There’s something about the Gospel that I’ve had to put a lot of thought into lately. I’ll tell you why. I’ll even be a little vulnerable here. I’ll share with you what some of my critics have said to me over the past few years. They’ve said to me something like this, “I don’t think we share the whole Gospel.” Because it was criticism it stung a bit. And then I had to step back and think about Scripture. I had to ask myself, what is the Gospel? Did I really know? I thought I knew. Was there any truth to these comments? I had to dig deeper to find out.
The whole Gospel. That’s an interesting phrase. It’s not in the Bible. The closest we really get is in Acts 20:27 where Paul tells the Ephesian leaders this: 27 For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God. Some translations say the whole counsel of God. This phrase must be interchangeable with Paul’s use of the word Gospel because he tells us what he means three verses prior. 24 However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.
So, if the phrase whole or full Gospel isn’t in the Bible, where did we come up with it? What does it mean? Generally, when that term is used it refers to the fact that we are sinful people. Sin has wrecked us and infected every facet of the human heart. We have all fallen short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23). Though Jesus has saved us from the penalty of sin and death, we are still in a battle against sin. The Holy Spirit resides in every Christian and He does the work of sanctifying us day by day forming us to be more like Jesus. But make no mistake, sin is alive and waging war on us.
Sin wages war from three fronts:
The flesh: Romans 8:3. The flesh is our body. It’s us. It’s our desires bent toward our will instead of God’s.
The world: Colossians 2:20. The world is the sinful forces of culture and other sinners around us.
The devil: 1 Peter 5:8. We fight a battle with the spiritual forces of evil bent on dragging us to hell with them.
However, we have the Gospel! And thank God we do! The Gospel means “good news” and is consistently used to refer to the message of Jesus’s cross. Paul calls in the “Gospel of grace.” The good news is that Jesus suffered and died for us. We can do nothing to deserve or earn God’s love. God has adopted us into his family. We are forgiven, set free, fully loved! Praise God!
Romans 1:16 -- For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.
That is the “whole” Gospel. And I think that our human hearts have a very hard time wrapping our heads around it. We think there must be a catch. There must be more to it. We have grace but certainly we must live accordingly to keep it, right? It’s good news for those who obey and work hard, right? After all, there are rules, expectations, and assumptions as to how those who live in grace should be living. It’s as if the Gospel is a two-sided coin with bad news on one side (you’re a sinner) and on the other side is the good news (Jesus has made a way out for you through the cross in order for you to work hard to beat sin out of your life). The truth is, there is no bad news with this good news. It’s just good news. Period.
I will say this. As followers of Jesus, we are his apprentices. We desire to live, love, and be like him. Therefore, we will ask and trust the Holy Spirit to do his sanctifying work in our lives to repulse sin and fill us with holiness. This is the battle we’re in until Jesus returns for the final defeat of sin and our eternal glorification. It’s a war, however, that he’s already won at the cross!
I am thankful for my critics. It has caused me to study, read, pray, and discern. I’ve learned, re-learned, and grown in my search for the meaning of the Gospel. I’ll keep learning, too! But I’ve never rested more secure in my status as a dearly loved son of my Heavenly Dad blanketed in his unmerited love and grace. That message needs to be shared. With Everyone.
Because of the whole will of God,
White Oak Christian Church