For all of my adult life the gospel was clear and compelling. As the apostle Paul put it,
Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you…that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to (many).”(1 Cor. 15:1-5)
Four foundational truths: Christ died, was buried, rose and appeared to others. This is the gospel that Paul preached. This is true, powerful, and it has changed my life forever. I must ask, however, is this all that the gospel is? Is accepting these facts enough, or does the truth need to be deeper, incarnate and revolutionary in one’s life? Even for Paul, the Gospel became so intense and personal to him that he sometimes referred to it as “my Gospel” (2 Tim 2:8).
Because we have limited the gospel to an assent of belief to the above four historic facts, we have also limited the impact of the very message itself. Do not hear me wrong: the redemptive mission of Christ—the sacrificial atonement for sins, the power of the resurrection and the authenticity of what Christ did for us—is without question powerful, true, and shapes all of human history. But this is the starting place, not the destination.
We must come to terms with the fact that the gospel was preached by Jesus and His disciples BEFORE the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. It is perfectly clear from all the gospel accounts in the New Testament that the disciples did not understand that Jesus had to die and rise from the dead until after the fact. Nevertheless, they went about the cities and villages preaching the gospel before Jesus’ sacrifice. What gospel were they preaching? Is it possible that the gospel is more than just the cross and empty tomb, as incredibly powerful as they are? I think there is more to the gospel.