What is the Gospel and Why is it Important?

This is an excellent piece from John Fonville. I especially appreciate the way the gospel is relevant to sanctification. Thanks John.


I was recently asked, “What is the Gospel and why is it important?” That is a great question and obviously one that is of the utmost importance.

What the Gospel is not

For many today the Gospel has come to be associated with “four spiritual laws” (Note, Laws!) or advice for your best life now. In some cases the gospel has been reduced to a set of marketing slogans on bumper stickers. We have all seen them, for example, “Want Heaven, Get Jesus,” “Jesus Rules, Do you live by them?,” “Need some good advice? It’s in the Bible!”

The Gospel has become the quintessential, narcissistic tool, the “cure-all pill” for things like stress, personal fulfillment and happiness, child-rearing, diet-eating plans, social action, etc… The Gospel is not a set of rules to live by. The Gospel is not a series of steps that a man follows in order to get God to do something for him in return.

The Gospel is not advice for better living. The Gospel is not a therapeutic psychological massage for troubled emotions. The Gospel is not the cure-all for one’s personal woes in life. The Gospel is not important because it can help “me” become a better “me!” None of these popular views represent what the Gospel is.

What then is the Gospel and why is it important?

Following are a few thoughts that I offered in response to the question (for a more fuller discussion see What is the Gospel? and The Great End and Design of the Gospel).

What is the Gospel?

In brief, the gospel is a joyful announcement (Lk. 2:10) about Christ, that He is the Son of God (Jn. 1:1, 18; 20:28; Rom. 9:5; Col. 1:15-19; 2:9; Titus 2:13; Heb. 1:3, 8; 1 Jn. 5:20; 2 Pet. 1:1) and became man for us (Matt. 1:23; Lk 2:10-11; Jn. 1:14; 1 Tim. 3:16; Philip. 2:7-8; 1 Pet. 1:20; 1 John 1:1-2), that he died (1 Cor. 15:3b; Rom. 3:25-26; 1 Peter 2:24), was buried (1 Cor. 15:4a) and was raised (Matt. 28:1-10; Mk. 16:1-8; Lk. 24:1-12; Jn. 20:1-10; Acts 2:24-32; 1 Cor. 15:3-4), and that He has ascended to Heaven (Luke 24:50-51; Acts 1:9-11; 2:34; Philip. 2:9-11) where He is now seated at the right hand of God and been established as Lord over all things (Eph. 1:20-21; Heb. 1:3; 10:12). He presently is reigning as King and Head of His church (Eph. 1:20-23; Col. 1:18; Matt. 28:18; John 5:22-23) and will one day come again to judge the living and the dead (John 5:22, 27; Acts 1:11; Acts 10:42; 2 Tim. 4:1; 1 Pet. 4:5).

Why is the Gospel important?

First, the Gospel produces faith. “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.” The Gospel is the ministry of the Spirit, that is the Holy Spirit works through the proclamation of the Gospel for salvation. The Gospel is “The power of God unto salvation.” Men receive the Spirit through faith (Gal. 3:14) by the hearing of faith (Gal. 3:2). (see: Rom. 1:15-17; 10:17; 2 Cor. 3:8)

Second, the Gospel strengthens faith. The Gospel produces faith and through faith, as Ursinus says, our entire conversion to God, justification, sanctification and salvation; for through faith we receive Christ, with all His benefits for both justification and sanctification (see 2 Cor. 3:18). The Gospel is to be proclaimed not only to unbelievers but to believers as well (cf., Rom. 1:15).

Third, the gospel humbles and abases man and most fully exhibits God’s highest glory. God chiefly designed the Gospel to display before sinful men that glory of God which shines in the face of Christ (see 2 Cor. 4:6). The the Gospel is the way in which the Holy Spirit Himself is glorified; and it is the Gospel that will be honoured with the accompanying influence of the Holy Spirit.

There is nothing more notable or glorious in the church than the ministry of the gospel because no other ministry exalts the glory of God as the gospel (cf., Rom. 11:36; 16:27; 2 Cor. 3-4:6; Gal. 1:3-5; Eph. 1:3-14).

If the Gospel is one’s central focus, the glory of God will be one’s chief end. The Gospel takes dead aim at the glory of God. One cannot just be told to live for the glory of God. The gospel must be proclaimed so that a man is driven outside of himself and drawn unto Christ.

There is nothing more notable or glorious in the church than the ministry of the gospel.

In the gospel, Christ is offered and His glory is displayed:

    “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another,” (2 Cor. 3:18).Again, “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ,” (2 Cor. 4:6).

The Scriptures demonstrate that our Lord’s great deliverance was for the glory of God.

    “3…the Lord Jesus Christ, 4 who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, 5 to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen,” (Gal. 1:3-4; cf., Eph. 1:6, 12, 14).

The Gospel is consistent with God’s character. God’s justice and mercy are revealed in the Gospel when He saves sinners through Christ by His grace (Ps. 85:10; Isa. 45:25; Rom. 3:26; Eph. 1:6, 12, 14). Thus, the Cross manifests the glory of God by upholding and vindicating both God’s justice and love.

The preaching of the gospel guards and exalts the glory of God. The Gospel yields all glory to God alone and condemns the glory, wisdom and righteousness of all men. No man, Martin Luther reminds us, can attribute too much glory, goodness, grace, mercy and kindness unto God in Christ.

Thanks be to God!

Peter serves as a pastor-teacher, at home and abroad, resourcing gospel-centred communities.

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