At its core, the gospel is the manifestation of God’s eternal plan of redemption. Paul summarized that plan in his letter to the Galatians: “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons” (Galatians 4:4-5). When considering this salvific plan, it is helpful to define it in terms of its essence, extent, effect, and end.
- Essence: The essence, or heart, of the gospel is the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul wrote, “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).
- Extent: The gospel is extended to everyone who believes, without regard for race, ethnicity, gender, socio-economic or geo-political status. From the beginning, God’s plan was to redeem a people of every nation (Genesis 22:18). Such inclusion was the example of Jesus, as he preached the gospel of the Kingdom not only in the synagogues to the Jews, but throughout Galilee, an area marked by Gentiles and mediocre, non-practicing Jews (Matthew 4:23). Paul explains this universal extension of the gospel not only in terms of Jews and Gentiles (Romans 1:16), but also in terms of men and women, slaves and free men (Galatians 3:28).
- Effect: The effect of the gospel is the transformation of those who repent of their sins and trust Christ to save them. The gospel makes all things new (2 Corinthians 5:17), reorients the life of the believer in terms of the life of Christ (Galatians 2:20), and makes those not of Jewish descent part of God’s redemptive covenant (Galatians 3:29, Ephesians 2:11-13, 1 Peter 2:9-10).
- End: The end, or ultimate purpose, of the gospel is the glory of God. The gospel of Jesus Christ, as the ultimate message of God to lost humanity, reflects God’s glory (Hebrews 1:1-3). At the end of his hymn about Christ in Philippians 2, Paul writes that because of the salvific work of Jesus Christ, “God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow…and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:9-11).