Ministering to the poor and homeless is not the gospel.
Speaking in tongues, prophesying, and moving in other gifts is not the gospel.
Pro-Christian political activism is not the gospel.
Intercessory prayer is not the gospel.
Healings and miracles are not the gospel.
Tradition is not the gospel.
Creation care is not the gospel.
Evangelizing the world is not the gospel.
If these things are not the gospel, WHAT IS?
“The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God” (Mark 1:1).
“Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle and singled out for God’s good news…concerning His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 1:1-3).
“For I passed on to you as most important what I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures….” (1 Cor. 15:3-4).
“God wanted to make known among the Gentiles the glorious wealth of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. We proclaim Him….” (Col. 1:27-28).
“If we accept the testimony of men, God’s testimony is greater, because it is God’s testimony that He has given about His Son” (1 John 1:9).
These are just a few plain statements from scripture. Jesus Christ is the gospel.
When the gospel of Christ transforms us, it certainly affects us and the world. We will minister to the poor and homeless; we will operate in spiritual gifts and see miracles; we will pray and evangelize; we will hand down what we have received.
Mark 16:20 says, “And they went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word by the accompanying signs.” The effects of the gospel are signs. Ministry, activism, healings, words of knowledge–all of these divinely advertise the gospel. But they are not the gospel any more than a billboard for a store is the store itself.
Some of you are asking, “Why does this matter?” (I’ve been asking myself, and the Lord, the same thing since the idea for this post occurred to me). It is a matter of order, priority. It is the difference between cause and effect, focus and periphery, headwaters and downstream, source and secondary. Jesus must be cause, focus, headwaters, and source. He is no one’s effect or periphery. He isn’t downstream or secondary. He is all and in all (Col. 3:11).
When pet ministries or theologies define the gospel (and therefore Christ), we risk doing things in His name but not by His life. Vibrant expressions of Jesus become human, wooden, dead. Vison blurs. Streams dry up.
Non-Christians can be humanitarian; they can persuade others of strongly held beliefs (“gospels”); they can have ecstatic, mystical experiences. None of these trappings set Christians apart.
In his book, On Being a Christian, Hans Kung makes this very point. He then asks, Why be a Christian? What sets Christians apart and makes them a distinct people? His answer?
The crucified and yet living Christ is the concrete summing up of the Christian message and the Christian faith. He is Himself the wholly concrete truth of Christianity (On Being a Christian, ch 6).
THAT is gospel.