“You don’t know what the gospel is?” the Holy Spirit began impressing upon my heart. “What do you mean?” I asked. “I spent my whole life in church, I took Bible and theology classes in a university setting, and have completed work toward a Masters of Divinity. How could I not know the Gospel?”
As I began to further study God’s Word and read books like, The King Jesus Gospel, Gospel Allegiance, Simply Jesus, and others, I better understood that I had been living in and promoting a salvation culture more than a gospel culture. But what’s the difference?
A salvation culture emphasizes people praying something we call “the sinner’s prayer.” A salvation culture very simply asks, “Who is in and who is out?”¹ But here’s the problem. By doing this, we struggle to move the decided to become the discipled. The mission of a salvation culture begins and ends with making the right decision, moving from unsaved to saved, but then gives no real reason why people should be transformed into the image of Christ.
A gospel culture understands we are living in God’s story.
We are not simply “saved,” waiting for the day that we one day go to heaven, with nothing else to do until that day. Instead, we are saved in order to enter into the good works God has prepared for us to accomplish (Ephesians 2:10), providing us with true meaning and purpose as His kingdom people.
Before I explain what the gospel is, it’s important to know that Jesus preached the gospel. We find in Matthew chapter 9, “Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction.” (Matthew 9:35)
Jesus preached the gospel of the kingdom, which included healing people. It is important we share the gospel that Jesus shared, in word and action.
We find in Luke chapter 24, “Then Jesus said to them, ‘You foolish people! You find it so hard to believe all that the prophets wrote in the Scriptures. Wasn’t it clearly predicted that the Messiah would have to suffer all these things before entering his glory?’ Then Jesus took them through the writings of Moses and all the prophets, explaining from all the Scriptures the things concerning himself…As they sat down to eat, Jesus took the bread and blessed it. Then he broke it and gave it to them. Suddenly, their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And at that moment he disappeared! They said to each other, ‘Didn’t our hearts burn within us as he talked with us on the road and explained the Scriptures to us?’” (Luke 24:25-27, 30-32)
When Jesus takes these two travelers through scripture from “Genesis to Malachi,” He is sharing the gospel. He is sharing the Good News about Himself. What was the result of these two hearing the gospel? Their hearts were set on fire! Why? Because they finally understood who Jesus was, what He came to accomplish, and their role in His ongoing mission.
But, what is the gospel? It starts in the garden of Eden where God made Adam and Eve in His image and likeness and gave them the simple task of governing this world on God’s behalf. He commanded them to, “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it” (Genesis 1:27-31). Problem is, Adam and Eve thought better and they “usurped the rule of God in this world and, instead of listening to the good word of God, they listened to the serpent and to themselves and ruined their opportunity to govern as God’s co-governors in Eden.”²
Adam and Eve were removed from the garden, and God would have to find another way for His likeness to co-govern the world. Problem is, all the descendants of Adam and Eve have proven this pattern. We are all usurpers. We all want to rule, not under God as God’s under-governors but as gods and goddesses ourselves.²
This is the root of secularism, where we are our own gods.
Secularism is not new, it started in the garden and remains with us still.
What we find as we move through human history is men and women remain rebellious, and so they continue to reject the rule of God (Genesis – Malachi). Ultimately God would have to break into history with someone who would rule rightly. Thankfully, He did.
God sent Jesus to rule on God’s behalf as Messiah. Problem is, neither Israel nor the Gentiles around Israel accepted Him as Messiah. What they didn’t know was that God could reverse their rebellion and reverse their death and start all over again.²
They also didn’t know that Jesus would be crowned King on the cross (Matthew 27:37) and He would defeat sin, death and the devil through His death and resurrection. God was making a way for His creation to be fruitful and multiply and serve as His co-governors once again.
Jesus is King and His resurrection from the dead is the birth of new creation. The power that had tyrannized the old creation had been broken, defeated, and overthrown. God’s kingdom had been launched in power and glory, on earth as in heaven.
“A new power is let loose in the world, the power to remake what was broken, to heal what was diseased, to restore what was lost.”³
As Michael Bates writes, “The gospel is the true story of how Jesus the Son was sent by God the Father to become the saving king who now rules forever at his right hand through the sending of the Holy Spirit, fulfilling God’s promises in Scripture.”†
He further explains, “The gospel is that Jesus the king: 1. preexisted as God the Son 2. was sent by the Father, 3. took on human flesh in fulfillment of God’s promises to David, 4. died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 5. was buried, 6. was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 7. appeared to many witnesses, 8. is enthroned at the right hand of God as the ruling Christ, 9. has sent the Holy Spirit to his people to effect his rule, and 10. will come again as final judge to rule.”†
Although two pages is not really enough to fully explain what the gospel is, it will provide helpful context for us as we look at how we live in the gospel. For a brief video about the gospel of the Kingdom, visit: The Bible Project.
Living in the gospel is living in God’s story, which is far better than trying to live in our own story. You can also find a video message of this content here.
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1 McKnight, Scot. The King Jesus Gospel. pg. 29.
2 McKnight, Scot. The King Jesus Gospel. pg. 148-150.
3 Wright, N.T. Simply Jesus. pg. 193.
† Bates, Michael. Gospel Allegiance. pg. 86.