The gospel is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes – from every tribe, nation and language on earth. We forget that to our own detriment.
“The gospel” is also a buzzword among young evangelicals, who talk about being gospel-centered and gospel-focused. Nothing could be better. We need to understand the gospel and to proclaim it clearly and forcefully. Everything we do must be gospel-centered and gospel-proclaiming.
But I have a small problem with the “gospel” talk that goes on. Of course, there are some who use “the gospel” as a theological wedge. “My group preaches the gospel better than your group.” That’s wrong, but it is not my focus here. My concern is that we may, by our gospel talk, be missing one of the most important aspects of the gospel – the personal aspect.
The gospel is Jesus Christ. It is not a doctrine or a theory. It is Jesus. And the purpose of the gospel is to bring us into what Henry Blackaby calls a “personal love relationship” with God through Jesus Christ. Jesus is not the key to truth. He is truth. Jesus doesn’t show us the way. He is the way. Jesus does not give us principles by which we can live a better life. He is the resurrection and the life. The gospel only changes us because it brings us into contact with the life-changing, soul-transforming power of Jesus. The gospel is the story. Jesus is the one whom the story is about.
I am afraid that too much of the “gospel” talk we hear makes things so impersonal. Some people are uncomfortable with experiential and relational talk about God. They like a cerebral faith, based on an intellectual understanding of truth. Could that be why some prefer to talk about “the gospel” rather than a relationship with Jesus?
I know that the difference is in some ways semantic, but it is an important semantic distinction. Our lives are changed not by the story of the gospel but by the One who wrote the story in his blood.
I’m not trying to be combative or dismissive here. Again, the gospel-centered movement is righteous and necessary. But (like most things) there is a dangerous extreme within the movement that focuses more on “the gospel” than on Jesus. The gospel is about a man, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. He is Lord. He lives. He walks and talks with his people in full fellowship. He is working to transform us. He wants us to love him and for us to experience his love.
Let us remember that the reason we need to know the gospel is that the gospel is the means by which we can know Jesus!