Six Gospel Essentials

Six Gospel Essentials
First Corinthians 15 may be the clearest definition of the gospel in all the Bible. It’s often gone to by those who want to define the gospel in brief terms, because Paul does it. I see six elements — five of them explicit in the text, one of them implicit. So, let me read it and then point out these six elements to the gospel.

Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel [he’s about to define the gospel] I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved [yes, you are; it’s the power of God unto salvation], if you hold fast to the word I preached to you — unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures. (1 Corinthians 15:1–4)

Here are six elements of the gospel I see in that text. If any one of these six is missing, we have no gospel.

  1. The gospel is a divine plan.
    Look at the end of verse 3: “Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures,” which were written hundreds of years before Christ died, which means God had a plan. And if he didn’t, we have no gospel; it was just a fluke of history. But it’s all written down in the Old Testament, hundreds of years before it happened. And Paul says that’s essential.
  2. The gospel is a historical event.
    The gospel is not only a plan of God; it is a historical event: Christ died. Christ rose again. If that did not happen historically so you can see it with your physical eyes, we have no gospel. There are a lot of modern people who try to demythologize this and just turn it into ideas. It’s not an idea. He ate fish after the resurrection (Luke 24:41–43).
  3. The gospel is a divine achievement.
    The gospel is a divine achievement through that event of suffering and resurrection. And by achievement, I mean things like “he died for our sins.” Verse 3, again, at the end: “Christ died for our sins.” There’s a design in it. There’s an accomplishment in it. Something is achieved in his death. It’s not a random death. God has a design.

“Do you know why you’re forgiven? So that your guilt won’t get in the way of enjoying God.”TweetShare on Facebook
He’s accomplishing something through the historical event — like, covering our sins (Colossians 2:14), removing God’s wrath (Romans 8:3), purchasing eternal life (John 3:16). These are objective achievements of the objective event, which are true whether you come into existence two thousand years later or not. This is what I mean by salvation being extra nos: It’s out there. God did it in history. It’s there. It’s done. And then I get born two thousand years later.

  1. The gospel is a free offer.
    The gospel is a free offer of Christ for faith, not works. The gospel is a free offer to all for faith; Christ is offered to you for faith alone. Where do I see that? Verses 1–2: “I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you — unless you believed in vain.” You’ve got those two words receive and believe, just like in John 1:12: “To all who did receive him, who believed in his name . . .” That’s what it is to receive the gospel. You can’t work for this. It is based on Christ alone.

It is external, outside of you, achieved and accomplished two thousand years ago. Now you’re born. You hear that news. What do you do? Maybe you say, “I’m going to start working for God, so I can impress him with how morally worthy I am.” You’re not. And you never get there that way. You receive it. You believe it. You embrace Jesus as your Treasure and your Lord and your Savior from all that you need saving from, and you are then saved forever. It’s an awesome gospel.

  1. The gospel is applied to your heart.
    The gospel is an application of the achievements accomplished in history to your heart individually when you believe. So, forgiveness of sins was purchased once and applied now. All your sins are forgiven when you believe.

Justification — you weren’t justified when Jesus died; you’re justified when you believe, when it becomes yours. And then the purchase of the justification and the performance of the righteousness two thousand years ago is applied. That’s why I’m using the word application: it’s applied to you.

Or eternal life — you didn’t have eternal life when Jesus died; you have eternal life when you believe. And then, what he bought out there, what he wrought out there, becomes yours through the connection with Jesus through faith. So, the gospel is the application to believers of all that he purchased and achieved two thousand years ago.

  1. The gospel is enjoying God.
    The gospel is the enjoyment of fellowship with God himself. Now, if you ask, “Where do you see that?” well, I see it outside this text, but where I see it inside this text is in the word gospel. Gospel means good news, right? So, you have to ask, What’s good about the good news? And if you stop after “my sins are forgiven” and “I’m vindicated in the court” and “I can go free and have life forever” — if you stop there, you haven’t even mentioned God. That’s serious.

Do you know why you’re forgiven? So that your guilt won’t get in the way of enjoying God.
Do you know why you’re vindicated in the court of heaven? So that your condemnation won’t get in the way of enjoying God.
Do you know why you have new life and a promised new body someday? So that you have capacities within to finally enjoy God the way he ought to be enjoyed.
It’s all a means to this sixth point. And if you want to know where I see this explicitly in the Bible, the clearest text would be 1 Peter 3:18: “Christ . . . suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God.” So, I would say Romans 5:11 and 1 Peter 3:18 are the clearest statements in the New Testament concerning God being the prize of the price of the gospel.

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