What is the Gospel?

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It must be understood here that even if all the books ever written were expositions of the gospel they would not begin to reach the summit of all the gospel is. John Piper has demonstrated in his book that God is the Gospel and God is infinite and thus the good news is infinitely and inexhaustibly good and cannot begin to be fully comprehended.[1]

The gospel means good news.[2] It is the announcement of the good news of Christ but as I have said, there is a lot of good news to announce. In fact, a limitless amount of good news.  We have, in Christ, reconciliation with God and will with men, we have appeasement from God’s wrath and peace in its place, we have a new heart that loves the Lord, we are holy and being made holy, we will be glorified, we have riches in heaven, we are sons and daughters of God, and this is just the beginning of all the good news that is found in Christ.

In Kevin Deyoung’s and Greg Gilbert’s book What Is the Mission of the Church?, they have a helpful discussion on the wide-angle lens and the zoom-lens aspect of the gospel. When asked, “’What is the whole good news of Christianity?’” they say, “the gospel of the kingdom through the cross.”[3] The good news is legion but it all flows from the good news of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection according to the Scriptures (cf. 1 Cor. 15:3-4 and 51-57). I wonder if the reason why we as Americans are sometimes not excited about the gospel of the Kingdom is that we are so enamored by the present earthly kingdom. Though, I do realize that the gospel of the Kingdom has suffered many abuses. The gospel of the Kingdom has an “already/not yet” aspect to it, that must be remembered. Sadly, however, the pendulum often swigs too far in one direction or another.

D. A. Carson in writing on the wide and narrow senses of the gospel shows what a helpful balance looks like: 

“There is but one gospel of Jesus Christ. The narrower focus draws you to Jesus—his incarnation, his death and resurrection, his session and reign—as that from which all the elements of what God is doing are drawn. The broader focus sketches in the right dimensions of what Christ has secured. But this means that if one preaches the gospel in the broader sense without also emphasizing the gospel in the more focused sense of what God has done to bring about such sweeping transformation, one actually sacrifices the gospel. To preach the gospel as if this were equivalent to preaching, say, the demands of the kingdom or the characteristics and promises of the kingdom, both now in its inauguration and finally in its consummation, without the making clear what secures the whole, is not to preach the gospel…

     The heart of the gospel is what God has done in Jesus, supremely in his death and resurrection. Period. It is not personal testimony about our repentance; it is not a few words about our faith response; it is not obedience; it is not the cultural mandate or any other mandate. Repentance, faith, and obedience are of course essential, and must be rightly related in the light of Scripture, but they are not the good news. The gospel is good news about what God has done.”[4]

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[1] “The finite cannot take in all of the infinite… The end of increasing pleasure in God will never come. God is inexhaustible, infinite” (John Piper, Taste and See [Colorado Springs: Multnomah Books, 2005], 148). “Here is the way Edwards puts it: ‘I  suppose it will not be denied by any, that God, in glorifying the saints in heaven with eternal felicity, aims to satisfy his infinite grace benevolence, by the bestowment of a good [which is] infinitely valuable, because eternal: and yet there never will come the moment, when it can be said, that now this infinitely valuable good has been actually bestowed’ (The End for Which God Created the World, ¶285, in God’s Passion for His Glory [Wheaton: Crossway, 1998], 251).

Moreover, he says, our eternal rising into more and more of God will be a ‘rising higher and higher through that infinite duration, and…not with constantly diminishing (but perhaps an increasing) [velocity] …[to an] infinite height; though there never will be any particular time when it can be said already to have come to such a height’ (God’s Passion for His Glory, 279). It will take an infinite number of ages for God to be done glorifying the wealth of his grace to us—which is to say he will never be done. And our joy will increase forever  and ever, Boredom is absolutely excluded in the presence of an infinitely glorious God” (Ibid.).

[2] Knowing that the good news of the gospel encapsulates more than could ever be written down Mark Dever offers this helpful definition: “The good news is that the one and only God, who is holy, made us in his image to know him. But we sinned and cut ourselves off from him. In his great love, God became a man in Jesus, lived a perfect life, and died on the cross, thus fulfilling the law himself and taking on himself the punishment for sins of all those who would ever turn and trust in him. He rose again from the dead, showing that God accepted Christ’s sacrifice and that God’s wrath against us had been exhausted. He now calls us to repent of our sins and to trust in Christ alone for forgiveness. If we repent of our sins and trust in Christ, we are born again into a new life, an eternal life with God” (Mark Dever, The Gospel and Personal Evangelism [Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2007], 43).

[3] What Is the Mission of the Church?: Making Sense of Social Justice, Shalom and the Great Commission (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2011), 111.

[4] D. A. Carson, “What is the Gospel?—Revisited” in For the Fame of God’s Name, 161-62.

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About Paul O'Brien

I am a lot of things; saint and sinner. I struggle and I strive. I am a husband and father of three. I have been in pastoral ministry for 9 years. I went to school at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary but most of my schooling has been at the School of Hard Knocks. I have worked various jobs, including pheasant farmer, toilet maker, construction worker, and I served in the military. My wife and I enjoy reading at coffee shops, taking walks, hanging out with friends and family, and watching our three kid's antics. :)
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