What is the Gospel?

It seems a favorite pet project for Christians in the modern age is to define the Gospel. A well-balanced post points out that the Gospel Coalition (and other “reformed” views) attempt to make salvation all about what God has supplied for His elect to follow. Other views of “the Gospel” refer more to a Social Gospel, where Christ came for the oppressed. In short, there are multiple views of what “The Gospel” really is.

Of course, many learn from Sunday School that “Gospel” simply means “good news.” But what is this good news and who is it directed towards? Is it good news for the oppressed that Christ has come to strike down the oppressors (side note: anyone notice how the views of Messiah in 1st century Judea match those of liberation theologians)? Is the good news that God has come to call His elect (also a 1st century view)? Or is it something much simpler?

I think Paul’s summary of the Gospel is, in my opinion, the best view on exactly what the Gospel is; “Christ Jesus came to save sinners, of whom I am chief” (1 Timothy 1:15). Paul states that he was a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an opponent to Christ, yet through mercy he was able to turn away from these things. In other words, the Gospel is the good news for everyone who is a sinner. Via reduction, this means the Gospel is good news for everyone.

But what does it mean “to save sinners?” Does this mean that He came simply to save us from our sins, yet let us continue to wallow in oppression or starvation? Does this mean He came to save us from physical oppression, which would then create a pathway to spiritual salvation? The answer to this, of course, is “yes.”

Christ came to save sinners. When we say “save sinners,” we mean exactly that; He came to save us from our sins, from our oppression, from our torment, from our physical ails, and so on. The Gospel is not some Gnostic or Platonic fantasy where the soul is saved and all physical salvation is secondary. Nor is the Gospel materialistic where we are saved from oppressors with no promise of an afterlife. The Gospel is holistic, meaning that salvation is both spiritual and physical. The actions on the cross save us from our sins, but also save us from death; neither is more important than the other, both are equally important. The Gospel makes us whole again – it doesn’t make us imbalanced by saving our spirit, but neglecting our body or saving our body, but neglecting our spirit. The Gospel saves our spirit and body.

If your Gospel doesn’t include helping the unfortunate, you’ve missed the point. If your Gospel doesn’t include helping people repent of their sins, you’ve missed the point. If your Gospel feeds the hungry, clothes the naked, and preaches redemption for sinners, then you’ve got it. You’ve found the good news. And the great thing is that good news is for everyone; they merely have to listen and follow.