Recently, a couple of Christian friends and I agreed to submit to one another a short statement on our respective understandings of ‘the gospel’, the ‘good news’ of Jesus Christ.
It feels as though it should be easy for a person who has been a Bible-believing, gospel-loving follower of Jesus Christ for nearly half a century to give a short, clear, answer to the question, “What is the good news of Jesus?”
But I didn’t find it quite so easy:
For one thing, there is no one place in Scripture where such an answer is given (although 1 Corinthians 15:3-7 perhaps comes closest).
For another thing, I do not presume to say how much, or how little, knowledge about the gospel is required in order for a person to enter a living relationship with Jesus Christ.
For yet another thing, my answer would vary, depending on whether I was approaching this question experientially (this is my ‘testimony’), evangelistically (this is how I might present the good news to an enquirer), expositorily (this is my understanding of a key Bible passage) or theologically (these are the main elements of the gospel as God has revealed them to us). I have gone for the last of these.
Anyway, after a certain amount of nail-biting and head-scratching, here goes.
- The good news is an announcement of what God in his great love has done for broken, rebellious humanity.
- The good news tells of God’s eternal plan, experienced in part among God’s ancient people and foretold in the ancient Scriptures, now climaxing in the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ.
- The good news is the story of Jesus Christ: his eternal Sonship, incarnation, unique life, atoning death, glorious resurrection, triumphant ascension, heavenly session, and glorious return.
- The good news declares and celebrates Christ’s cross-work, variously described as the bearing of punishment, payment of debt, redemption from slavery, victory over evil, healing from disease, sacrifice for sin, restoration of relationships.
- The good news is an invitation and a summons to repent, believe, and receive eternal life as enabled by the Holy Spirit.
- The good news provides for the adoption of all who believe it into God’s family, the church, the body of Christ.
- The good news is an empowerment to live a fully human life; one that is modelled on that of Christ, and in which God’s image is being restored, and the renewal of God’s creation is sought, as we nurture the fruit of the Spirit and utilise the gifts of the Spirit.
- The good news entails the use of means of grace, including sacraments, mutual edification, Bible reading, and prayer.
- The good news offers blessings that are both ‘already’ and ‘not yet’. In this present life we are, accordingly, called to ‘fight valiantly as disciples of Christ against sin, the world and the devil.’
- The good news points forward to a cosmos in which all wrongs are finally put right, and where righteousness finds its home in the new heavens and the new earth.
It will be noted that I have not incorporated any direct references to Scripture. However, I hope that the very wording of my summary provides hints of some of the Bible passages that form its basis.