I routinely ponder the question, “What is the core of the Gospel?” Perhaps, if I have to ponder the question it’s not as important as I think it is.
I think I ask this question because I don’t want to spend my time arguing about things that aren’t important. So I try to create boxes. One box for “Core Gospel” issues. Another box for “Important, But Not Core” issues. Another box for “Interesting, But Not Important”. And another box for “I Really Don’t Think It Matters If We Disagree” issues.
Here are some candidates for the “Core Gospel” box, off the top of my head.
- God is love. (Jn 3:16, 1 Jn 4:8, 16)
- The death/sacrifice of Jesus. (Heb. 9:26, Rom 5:9)
- The resurrection of Jesus. (1 Cor. 15:18-20)
- The return of Christ. (1 Thess. 4:16-18)
- Baptism for forgiveness (Acts 2:38, ). (Personally, I see this as a response to the Gospel, not the Gospel itself, but I know not everyone sees it this way.)
- Christian living/obedience (Jms. 2:24)
What else would you add to this list? I know my list isn’t exhaustive, or even accurate. I just listed some of the things I’ve heard expressed as the “Core Gospel”.
One of the few occasions where Paul defines the “Gospel” is 1 Cor. 15:1-11 and he doesn’t restrict it to just one or two components. He covers:
- Christ died for our sins
- He fulfilled prophecy
- The resurrection
- Jesus appeared to many after his resurrection
- Paul’s inadequacy
- God’s grace superseding our works.
Anyway, the Resurrection is a big one for me! I agree with Paul in 1 Cor. 15. If Christ wasn’t raised from the dead, his body just stolen or something, then we are to be pitied for living a fantasy. On the other hand, if Jesus did rise from the dead to live eternally, then we have the most amazing future to look forward to. A future that those who deny the resurrection don’t have.
An interesting verse on this topic is 1 Peter 3:21, which speaking of baptism says, “it saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ…” I really believe that we seldom associate the resurrection with our salvation. We generally view salvation as occurring on the cross, and the resurrection serving as a kind of promise, or bait, if we buy into the Jesus story and live a good life. So I find that verse interesting.
- Do you have a favorite element of the Gospel?
- How do you understand 1 Peter 3:21? How does the resurrection save us?