How do you define The Gospel? I have often heard the Gospel mistaken for one’s response to the Gospel. Some will argue that the Gospel means we can pray and invite Jesus into our heart and life. Others define the Gospel as 5 Steps of Salvation culminating with baptism into Christ for the remission of sins. However, both of these responses describe activity on our part without explaining why the forgiveness of sins is possible. It’s like praising western civilization by pointing out that milk is readily available at the supermarket whenever we want it without ever mentioning the long hours worked by the farmer, or the role of cows in its production.
In 1 Corinthians 15: 1-5 the apostle, Paul, describes the Gospel as Jesus’ death for our sins, his burial, and his resurrection. He Specifically says in v2 that “By this gospel you are saved” with no mention of prayer or baptism. In this post I don’t want to spend a lot of time discussing the appropriate response to the Gospel, but I want to clarify our understanding of the Gospel. The Good News of Jesus is that he died to remove our sins. He was so dead he was buried. God restored Christ to life and in the process gave us hope of life beyond the grave. That’s Good News! That saves us!
The overwhelming point of Paul’s letter to the church in Colossae is to reassure them that the Gospel message they received is the complete message (1:3-8). This message, not surprisingly, centres on Jesus (2:8). It seems to me that 2:6-15 reiterates 1:15-23. The basic outline is the same:
- Jesus is All-powerful God. (1:15-19; 2:9-10)
- The Colossians were separated from God – alienated & uncircumcised. (1:21; 2:11, 13)
- Jesus died to remove the separation, to forgive sins. (1:22; 2:11-12, 13-14)
- 1:23 explicitly says that “THIS IS THE GOSPEL!!”
- Chapter 2 also says THIS IS THE GOSPEL but not explicitly.
Do you remember Paul’s definition of the Gospel in 1 Cor 15 (Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection)? In chapter 2 verses 14 & 15 mention the cross, referring of course to Jesus’ death. Verse 12 tells us that through baptism (a response to the Gospel) we have been buried with him and resurrected with him. Although Paul has several metaphors all working at the same time in a confusing manner the message is simple: THIS IS THE GOSPEL!
In total the description given of The Gospel in Colossians is larger than that given in 1 Corinthians. The identity and majesty of Jesus are key components of the Gospel message here in Colossians. By implication, given his emphasis on Christ’s majesty, the incarnation of Christ is also a vital point. Paul also gives emphasis to spiritual consequences of sin and the need for reconciliation before moving to Christ’s death, burial and resurrection. He also explains the significance of baptism as a response to this message, and makes no mention of asking Jesus into one’s heart.
- How have you most often heard The Gospel presented? What are the key points in your mind?
- Why do you think we confuse the message and the response? (Of course the fact that we CAN respond and obtain forgiveness is Great News!)
- What should we make of the fact that Paul’s summary is different in Romans and Colossians? Isn’t there just one Gospel?