Part 1: Gospel Theology
The gospel is good news that tells us God has acted to bring about salvation from his wrath and the curse. A good summary of the gospel is that “God saves sinners.” The triune God acts to save, and Jesus Christ provides redemption. The gospel is what God has done for us—what we do and our work to make the world a better place is in response to the gospel, but not the gospel itself. On the personal level the gospel is about how an individual can get right with God, and on the global level the gospel is about the hope for the world. The gospel is a story that has chapters—it develops along the lines of God and creation, the Fall and sin, the salvific work of Jesus Christ, and appropriating this salvation by grace through faith. Jesus saves individuals, but at his second coming he is also going to transform the universe. The gospel is not everything but it needs to be the center of everything we do in church life.
The gospel cannot be reduced to one particular slogan or simplistic formula. In the Bible the gospel is expressed in a rich variety of ways. For example, the Gospel of John emphasizes receiving eternal life, whereas the other Gospels emphasize entering into God’s kingdom. These are not synonymous, but they are mutually complementary—they simply highlight different facets of the whole. Paul frequently explains the gospel in forensic, legal terminology, speaking of salvation in terms of justification. This diversity unpacks the core unity of the gospel, which lies in redemption through substitution. The gospel can be articulated through the categories and questions of systematic theology, and it can also be understood through tracing out key salvation themes that develop through God’s progressive revelation in Scripture. For example, the Bible connects the gospel to the themes of exile/homecoming, covenant/fulfillment, and the coming kingdom (to name a few). The richness of the gospel means that it can be articulated with different emphases, and the diversity of the human race means that the herald should contextualize the gospel motifs to their audience.
We have seen that the gospel is not everything, and that the gospel is not a simple thing. These two realities ground the truth that the gospel affects virtually everything. In the gospel we see the incarnation and the reversal of human measurements of greatness. We also see atonement and grace given to the undeserving—salvation is a gift, the opposite of works-righteousness and legalistic religion. The gospel shows us the power of the resurrection and points forward to the future purification and transformation of the world. As a result, we work to bring as much positive change to the world in the here and now as possible. Jesus is full of both grace and truth, showing us we are more sinful than we imagined and yet God is infinitely forgiving and merciful. The gospel addresses our needs and changes our lives. It brings healing and transformation. The gospel affects our view of God, ourselves, and others. It changes the foundations of our relationships, as well as changing how we perceive ourselves and what we try to do to find self-acceptance and the approval of others. It allows us to rest secure in God’s love and work for us, and it empowers and motivates us to do good works out of gratitude to him.