This is such an important question that it is surprising that many evangelicals are confused about the answer. Ask any professing Christian what is the gospel and you will end up with a wide variety of answers. For example, a Christian musician was asked this question recently in an interview and this was his response:
"What a great question. I guess I’d probably…my instinct is to say that it’s Jesus coming, living, dying, and being resurrected and his inaugurating the already and not yet of all things being restored to himself…and that happening by way of himself…the being made right of all things…that process both beginning and being a reality in the lives and hearts of believers and yet a day coming when it will be more fully realized. But the good news, the gospel, the speaking of the good news, I would say is the news of his coming kingdom, the inaugurating of his kingdom coming…that’s my instinct."
Unfortunately, an unbeliever would be confused about the gospel after hearing an explanation like this. As Christians, this is one theological question we must be equipped to answer. We should be able to quickly and clearly explain the gospel as easily as we could quote John 3:16.
My first sermon series at Liberty Baptist Church was on the gospel because it is the message of “first importance” (1 Cor. 15:3). I want to ensure that all of us can share the gospel in a succinct and precise manner as it is revealed in the Bible. In order to do this each message of the series focused on a different component of the gospel. These four components are: God, Man, Christ, Response. Below is a brief explanation of each of these parts. My prayer is that all of us would commit this outline and the content to memory so that we are able to explain the gospel concisely and coherently.
There are many things we could say about God, but we must never neglect the fact that he is our Creator and he is holy. Since he created us he has authority to tell us what to do and has the right to hold us accountable for our behavior.
Although we should be grateful to our Creator and reverence his holiness we have all rejected him and sinned against him. Our sin separates us from a loving relationship with God and condemns us eternally in hell.
The good news is that God has not left us alone. He has taken the initiative and sent his Son to become a man, Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus was the only man to perfectly obey the Father. Jesus died on a cross as a substitute receiving the spiritual punishment that humans deserve for their sin. Jesus was resurrected proving that his sacrifice for sins was accepted by the Father and that this gospel message is true.
God commands all people to respond to the gospel. Men and women can only receive forgiveness of sins and experience a reconciled relationship with God through repentance and belief. Repentance is turning from our sins toward Christ. Believing is trusting in Jesus alone for our salvation.
There is so much more that could be said about the gospel. In fact, our whole lives should be devoted to better understanding this message. As David Prior correctly states, “We never move on from the cross, only into a more profound understanding of the cross. The cross and its meaning aren't something we ever master.” My hope and prayer is that as a church we would have a clear understanding of the gospel as well as go deeper in our understanding of it.