There Is Only One Gospel – But Several Ways of Expressing It
There is one gospel that we can outline; but it exists in several forms.
Colossians 1:11-17, “11 Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all. 12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
There is a gospel outline that you see in John, Synoptics, & in Paul.
1 Corinthians 15:1ff – Paul is emphatic that the gospel he presents is the same as the one preached by the Jerusalem apostles. “Whether it was I or they,” Paul says, referring to Peter and the others, “so we preached and so you believed” (1 Cor. 15:10-11). This statement assumes a single body of gospel content.
1) There is one gospel – Galatians 1:8; compare Mark 10:17, 23-34 with Matthew 25 and John 3:5, 6, 17 identical language is used for entering the kingdom of God – you have to be born again to see the kingdom; also Matthew 18:3 with Mark 10:13-16 and compare it with John 3 it’s the same language.
2) There are several forms of the gospel – There are different perspectives on the one gospel. After insisting there is only one gospel (Gal. 1:8), he then speaks of being entrusted with “the gospel of the uncircumcised” as opposed to the “gospel of the circumcised” (Gal. 2:7). When Paul spoke to Greeks, he confronted their culture’s idol of speculation and philosophy with the “foolishness” of the cross, and then presented Christ’s salvation as true wisdom. When he spoke to Jews, he confronted their culture’s idol of power and accomplishment with the “weakness” of the cross, and then presented the gospel as true power (1 Cor. 1:22-25).
Paul’s good news was:
First, that Jesus was the promised Messianic King and Son of God come to earth as a servant, in human form. (Rom. 1:3-4; Phil. 2:4ff.)
Second, by his death and resurrection, Jesus atoned for our sin and secured our justification by grace, not by our works (1 Cor. 15:3ff.)
Third, on the cross Jesus broke the dominion of sin and evil over us (Col. 2:13-15) and at his return he will complete what he began by the renewal of the entire material creation and the resurrection of our bodies (Rom 8:18ff.)
In the Synoptic Gospels:
First, Jesus, the Messiah, is the divine Son of God (Mark 1:1)
Second, who died as a substitutionary ransom for the many (Mark 10:45),
Third, who has conquered the demonic present age with its sin and evil (Mark 1:14-2:10) and will return to regenerate the material world (Matt. 19:28.)
If I had to put this outline in a single statement, I might do it like this:
Through the person and work of Jesus Christ, God fully accomplishes salvation for us, rescuing us from judgment for sin into fellowship with him, and then restores the creation in which we can enjoy our new life together with him forever.
What is the Gospel?
3 Key Points: Manger/Cross/Crown
1) God emptied Himself (incarnation)
2) God substituted Himself (cross, atonement, propitiation, justification)
3) God is returning to restore this world (restoration)
Kingdom – the administration or order of how things work:
The upside down kingdom – God emptied Himself of His glory and came down (a reversal of the way of thinking – a church that works this part will put a great emphasis on justice and servanthood and avoiding class superiority and generosity and giving). He saves us not be taking power but by giving away power.
The inside out kingdom – salvation is a regenerated heart – the inner nature/ (legalism is outside in not inside out); the gospel is inside out.
Forward back kingdom – the idea of the already and not yet of the kingdom (John Stott talks about this in his book on the Contemporary Christian – and the dangers of an over realized or underealized eschatology).
How does this influence preaching?
People with religious backgrounds (Catholic, Jewish, Islamic) need the form of the gospel for the circumcised (they have a concept of sin, righteousness, and moral absolutes)
People with non-religious backgrounds who are the uncircumcised (draw on the texts that deal with idolatry; they are moral relativists – you have to treat them as idolater’s and address this idolatry – what they want is typically good, but they put it before God and make an idol out of it)
Kingdom and Eternal Life Gospel – Younger listeners are struggling with identity – speak in terms of the overarching biblical gospel in terms of creation, fall, redemption, resurrection and restoration.
About the Author: Dr. Tim Keller is the founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan, New York, and the author of numerous books including The Reason for God: Belief in an age of Skepticism (In my opinion the best book to date on apologetics for a postmodern culture—I think this book will do for post moderns what Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis did for moderns); and The Prodigal God (in my opinion the most clear presentation of the gospel for a post modern culture based on Luke 15).