A gospel-centered church in Austin, Texas

The term “gospel” is experiencing a bit of a renaissance in the church, and for good reason. It is easy to make Christianity about so many good things and miss the main thing, the best thing: The gospel of Jesus.

This renewed focus has spawned a genus of “gospel lingo” that can be overwhelming. We talk about believing the gospel, applying the gospel, living out the gospel, and preaching it to ourselves. It seems everything is getting a “gospel-centered” put in front of it … gospel-centered theology, prayer, parenting, relationships, worship, life. This is not a bad thing, but it does require us to define and describe what we mean when we say “gospel”.

On one hand, the gospel of Jesus is simple enough we can get the gist of it in a sentence. Tim Keller offers this helpful one-liner: “Jesus lived the life we should have lived and died the death we deserved to die because of sin, so that God could accept us.” That’s the gospel, in a nutshell. It is about how the Creator God is reconciling his wayward creation to himself in Christ. God loves us. Our sins can be forgiven. We can be at peace with God and enjoy his presence in our lives. All of this gets at what the gospel is, but it does not convey the fullness of the gospel message, and certainly not the comprehensive nature of its application to our lives.

The gospel is so expansive that the Bible employs a variety of metaphors and concepts to help us see how deeply the gospel affects our whole person. For example, the Bible compares our relationship with God to a marriage. It is a union of two people. More regularly, the Bible speaks of Christians as children and God as our Father. He made us and sustains us. His love is unconditional. Freedom is another motif. Just as Moses delivered the people of God from slavery in Egypt through the sea, Jesus delivers us from slavery to sin through his death and resurrection. Our debt is paid. Our wounds are healed. Our filth cleansed. Our guilt removed. Our broken lives restored. The riches of God's grace toward us in Christ are many. May God give us "strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that we may be filled with all the fullness of God" (Ephesians 3:17-19).

This beautiful and mysterious gospel changes everything! We can't exhuast it's depth, but we do need concrete descriptions to help us make sense of the gospel-lingo. I find these three categories helpful: proposition, power, person.

Proposition

The gospel is the good news about Jesus. It consists of objective truth revealed by God. A summary of this can be stated as a series of propositions about God, man, and life:

1. God is the creator. All things, including people, are subject to His authority and rule, and all things find meaning and purpose in relation to His design (Genesis 1-2, Psalm 8, Colossians 1).

2. Everyone has rebelled against God. We have gone our own way, worshipped creation rather than the Creator, and acted as though we are our own god (Genesis 3, Isaiah 59, Romans 1-3). The consequences of our betrayal are grave: corruption (Genesis 3-11), ignorance (Romans 3:10-20), spiritual blindness (2 Corinthians 4:4), and the wrath of God (Ephesians 2:1-3).

3. God reconciles sinful men to Himself, initially through a series of covenants with His people, and ultimately through the New Covenant in His Son Jesus. (Genesis 12:1-3, Ephesians 2:4-7, 11-16, Romans 5:8).

4. Jesus accomplished our salvation by living a perfect life, offering himself as an atoning sacrifice for our sin, and conquering Satan, sin and death by rising from the dead (Philippians 2:5-11, 2 Corinthians 5:21).

5. We are saved from God’s wrath and made alive in Christ by grace through faith. Because of his great love, God reveals himself to us, opens our eyes to truth, and grants us faith to believe in the Person and work of Jesus (Ephesians 2:8-9). All this is evidenced by ongoing repentance and faith (Matthew 3:8, Galatians 5).

Full Doctrinal Statement: We have adopted the Gospel Coalition’s confessional statement. We chose this statement because of its theological orthodoxy, thoughtful simplicity, and it’s emphasis on gospel centrality.

Power

The gospel is a supernatural power. Paul said “it is the power of God for salvation for everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16). In Colossians 1:6, he spoke of the gospel as something that has “come to you” and “is bearing fruit and growing in the whole world”. The effect of the gospel is to transform our will, intellect and emotion in such a way that we reveal the supernatural power of God. The defining mark of this supernatural power is our love for others. “Love is the fulfillment of the law” (Romans 13:10). This was the vision Jesus gave of life in the kingdom of God, and it is essential to His invitation to follow Him.

Person

The propositional truths and the power of the gospel are embodied in a person. We often overlook the reality that Christianity is about loving and worshipping and serving and enjoying Jesus (John 1:1-14). To believe the gospel is to believe in Jesus: He is God, physically incarnate, crucified, buried, and raised bodily from the dead. Salvation is to be united with Him. The Christian life is to abide in Him, to obey Him, tell the world about Him, and to anticipate His return.

So when we say “gospel,” we speak of objective truth revealed by God, real power experienced by people, and our abiding union with Jesus.

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