Contours of a Great Commission Resurgence, Part 5: What is the Gospel? The Full Orchestra Rendition

Think of your salvation testimony as a melody being played on a quiet instrument-a clarinet or oboe, perhaps. You play the tune for the Lord and to anyone and everyone who will listen. Now imagine that one day, while engrossed in the joy of playing your simple song, you are joined by an enormous, massive orchestra. And not just an orchestra of dozens or even hundreds, but thousands and tens of thousands-and a choir that is even larger.

Their sudden appearance is overwhelming. What’s more, you realize that they didn’t really join you. Rather, it becomes clear that your melody is actually part of a much larger movement of music-a piece marvelous in its intricacy and genius. At that point you realize that your salvation isn’t just about you; your redemption is part of a plan that encompasses heaven and earth.

Some verses in the Bible highlight the benefits of the Gospel for the individual believer, such as when Paul identifies himself with Jesus (“who loved me and gave his life for me.” Gal 2:20d). Other passages emphasize how the Gospel is producing a special people-the church-for God (i.e. “Christ loved the church, and gave himself for her” Eph 5:25). The Bible makes much of what the Gospel means for individual Christians and the corporate church, and we should too.

But that’s not all the Bible has to say about the subject. Not by a long shot. Time after time, in passage after passage (Rom 9-11, Eph. 1-2, Col 1, and Rev 5, just to name a few), the Scriptures unveil the Gospel’s full orchestra rendition. And what a symphony it is! The Gospel is not just about you and me, or even only about the church. The Gospel is for the nations because it is good news of cosmic proportions (Rom 8; Col 1). The Great Commission Resurgence is a call to hear the Gospel as the ballad of the one true epic of history.

So what exactly is the Gospel?

1. The Gospel is “the good news of the Kingdom” (Matt 24:14). The Gospel must be understood within the grand narrative of Creation, Fall, Redemption and Consummation. God has invaded our sin-darkened world-this is really good news! So the Gospel is the “Gospel of God” (Mark 1:14; Rom 1:1; 2 Cor 11:7; 1 Thess 2:2, 8-9) because it is the bulletin that God has acted decisively in history, that he has not left us in darkness, and that in so doing is glorifying himself. Often the Gospel is called the “good news of the Kingdom” because it announces that God has arrived in the person of his Son, King Jesus (Mark 4:23; 9:35). The Gospel declares that Christ has begun to establish his Kingdom and will return to fully reign over his dominion. All Creation looks forward to that day (Rom 8:22-25).

2. The Gospel is the good news of victory-over Satan and death. Pictures of Times Square packed with thousands celebrating the end of WWII have become iconic of the giddy relief felt when dark days give way to victory. That is nothing compared to the worshipful celebration of the redeemed (Rev 5:11-14). By his death, burial, and resurrection, Christ made an open spectacle of our implacable enemies (Col 2:15). On our behalf he defeated death and the Devil (1 Cor 15:54-57; Heb 2:9-15) and established his supremacy over all things (Col 1:13-23).

3. The Gospel is the good news of forgiveness of sins. In his discussion of the Gospel in 1 Cor 15, Paul emphasizes that Christ died “for our sins.” The Gospel is the good news that at Calvary Jesus became our substitute and suffered the wrath of God on our behalf. The blood of Christ is both our propitiation and expiation. It both pleads on the behalf of and cleanses the one who trusts him as Lord and Savior.

4. The Gospel is the good news of reconciliation (Rom 5:6-11; 2 Cor 5:18-21). The Gospel announces that God has reconciled himself to us in Jesus Christ. The Gospel is the true “good news of peace” (Rom 5:1; Eph 6:15). In sum, the Gospel is the joyous news that God, by and through his Son, acted to redeem all things-including us-to himself. This is the Gospel of Christ (1 Cor 9:12; 2 Cor 2:12; Gal 1:7; 1 Thess 3:2; Rom 15:16).

Yes, the Gospel is about us. But it’s not just about us. It’s not even primarily about us. The Great Commission Resurgence is a call to resist the temptation to think of ourselves as soloists. We are part of the ultimate symphony. What a glorious privilege.

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