What is the Gospel?By
“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4, ESV).
Much confusion exists today over just exactly what the gospel is. In an effort to clarify the gospel some begin with a via negativa. Highlighting what the gospel is not can be very helpful because, unfortunately, the word “gospel” is thrown around quite a bit, and we need to be reminded that just because we use the word “gospel” does not mean we are gospel people. But stating what the gospel is not isn’t sufficient. We must continually remind ourselves what the gospel is, for IT is the power of God for salvation to all who believe and IT is what we need to fight against sin by faith and grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ. There are several places in Scripture where the gospel is briefly summarized; 1 Corinthians 15:1-4, is just one of those places. There the apostle Paul reminds us:
The gospel is the revelation of God’s plan to reconcile sinners to Himself (1 Corinthians 15:3). This saving plan was prophesied long ago (1 Peter 1:10-12), revealed to the New Testament apostles and prophets (Ephesians 2:20) and inscripturated for our sake under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:16-21). In other words, the gospel is not a man-made message (Galatians 1:11-2:11) but a divine revelation received (1 Corinthians 15:3).
The gospel is about Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). This saving plan that was revealed in a progressive but limited fashion to the Old Testament prophets, then fully disclosed to the New Testament apostles and prophets concerns Jesus Christ (Romans 1:1-4). God reconciles all things to Himself through Jesus (Colossians 1:19-21). Consequently, the Father sent Jesus at the appropriate time in history to face the “hour” of His death on the cross for us (John 12:23-28; 17:1). In this sense we may also say that the gospel is an unrepeatable event in history.
Thus, the heart of the gospel is the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ, for this historical event was the plan which has now been revealed (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).
1. Jesus Christ died as a propitiatory sacrifice for sin (1 Corinthians 15:3; Hebrews 2:14-17). We are sinners born in sin who owe a debt too large to pay (Romans 6:23). Thus, the gospel is not a message of what we must do to redeem ourselves—that’s religion. The gospel message announces that only the Father can cancel the debt of sin that we owe by counting it against Jesus, His own Son (Colossians 2:13-14; cf. 2 Corinthians 5:21). This penal-substitutionary death was according to the Scriptures (Isaiah 53:4-5).
2. Jesus Christ was buried. The point here is that contrary to Greek philosophical ideas that Jesus only appeared to die, He really died, and He really was buried (cf. Isaiah 53:9).
3. Jesus Christ was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures (1 Corinthians 15:4; see also Acts 2:23-32). Without the resurrection there is no gospel, no good news. Without the resurrection we are still in our sins (1 Corinthians 15:12-18). The resurrection reminds us that in the same way Jesus was raised, all who hope in Him will also be raised.
What are we to do with this gospel?
1. We are to repent (turn away) from our sins and receive Jesus’ work on our behalf by faith (1 Corinthians 15:1-2; Mark 1:14-15).
2. We are to remain in this gospel by faith (1 Corinthians 15:1-2), for the gospel is that on which Christians stand. In other words, we will never outgrow the gospel.
3. We are to proclaim this gospel, for it is the only hope of salvation to the world (1 Corinthians 15:1, 3). This is the gospel priority (1 Corinthians 15:3). It was Jesus’ priority (Luke 4:18, 42-44); it was Paul’s priority (Acts 20:24; 1 Corinthians 1:17; 9:23); it should be our priority (Mark 16:15; Luke 24:44-47).