For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.
— Paul of Tarsus, Romans 1:16, ESV
What is the gospel message?
Good news . . . and bad.
Literally thousands upon thousands of pages have been written to answer that exact question. So, the good news is that there are plenty of resources for study. The bad news is that with so much, it can lead to an overcomplicated explanation.
When it comes to the gospel, it is a message that is both simple (great for evangelism) yet very, very deep (great for discipleship).
Evangelism needs a biblical, yet concise gospel message
Sharing the gospel message should not require a PhD thesis (though I do have one), long treatise, or even a bloated, wordy tract (yes, there are plenty of those available). Rather, it should be something that is simple and biblical.
Jesus said this: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
Paul said this: “because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Rom 10:9).
Peter said this: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3).
One of the best summaries of the gospel message was from my home church:
God is holy. We are not. But we can be through Jesus Christ.
— mobberlyouth (@mobberlyouth) May 15, 2016
Whether you prefer Jesus’ wording, Paul’s, Peter’s, or Mobberly’s, each of them are a simple, concise, and biblical gospel message. Even more, each of them can be used for evangelism.
However, the fact that Jesus and and his disciples used a summarized, simplified gospel does not mean they taught a simplistic gospel.
A simple gospel does not mean a simplistic gospel
The gospel is a message that, like I said, has been written on, debated, and analyzed for centuries. Even today books and treatises continue to be published explaining the biblical gospel. There are even some unbiblical, even heretical, explanations (i.e., the prosperity gospel, liberation theology, and the social gospel).
Everything Jesus said and did, whether recorded or not (John 21:25) was about the gospel. All four Gospels–Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John–are about the gospel. All of Paul’s letters, Peter’s letters, and the rest of the New Testament are about the gospel. Even the Old Testament, from Genesis to Malachi, relates to the gospel.
There is much to learn when it comes to understanding the gospel. So much so, that I would argue that if anyone claims to fully understand the gospel, they are prideful and dishonest. Only God (all three Persons) fully understands the gospel.
So comprehensive and deep is the gospel that millions of volumes about it would barely scratch the surface. Nevertheless, so simple is the gospel that even a child can explain it: we’re all sinners, but Jesus forgives all who believe in him.