Gospel Definitions





Trevin Wax|3:26 am CT

Gospel Definitions: Daniel Montgomery & Mike Cosper

For a few years now, I’ve been collecting and posting Gospel Definitions from pastors, theologians, and scholars. It’s been interesting to see other authors and church leaders work through and comment on the various definitions of the good news.

Daniel Montgomery and Mike Cosper’s new book, Faithmapping: A Gospel Atlas for Your Spiritual Journey, includes a section called “The Whole Gospel,” in which they speak of the gospel in three aspects: kingdom, cross, and grace:

What is the gospel of the kingdom? It is the good news that life with God under the rule of God is available to all who would turn from their rebellion and trust in King Jesus. (43)

What is the gospel of the cross? It is the good news that through faith in Jesus’ perfect life, death for our sins, and victorious resurrection from the dead, we are justified and reconciled to God. (67)

What is the gospel of grace? The gospel of grace is the good news of God’s wonderful acceptance of us not because we have earned it or deserve it but because he gives it to us freely at Christ’s expense. (85)

Daniel and Mike encourage us to embrace and proclaim the “whole” gospel:

“The great temptation is to allow one aspect to overshadow or compete with the others… The case we’re making is that the gospel is not simply a kingdom message or a cross message or a grace message – it’s all three. Our tendency, for a variety of reasons, is to splinter the message, to exalt one aspect over the others, and to diminish the scope and impact of the others. By doing this, it is we who suffer, missing out on the totality of the message of the gospel.” (90)





Trevin Wax|3:27 am CT

Gospel Definitions: Lesslie Newbigin

“We know that sin and suffering belong together, not as an accident, but by a necessary connection. They ought to belong together - and that is another way of saying that God punishes sin. That is not an Old Testament doctrine abrogated by the gospel. It is taught by Jesus in the Gospels with an absoluteness that is nowhere exceeded in the Old Testament.

“But it is just because we know and cannot escape from that fundamental certainty, that the cross is what it is to us, the demonstration that the God against whom we have sinned and who rightly punishes sin, Himself drinks to the very dregs, deeper than even the foulest sinner has to drink, the cup of punishment.

“The paradox reaches its climax when He whom we know as the Word made flesh cries out ‘My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?’ God bereft of God that He might save those who have sinned against God.

“I know it is sheer paradox, but I firmly believe that the heart of the gospel is there, and that if you remove one side of the paradox, and say that in the cross belief in divine punishment was shown to be an error, I think you both undercut all real moral experience and also take the power out of the cross itself.”

Signs Amid the Rubble: The Purposes of God in Human History, 43.

“[By the word 'gospel'] we don’t mean Christianity. We’re not talking about religious experience. We’re talking about a factual statement.

“Namely, that at a certain point in history, the history of this world, God who is the author, the sustainer, the goal of all that exists, of all being and all meaning and all truth, has become present in our human history as the man Jesus, whom we can know and whom we can love and serve; and that by His incarnation, His ministry, His death and resurrection, He has finally broken the powers that oppress us and has created a space and a time in which we who are unholy can nevertheless live in fellowship with God who is holy.”

Signs Amid the Rubble: The Purposes of God in Human History, 113.

(Check out the ongoing series entitled “Gospel Definitions” - the largest grouping of gospel definitions on the internet today.)





Trevin Wax|3:55 am CT

Gospel Definitions: John Stott

John Stott – from Christian Mission in the Modern World:

What is the one, the changeless New Testament gospel? The first and the best answer would be to say that the whole Bible is God’s good news in all its astonishing relevance. Bible and gospel are almost alternative terms, for the major function of the Bible in all its length and breadth is to bear witness to Jesus Christ. Nevertheless, God’s revelation recorded in Scripture.

What is [the gospel]? God’s good news is Jesus.

How did the apostles present Jesus? Their good news contained at least five elements.

  • The gospel events, as saving events.
  • The gospel witnesses, by which I mean the evidence to which they appealed for its authentication.
  • The gospel affirmations. (They concern not simply what he did more than nineteen centuries ago, however, but what he is today in consequence. “Jesus is Lord.”)
  • The gospel promises (what Christ now offers and indeed promises to those who come to him – a new life in the present through the regeneration and indwelling of the Holy Spirit, who is also the guarantee of our future inheritance in heaven).
  • The gospel demands (repentance and faith – and (in public) baptism.

What is the Good News?
The good news is Jesus. And the good news about Jesus which we announce is that he died for our sins and was raised from death. In consequence he reigns as Lord and Savior at God’s right hand and has authority both to command repentance and faith, and to bestow forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Spirit on all those who repent, believe and are baptized. And all this is according to the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments. It is more than that. It is precisely what is meant by “proclaiming the kingdom of God.” For in fulfillment of Scripture God’s reign has broken into the life of men through the death and resurrection of Jesus. This reign or rule of God is exercised from the throne by Jesus, who bestows salvation and requires obedience. These are the blessing and the demand of the kingdom.

- adapted from Christian Mission in the Modern World

(Check out the ongoing series entitled “Gospel Definitions” - the largest grouping of gospel definitions on the internet today.)





Trevin Wax|11:57 am CT

Gospel Definitions: Jonathan Pennington

“Consistently throughout the New Testament Epistles the ‘gospel’ refers to the oral proclamation about Jesus the Christ (meaning the anointed Davidic King) – who he was; what he accomplished through his life, death, and resurrection; the promise of his future return to establish God’s reign; and the concomitant call to repent and have faith. This is not a message of moralism or a call to greater religious obedience but rather is a proclamation of God’s grace and the invitation to hope. This is why it is rightly called ‘good news.’”

“The New Testament authors, building especially on the Isaianic vision, define the ‘gospel’ as Jesus’ effecting the long-awaited return of God himself as King, in the power of the Spirit bringing his people back from exile and into the true promised land of a new creation, forgiving their sins, and fulfilling all the promises of God and the hopes of his people. This Isaianic vision is itself based on God’s work at the exodus, which the prophets take up and reappropriate to describe God’s future work. Because of this vision, described as the proclamation of good news, the apostles call their kerygma ‘gospel,’ and it is why the evangelists likewise describe the work of Jesus and the narratives about him as euangelion. In this there is univocality; Paul and the Gospel writers all understand their message to be one of God’s reign coming in the person of Jesus through the power of the Spirit. The ‘gospel,’ whether in oral or written form, is the message of God’s comprehensively restorative kingdom.”

- Jonathan Pennington, Reading the Gospels Wisely: A Narrative and Theological Introduction, 5, 16-17.

Check out more posts in the Gospel Definitions series here.

Also check out my review of Pennington’s new book and an interview I conducted with him.





Trevin Wax|3:02 am CT

Gospel Definitions: Matt Chandler, Josh Patterson, Eric Geiger

“In its simplest form, the gospel is God’s reconciling work in Christ – that through the life, death, and resurrection of Christ, God is making all things new both personally for those who repent and believe, and cosmically as He redeems culture and creation from its subjection to futility.”

- Creature of the Word: The Jesus-Centered Church by Matt Chandler, Josh Patterson, and Eric Geiger

Check out more “Gospel Definitions” here.





Trevin Wax|3:14 am CT

Gospel Definitions: Trevin Wax

For several years now, I’ve been collecting definitions of “the gospel” on the blog. There are more than 60 definitions now. I’ve seen the collection referenced in multiple college and seminary classes.

From time to time, people have asked me to weigh in with my own definition. If you’ve read Counterfeit Gospels, this won’t be new to you. But here is my take on “the gospel” in a nutshell.

The Gospel Proper (The Announcement)

The gospel is the royal announcement that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, lived a perfect life in our place, died a substitutionary death on the cross for our sins, rose triumphantly from the grave to launch God’s new creation, and is now exalted as King of the world. This announcement calls for a response: repentance (mourning over and turning from our sin, trading our agendas for the kingdom agenda of Jesus Christ) and faith (trusting in Christ alone for salvation).

The Gospel’s Context (The Story of Scripture)

The Bible tells us about God’s creation of a good world which was subjected to futility because of human sin. God gave the Law to reveal His holiness and our need for a perfect sacrifice, which is provided by the death of Jesus Christ. This same Jesus will one day return to this earth to judge the living and the dead and thus renew all things. The gospel story is the Scriptural narrative that takes us from creation to new creation, climaxing with the death and resurrection of Jesus at the center.

The Gospel’s Purpose (The Community)

The gospel births the church. We are shaped by the gospel into the kind of people who herald the grace of God and spread the news of Jesus Christ. God has commissioned the church to be the community that embodies the message of the gospel. Through our corporate life together, we “obey the gospel” by living according to the truth of the message that Jesus Christ is Savior and Lord of the world.

All Together Now

Put these three things together and we have a gospel-focused summary of the entire Bible (which we used for The Gospel Project).

In the beginning, the all-powerful, personal God created the universe. This God created human beings in His image to live joyfully in His presence, in humble submission to His gracious authority. But all of us have rebelled against God and, in consequence, must suffer the punishment of our rebellion: physical death and the wrath of God.

Thankfully, God initiated a rescue plan, which began with His choosing the nation of Israel to display His glory in a fallen world. The Bible describes how God acted mightily on Israel’s behalf, rescuing His people from slavery and then giving them His holy law. But God’s people – like all of us – failed to rightly reflect the glory of God.

Then, in the fullness of time, in the Person of Jesus Christ, God Himself came to renew the world and restore His people. Jesus perfectly obeyed the law given to Israel. Though innocent, He suffered the consequences of human rebellion by His death on a cross. But three days later, God raised Him from the dead.

Now the church of Jesus Christ has been commissioned by God to take the news of Christ’s work to the world. Empowered by God’s Spirit, the church calls all people everywhere to repent of sin and to trust in Christ alone for our forgiveness. Repentance and faith restores our relationship with God and results in a life of ongoing transformation.

The Bible promises that Jesus Christ will return to this earth as the conquering King. Only those who live in repentant faith in Christ will escape God’s judgment and live joyfully in God’s presence for all eternity. God’s message is the same to all of us: repent and believe, before it is too late. Confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, and you will be saved.





Trevin Wax|2:59 am CT

Gospel Definitions: W.A. Criswell

The message from our Lord Himself is that Christ suffered and was raised from the dead and that remission of sins should be preached in His name to all people. That is the good news. That is the message. That is the gospel!

- W.A. Criswell, from “The Remission of Sins” in Basic Bible Sermons on the Cross, 85.

(Check out the ongoing series entitled “Gospel Definitions” - the largest grouping of gospel definitions on the internet today.)





Trevin Wax|3:13 am CT

Gospel Definitions: Mike Mercer (Chaplain Mike)

For three years now, I have been steadily gathering a number of definitions of “the gospel” in an ongoing series entitled “Gospel Definitions.” As far as I know, this is the largest grouping of gospel definitions on the internet today. Here is a recent definition put together by Mike Mercer (Chaplain Mike) at InternetMonk.com.

  • The Gospel (Good News) is the divinely-authorized proclamation that the appointed time has arrived and God has come to restore his blessing to his broken creation.
  • The Gospel announces that the climactic act of God’s story has been accomplished through the birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus, his promised King who fulfilled the story of Israel and inaugurated the Messianic Age. Christ’s finished work atoned for sin, defeated the powers of sin, evil, and death forever, and reconciled this lost and dying world to God.
  • The Gospel invites all people to turn from their own wisdom and ways that separate them from God and his blessing, and to trust Jesus for forgiveness and new life in the Holy Spirit as members of his new community of faith, hope, and love.
  • The Gospel promises that God’s Kingdom inaugurated in Jesus will be consummated when he returns to raise the dead, pronounce final judgment on all evil, and transform this fallen creation into a new creation in which heaven (God’s realm) and earth (the human realm) are one.

Or more simply, “Let us proclaim the mystery of faith: Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.”

- Mike Mercer 





Guest Blogger|3:53 am CT

Gospel, Mission, and the Church: A TGC Panel Discussion

The video below is a panel discussion from The Gospel Coalition with Matt Chandler, Kevin DeYoung, Jonathan Leeman, and Trevin Wax. The conversation centers on the Great Commission and the mission of the local church.

Gospel, Mission, and the Church from The Gospel Coalition on Vimeo.

Topics discussed:

  • The Gospel: Creation/Fall/Redemption/Restoration vs. God/Man/Christ/Response
  • The centrality of the cross in our gospel presentations
  • Confusing the gospel and its implications or the fall and its implications
  • 9Marks and Acts 29: Two camps in dialogue
  • Mission of the church and the meaning of “missional”
  • How our cultural contexts form the way we react to “missional”
  • Taking care in not overwhelming people with mission
  • The role of the church in mercy ministries
  • How local churches are staying cross-centered while engaged in mercy ministry
  • Should a pastor have a defensive or offensive posture when it comes to the gospel and mission?

Here are a few thought-provoking quotes:

Matt Chandler: “The atoning work of Christ is the gravitational pull on the mission and the gospel. If you tell the meta-narrative without the atoning work of Christ, you are no longer telling the meta-narrative.”

Jonathan Leeman: “Our entire lives are the backdrop for speaking gospel words.”

Trevin Wax: “We are suspicious of anything that sounds like it could be used as theological cover to not get engaged in mission.”

Kevin DeYoung:”Our mission is to make disciples of Christ as servants of people; our mission is not to serve people as disciples of Christ.”

Matt Chandler: “Our fundamental posture is offensive in nature. I want my fundamental posture, standing firm on the Word of God, to be: We have a saving, delivering God who is going to save others in this city.





Trevin Wax|3:15 am CT

Gospel Definitions: Michael Wittmer

Hear the Christian gospel:

We are all rebellious traitors against God and his kingdom, and for that we are dying now and are destined to suffer forever in the ultimate despair of hell. We are actually God’s enemies (not merely in our imagination), and we deserve whatever torment we have coming. Worse, we are entirely unable to lay down our weapons and change sides, for as the apostle Paul reminds us, we are “dead in our transgressions and sins… by nature deserving of wrath… without hope and without God in the world” (Eph. 2:1-12). We are unwilling to change, and unable to change our hearts and minds so we would be willing.

God justly could have been content to destroy our insurrection and wipe us from the earth. But he took pity on us, and while “we were God’s enemies,” “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8, 10). The cross is a most unusual weapon of choice, but the death of his beloved Son was the only way that God could defeat our sin and death. Satan had become the functional ruler of us and of this world when he tempted Adam and Eve, God’s appointed rulers of creation to switch their allegiance to him. Now a Son of Adam, the Son of God, had come to earth to win us back.

Jesus did not conquer Satan in some heavy-handed way, using his overwhelming force to throw him down. God beat Satan on a level playing field. He became a creature, vulnerable to Satan’s attacks, and defeated the devil through weakness rather than shock and awe. In this way he did not so much overpower Satan as outwit him. He showed Satan and his demons to be fools, for, “having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross” (Col. 2:15).

Demons shrieked and danced around the cross, deliriously surprised by how easily Jesus had fallen into their trap. What they didn’t realize was that they had walked straight into his. Jesus knew what C.S. Lewis – in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe - called the “magic deeper still,” that “when a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor’s stead, the Table would crack and Death itself would start working backward”. Death died in the death of Christ, for Jesus bore our penalty in our place.

Jesus took our sin and death down with him into the grave, and when he arose he left them in the dust. Paul explains, “He was delivered over to edeath for our sins and was raised to life for our justification” (Rom. 4:25). Jesus’ spectacular resurrection is not merely an authoritative illustration of a general truth that is embedded in creation. Rather it is the turning point of world history, for that is the moment that God reversed the cruse, releasing forever those who put their faith in Jesus. Jesus’ death and resurrection don’t merely reveal that death leads to life; they are the very things that make it true. Jesus triumphed over sin, death, and Satan by his cross and empty tomb, and anyone who trusts his finished work alone will join his victory.

- Michael Wittmer, Christ Alone: An Evangelical Response to Rob Bell’s Love Wins (148-150)