pleasure in watching the students agree (at times) with the definitions from people with whom they disagree.
As I explain in this post, whenever I teach on the missional church, it is always an opportunity to talk about the Gospel since I tend to present the ideas around:
What is the Gospel?
What is the mission?
What is the church?
What is the Kingdom?
So, we began our definitions at ReTrain by having the cohorts make a definition and report back. Here are those gospel definitions...
The Gospel is the good news that God has sent his son Jesus Christ into the world in order to reconcile Creator to creation, which will renew all things and he has done all this through Jesus' perfect sinless life, bloody atoning death on the cross and subsequent resurrection from the dead.
- Admin Cohort's Definition
Our glorious God created everything we know. We, his creation, rebelled seeking our own glory and deserving the full wrath of God. The gospel is the good news that Jesus lived the life we should have lived to the glory of the Father. He died in our place, for all our sinful, false worship. Through Jesus, by the power of the Spirit, we live a new life to His glory. As we behold the glory of Jesus we are transformed to look more like Him, united in the Church as His body through which his kingdom is advanced making all things new.
- Worship Cohort
God created man in His image to glorify Him
Mankind rebelled against God in sin
The gospel is the good news of Godʼs provision of redemption
Through the atoning work of Jesus the Christ
Who died in our place for our sin on the cross
Rising from the grave to conquer Satan, sin and death
Giving new life to all who by grace
turn to Him in repentance and faith
Calling them to a life empowered by His Spirit
To accomplish the mission of His kingdom
To the glory of His name
- Campus Pastor Cohort
The gospel is the power of God for salvation of everyone who believes. Through Jesus' life, death, and resurrection God overcomes sin, sin's consequences, Satan, and death and subjects all things under his feet. And, in Christ, through the power of the Holy Spirit, God is reconciling the world to himself.
- Biblical Living, Family and Community Group Cohort
God redeems fallen mankind through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus which regenerates individuals through the Holy Spirit and renews all of His creation as He establishes His Kingdom.
- Church Planting Cohort
The Gospel is the truth that Jesus Christ, God the Son sent from the God the Father, empowered by God the Spirit, lived a sinless life, died on the cross for the atonement of sinners, and rose from the dead triumphing over satan, sin, and death in accordance with the Scriptures.
- Acts 29 Church Planting Cohort
One of the key issues is this question: Is the gospel only God-Man-Christ-Response or does it include elements of Creation-Fall-Redemption-Restoration. I think it is interesting how the worship leaders cohort differed from the Acts 29 church planting cohort (and, I should add, there was a "minority report" from the Acts 29 church planting cohort that wanted to include a Creation-Fall-Redemption-Restoration focus).
In class, I shared this article, on the difference between the gospel and the effects of the gospel, with the class. D.A. Carson and I discussed it recently while I was teaching at Trinity and I like it. Carson explains:
If the gospel is the (good) news about what God has done in Christ Jesus, there is ample place for including under "the gospel" the ways in which the kingdom has dawned and is coming, for tying this kingdom to Jesus' death and resurrection, for demonstrating that the purpose of what God has done is to reconcile sinners to himself and finally to bring under one head a renovated and transformed new heaven and new earth, for talking about God's gift of the Holy Spirit, consequent upon Christ's resurrection and ascension to the right hand of the Majesty on high, and above all for focusing attention on what Paul (and others--though the language I'm using here reflects Paul) sees as the matter "of first importance": Christ crucified. All of this is what God has done; it is what we proclaim; it is the news, the great news, the good news.
For another view, see Scott McKnight in Christianity Today's Out of Ur blog. Also, Matt Chandler makes a case for including both God-Man-Christ-Response and Creation-Fall-Redemption-Restoration in his SBTS chapel message (including mentioning some helpful warnings about how we speak of others "tribes" in the church).
Below is the definition I am using. I am still tweaking and revising it (but trying NOT to make it longer). If Packer can define the gospel as, "God saves sinners," I figure we should be able to do it in a paragraph!
Anyway, here is what I am using today:
The gospel is the good news that God, who is more holy than we can imagine, looked upon with compassion, people, who are more sinful than we would possibly admit, and sent Jesus into history to establish His Kingdom and reconcile people and the world to himself. Jesus, whose love is more extravagant than we can measure, came to sacrificially die for us so that, by His death and resurrection, we might gain through His grace what the Bible defines as new and eternal life.
I chose not to include the response to the gospel ("repentance by grace through faith alone," for example), but just tried to focus on what the gospel actually is. I edit it regularly as I try to grasp and preach the gospel to myself.
What are your thoughts? Feel free to share your own definitions or interact with the ones listed here. Then, I will learn and edit mine!