"The Gospel" or Jesus?

Richard Phillips

I recently attended a Christian meeting where candidates for ministry were introduced.  The introduction involved their testimony as Christians and their sense of calling to the ministry.  It was so encouraging to hear them all say that “the gospel” had gripped their lives.  They were convinced that what the world needs is “the gospel,” so they were preparing for gospel ministry.  Then, one of the men in the gathering asked a question that turned out to be revealing.  Here was his question: “Who is Jesus Christ to you?”

Silence.  Stammering.  There was a sense that this was an unfair question.  What do you mean, “Who is Jesus Christ to me?”  We are about the gospel.  And you ask us about Jesus Christ?

There is always a danger of concluding too much from episodes like this.  But I think there is in fact a trend developing.  In our gospel-centered evangelical world, something is missing.  Or rather someone.  Jesus.  Is it possible that “the gospel” has become truncated in our minds and ministries?  “The gospel” seems to mean justification through faith alone + nothing.  Or perhaps “how justification through faith alone makes me feel.”  As another example, I recently saw an evangelical minister interviewed on television on the topic of “grace.”  He said so many wonderful things about “grace”!  But the name of Jesus was never mentioned.  Neither was sin.  Certainly, repentance never came up.

Is there a gospel and is there grace without Jesus, in his person and work, at the very center?  Is this what Jesus meant when he began his ministry saying, “the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe the gospel” (Mk. 1:15)?  When “the gospel” is “me feeling good about myself and about God,” it is no wonder that questions about Jesus are unsettling.  Because Jesus does not always make us feel good and Jesus places demands on us in God’s name. 

So when you preach about “the gospel” or talk about “the gospel” and “Jesus,” let me ask you a question.  Do you mean Jesus?  Do you mean the person and work of Christ?  Do you mean the kingdom of God breaking into your world, not only to forgive but also to renew and reorder?  Do you mean a Lord, as well as a Savior?  Because there is no other gospel than Jesus.  There is no salvation under heaven except in his name.  There is no justification except that which also requires sanctification.  The kingdom of God is not a matter of talk – even talk about “the gospel” – but a matter of power.  And the power of God for salvation is the gospel of Jesus Christ, Lord and Savior, Redeemer and Friend, Master and Shepherd of our souls.

Richard Phillips