What is the gospel?
That was the question I posed to a room of two dozen Christians. Each person answered the question in a different way, agreeing that it was incomplete. “God loves you.” “Jesus died for your sins, in order to be forgiven.” There’s one gospel, but it comes in many forms.
Consider John 3:16, “for God so loved the world that he sent his one and only Son, that whoever would believe in him would not perish but have eternal life.” With this in mind, then the gospel is about having everlasting life with God through Jesus.
Consider another passage, Mark 1:14-15, where Jesus said, ’the time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God is at hand, repent and believe in the gospel.’” If so, then the gospel is the good news that God’s reign has finally begun in and through Jesus.
Consider a different passage, Rev 21:5, when Jesus said: “behold I am making all things new.” This is when Jesus is renewing people and places and things to himself. God is working in the world to that end.
The gospel is rich with multiple diverse perspectives, like a diamond or a prism. Christians often abbreviate the gospel. Something to be easily remembered when the opportunity to share the gospel and evangelize presents itself — Jesus died for you so that y This abbreviated version is not wrong, its just incomplete. The abbreviated version says that we are sinners, and Jesus rescues us. This abbreviated gospel gives the impression that following Jesus is a private, individual enterprise. This abbreviated gospel “reduces salvation to personal escape from the evil physical world to a blissful spiritual heaven.” It says that the physical world is evil, and the spiritual world is good.
The gospel, to the contrary, is rooted in creation. It is the story of creation, fall, redemption, and new creation. The Apostle Paul eloquently captures this in Colossians 1:15-23, where he simultaneously captures how Jesus saves individuals (v 21) and the entirety of his creation (v 20), making peace by the blood of the cross.
Jesus died to bring you peace and life with God. This includes the forgiveness of our sins (Col. 1:14), but also the full restoration of Jesus’ reign over all things.
This is how British writer Christopher Wright put it,
“Paul comprehensively and repeatedly includes ‘all things’ not only in what God created through Christ, but what he plans to redeem through Christ. It is clear that ‘all things’ means the whole created order… because of that plan of cosmic redemption, the whole of creation can look forward to the future as a time of liberation and freedom from frustration.”
This profoundly shapes our lives. As followers of Jesus, we’ve experienced forgiveness. Our lives are transformed by God’s love and grace. His Spirit slowly reorders our lives, making us into reflections of his Son. He makes us into a new family, called the church. But the church is not a container for souls until they get to heaven, nor is the church a place to go for an hour on Sunday mornings. The church is much more than that. The church is the living demonstration of God’s intentions for the whole creation.
If you experience God’s love, then your life must be marked by his love for all things. Our imaginations need to be caught up in God’s intentions for this world. We need to be able to imagine ways to use our power for love. We need to use our privilege to demonstrate God’s kindness to others. We need to give our entire lives to Jesus, that his invisible reign would be made visible.