Ministry Matters: The Gospel - Part 1

I'm planning a column called Ministry Matters covering my understanding of some core things for our church magazine and for this blog - a way of outlining my values.  I plan to cover: the gospel, the Christian life, the church and Christian ministry over the next year.  With those things in place I'll be able to cover some more controversial issues I think.

Here's the first column.

As the now not-so-new vicar of St Peter's and St Luke's, I thought it might be about time for me to show my hand so to speak. If you attend the churches you may well have picked up some of my emphases and views on different things – I hope so! However, I thought it might be useful for me to have a column in the magazine where I systematically address some of those “What does the vicar think about...?” questions.

I plan to start with perhaps the most foundational question: What is the Christian message? Or to use the biblical language, What is the gospel?

Maybe the answer should be obvious, but the scholar D.A. Carson writing the foreword for Greg Gilbert's excellent little book What is the gospel? writes this: “Today the question most likely to light a fuse is – as the author of this volume points out – What is the gospel?” Certainly, within the broad church that is the Church of England, there is very little agreement on the answer to this question.

This is a problem for at least three reasons.

  1. If we're not sure what the gospel is then we're not sure if we're a Christian. Christians are people who believe in the “good news [gospel] of Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God” Mark 1:1 NIV). It is this gospel which is “the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes.” (Romans 1:16) To be confident we are saved, we need to be confident we believe the true gospel.
  2. If we're not sure what the gospel is then we're can't be sure we're a church. In the Acts of the Apostles churches are formed as the early Christians, Peter, Paul, Philip etc. preach the gospel and groups of people believe that gospel (e.g. Acts 14:21). So the start of the definition of a church in Article XIX of the Church of England articles is: “The visible Church of Christ is a congregation of faithful men.” Here “faithful men” means people who believe the true gospel.
  3. If we're not sure what the gospel is then we don't know what to do as a church. Before Jesus returns “the gospel must first be preached to all nations” (Mark 13:10, see also Matthew 28:19-20, Luke 24:47 and Acts 1:8). This is what we see happening in Acts and this is the primary mission of the church. But if we don't know what the gospel is, then we don't know what to say!

With those considerations in mind, I want to try and summarise the gospel over a short series of four articles in the next four magazines. My outline is nothing new,1 but I think it does follow the contours of how the gospel is usually presented in the NT and it is easily memorable (so useful for sharing with people). It is this:

  1. God – our loving creator, who we are accountable to.
  2. Us – we have sinned against our creator and face judgement.
  3. Jesus – God sent his Son Jesus to die on the cross taking for our sins.
  4. Us – we need to trust in Jesus and his death for us to be saved.

I'll unpack each of those statements one per article. I hope as I do we get confidence in our faith, unity in the gospel as churches and clarity in our mission to a lost world.

1. I'm indebted to the Greg Gilbert book I've mentioned and also two other books Know and Tell the Gospel by the Australian evangelist John Chapman and Evangelism made slightly less difficult by Nick Pollard.


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