“It is easy is to be prophetic from the margins; what is needed is to be prophetic from the center.”
Eight Summarizing Words
1. The gospel is Christological. It is Christ-centered. Not a bland theism or an impersonal pantheism; it’s irrevocably Christ-centered. “The gospel is not preached if Christ is not preached” (Stott). The gospel embraces not just Christ’s person, but also his death and resurrection. It’s not enough to emphasize Christmas and downplay Good Friday and Easter. Jesus is the promised messiah who died and rose again.
2. The gospel is theological. It makes no sent to pit the mission of the Son against the mission of the Father. Some surveys of redemptive history depersonalize the wrath of God. From the beginning sin has been an offense against God. When we sin in any way, God is invariably the most offended party (cf. Ps. 51:4). God gets most angry at idolatry, the de-Godding of God.
3. The gospel is biblical. Christ died, buried, was raised–“according to the Scriptures” (cf. Luke 24; Ps. 16; Isa. 53; Ps. 2).
4. The gospel is apostolic. There were 500+ witnesses, but attention is drawn in particular to the apostles.
5. The gospel is historical. The burial (death) and appearances (resurrection) are historical, in datable sequence. They combine to form a nexus. The claims are irreducibly historical. In other religions, there is nothing intrinsic in the leader that is required for its truth. But for Christianity, part of the validation of faith is the truthfulness of faith’s object–in this case, Christ’s resurrection. The Bible never asks us to believe anything that’s not true.
6. The gospel is personal. The gospel is not merely a historical event, but also sets out a way of personal salvation.
7. The gospel is universal. Christ is the new Adam (vv. 22, 47-50). There is a comprehensive vision, drawing people from every tribe, tongue, and nation. It does not save every person, but it is gloriously universal in its comprehensive sweep.
8. The gospel is eschatological. Some of the blessings we receive now are end-time blessings brought back into today. But there is also a final transformation. All of the fruit of the gospel will appear in the new heavens and the new earth.
Five Clarifying Sentences
1. This gospel is normally disseminated in proclamation. (“I . . . preached to you.”) There’s almost always a connection in the NT between the “gospel” and words for “heralding” it. It must be announced and explained.
2. This gospel is fruitfully received in authentic persevering faith. Cf. Col. 1.
3. This gospel is properly disclosed in the context of personal self-humiliation. Cf. 1 Cor. 15:9. John Newton:
I am not what I want to be.
I am not what I hope to be.
But by the grace of God, I am not what I was.
When the gospel truly does its work, “proud Christian” is an unthinkable oxymoron.
4. This gospel is rightly asserted to be the central confession of the whole church.
Cf. 1 Cor. 4:17; 7:17; etc. Be suspicious of any church that flaunts what it is doing differently than everybody else.
5. This gospel is boldly advancing under the contested reign and inevitable victory of Christ the King. Phil. 2. “Christ must reign until he has put his enemies under his feet” (1 Cor. 15:25). Verse 58: “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.”
1. It is striking how cognitive the gospel is.
2. The gospel is not the gospel if it remains exclusively cognitive. Chapter 15 comes at the end of a book, the previous chapters of which work out the gospel in various ways and situations. For example: The gospel is not only God’s wisdom, but God’s power. There is no place for triumph in the place of the blood-bought. Where the gospel triumphs, relationships are transformed.
3. The gospel must transform all realms of our lives.