If you were to ask fifty professing Christians to give you a definition of the gospel, you would probably get close to fifty different answers. It’s a term used so often in the church, many people would be embarrassed to admit that they are not quite sure how to define it.
The Apostle Paul gave us a brief definition of the gospel in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4: “Now I make known to you brethren, the gospel which I preached to you…that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.” (NASB) In the mind of many evangelicals, the plan of salvation is the gospel. In other words, the gospel is what you need to believe so that when you die you will go to heaven, and not go to the other place! The plan of salvation is certainly part of the gospel, but there is much more to it than that! Why do we need to revisit and define our understanding of the gospel?
Imagine you are starting a new job; this is your first day. Your employer tells you that you need to come to work at 8am, punch the time clock when you arrive, do what your supervisor tells you to do for eight hours, and then punch out when your finished. If you do that, you will receive a paycheck each week. That’s all you are told. This is the bare minimum information you need to get your paycheck–which you need–each week.
What if instead on your first day your employer told you that at this company makes widgets, and these widgets enable people all around the world to have clean drinking water, and triple their food production. The widgets we make have the potential to end world hunger; and the company is exporting them and a fair and reasonable price! By working at this company, you play a vital role in helping our company end world hunger and save countless lives! What a difference this added information will make in your enthusiasm and sense of purpose on the job! You are now part of something big!
If our understanding of the gospel is limited to what we (and others) need to do to get to heaven, we miss the big picture of God’s plan of redemption for the human race, and our role in it! That is why we need a comprehensive definition of the gospel! Here is a definition of the gospel that the elders of Cypress Church Of Gonzales came up with after many hours of labor. It is certainly not the only correct definition, nor is it perfect. But we feel it gives our congregation a good start in understanding the gospel that Jesus and His Apostles preached!
Definition of the Gospel
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth[i] to be His dwelling place[ii]. He created mankind to be His image bearers[iii] to dwell in, and have dominion over, the good world[iv] that He had created[v]. Through disobedience, the human race fell from their position of unhindered fellowship with God, into a fallen state of spiritual death and separation from God[vi]. In order to restore mankind into a right relationship with Himself God sent His Son to die upon a cross as the perfect sin offering and through His resurrection, to restore mankind into a perfect relationship with Himself[vii], and restore the kingdom of God upon the earth[viii].
Through a series of promises beginning in the book of Genesis[ix], God promised that His Messiah would come through the descendants of one man, Abraham[x], and God chose Abraham’s descendants to be His chosen people out of all the people groups on the face of the earth[xi]. God chose Abraham’s descendants, the nation of Israel, to enter into a covenant with Him, and to reveal Himself to them, dwell among them, and give them His commandments[xii]. Israel was to be a light to the nations[xiii], bringing the knowledge of God to the nations of the world. Israel did not succeed in this mission.
Jesus the Messiah, the promised “seed” of Abraham[xiv], at the proper time[xv], was born of a virgin[xvi], conceived by the Holy Spirit[xvii], lived a sinless life[xviii], and took upon Himself the sentence of death for the sins of the world[xix] by dying upon a cross[xx]. Jesus was buried[xxi], and rose to life on the third day[xxii]. He ascended to the right hand of the Father as both Lord and Christ[xxiii], and poured out His Spirit to dwell in, and upon, all who repent of their sins and follow Him[xxiv]. His resurrection from the dead marked the beginning of the restoration of all things[xxv]; a restoration that will culminate when He returns to establish His kingdom upon earth. At that time He will usher in the New Jerusalem, the new heavens and earth, and the age to come[xxvi].
All who repent of their sins, believe in this gospel[xxvii], and follow Jesus as a disciple, will be forgiven of their sins, receive the gift of eternal life[xxviii], and will be granted entrance into His kingdom[xxix]. They will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit—to dwell in them[xxx]. They become united with Jesus in His death, and united with Him in His resurrection[xxxi].
At the end of this age, all will be resurrected and judged according to their deeds[xxxii]. Those who belong to Christ will be resurrected to eternal life, their bodies raised incorruptible, and the wicked will be raised to condemnation and eternal death[xxxiii]. In the age to come, the eternal state, there will be no more death, disease, or sorrow. All these things will be abolished, and God will dwell with His people fulfilling His original plan for the human race, ruling in the new heavens and earth forever through an obedient and restored humanity[xxxiv].
[i] Gen. 1:1 [ii] Rev. 21:3 [iii] Gen. 1:26 [iv] Gen. 1:31 [v] Gen. 1:26 [vi] Eph. 2:1 [vii]Col.1:13-14, Eph. 2:1-7 [viii] Dan. 7:13-14 [ix] Gen. 3:15, Gen. 12:1-3, [x] Gal. 3:16 [xi] Gen. 12:1-3 xii] Deut. 10:12-15 [xiii] Is. 49:1-7 [xiv] Gal. 3:16 [xv] Gal. 4:4 [xvi] Is. 7:14, Matt. 1:23[xvii] Matt. 1:20 [xviii] 2 Cor. 5:21 [xix] 1 John 2:2 [xx] Gal. 3:13 [xxi] 1 Cor. 15:4[xxii] Ibid., Acts 2:32 [xxiii] Acts 2:32-33, 36 [xxiv] Acts 2:38-39 [xxv] Luke 20:35, Phil. 3:11-12, Col. 1:13-20, 2 Pet. 3:10-13 [xxvi] Rev. ch. 19-22 [xxvii] Mark 1:14-15, 17, [xxviii] Acts 2:38[xxix] Col. 1:13 [xxx] John 14:17, Gal. 2:20, Eze. 36:27 [xxxi] Rom. 6:3-11[xxxii] John 5:25-29, Rev. 2:23 [xxxiii] Matt. 25:46, Rev. 20:11-15 [xxxiv] Rev. ch. 21