Luke 24: The Core Gospel

  • Read Luke 24:1-12 here.
  • If you missed Sunday’s sermon (April 4) you can listen to it here.

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?


  1. K. Rex Butts

    One of the welcomed advances in biblical studies has been a rethinking of what the actual gospel is. In other words, when we speak of “the gospel” what do we mean? The gospel is an event…yes but it also has theological implications…yes but it also is part of a historical story begun with a covenant made with Abraham that has ‘already’ been fulfilled but is ‘not yet’ fully known…yes but…

    My point, which I think you see, is that the gospel is pretty dynamic which makes *precise* defining of a “core gospel” more difficult (though not improbable). That makes me ask how do I or any other communicator of the gospel determine what is core and what is not core? I am not sure of the answer to that question except that I believe it starts by asking the question of if X was ignored, would the gospel still be the gospel? In other words, would the gospel lose its integrity and identity if X were some how lost or ignored.

    Of course the trouble is that what one person insists as belonging to X another person say does not. So maybe to help determine what should belong to X we need to ask what is the goal of the gospel.

    Any ways, I am thinking outloud here because your wrestling with what is the core gospel is something I wrestle with as well.

    Grace and peace,


    • ozziepete

      I always appreciate your comments. I actually used your point in my sermon this week!! How much Good News would we have if Jesus had never been resurrected? Not a lot to celebrate there.

      In 1 Cor. 15:3-4 Paul defines the Gospel as the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, which enables salvation.

      I was preaching from Lk 24 concerning Jesus discussion in the road to Emmaus. He was there able to demonstrate from the OT that the Messiah must suffer first and then enter glory. In 1 Cor. 15 Paul also makes the point that Jesus death and resurrection occurred “according to the Scriptures”.

      All that to say, “Yes, the Gospel is a much larger story than just the final 3 chapters of Matt, Mk, Lk & John. It’s the story of God’s relationship with the world beginning in Genesis and climaxing at Calvary, but still continuing today as He transforms lives.

      • K. Rex Butts

        A good little teaching moment for a Bible class is to ask the students what the Gospel is. Most always the response will be an explanation of 1 Corinthians 15.3-4. Of course that is a correct response but then I like to ask the question “What was the gospel Jesus preached” and look at what the Kingdom of God has to do with gospel. Then I like to start looking at other passages in the New Testament where the “gospel” is explained froma different point of view and start asking the question “what is the writer telling us about the gospel in this particular passage” and write the answers on a white board. I think it helps people, especially ones who innocently always gravitate towards 1 Cor 15, see how dynamic the gospel is.

        Grace and peace,

        P.S., I accepted an invitation to serve as the next minister for the Randolph CoC in Randolph, NJ.

  2. eirenetheou

    “How does the resurrection save us?”

    To answer that question, we need to understand what it is that we are “saved from.” We are saved from death, by the act of God, who raised our Lord Jesus from the dead that we might also be raised. So then “there is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.” Nothing that the world can do should threaten us.

    In Romans 1:1-5 our brother Paul offers another summary of his “gospel”– God’s son, “descended from David according to the flesh, designated Son of God in power according to the spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the nations. . . .” In the rest of the letter Paul is explaining why this good news is truly “good.”

    It is useful to understand that in Paul the designation Son of God comes to Jesus not by his birth in the flesh but by his resurrection from death.

    God’s Peace to you.


    • ozziepete

      Thanks d, I definitely agree that we (CoC) have a very sacrificial/cross perspective of the Gospel, with the resurrection almost as a sweet afterthought (kinda like desert). It’s interesting that Paul doesn’t mention the cross or crucifixion in describing the grace of Christ in Rom. 1. The very existence and presence of Jesus is Good News.

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