The gospel is the good news of God’s saving activity in the person and work of Christ. This includes his incarnation in which he took to himself full (yet sinless) human nature; his sinless life which fulfilled the perfect law of God; his substitutionary death which paid the penalty for man’s sin and satisfied the righteous wrath of God; his resurrection demonstrating God’s satisfaction with his sacrifice; and his glorification and ascension to the right hand of the Father where he now reigns and intercedes for the church.
Such news is specific: there is a defined ‘thatness’ to the gospel which sets forth the content of both our saving faith and our proclamation. It is objective, and not to be confused with our response. It is sufficient: we can add nothing to what Christ has accomplished for us–it falls to us simply to believe this news, turning from our sins and receiving by faith all that God has done for us in Christ.”
I like this definition. It is a topped and tailed version of what normally passed for the gospel. What I mean is that two things are often added to this message.
- The top: the nature of God and man’s sinfulness before him. This an essential message. It defines the reason for the need of the gospel. But it is not part of the gospel.
- The tail: that through repentance and faith I receive all that God promises. This also is an essential message. But it is not the gospel. This is the call to respond to the gospel.
I think it is important to get this clear in our minds. It is possible to squeeze out the glory of the gospel message by spending time on the perilous situation man finds himself, terrible though it is, hammering away at it. It is possible to put all our efforts into calling and calling and calling. But all the time not having properly expounded the glory of the person and work of Christ.
The more I preach the more I think that this is the need of the day. From my own experience it is easy to spend time in a sermon on the predicament of man and on urging responses. To spend time on Christ and his work requires a certain kind of man in the pulpit, who has a deepening love for Christ and appreciation of the work he has done. This is a spiritual man, spending time on apparently unproductive activities such as prayer and meditation. This is a man who loves the gospel.