Recap: There are many definitions of “gospel” (see Defining the Gospel pt. 1) Paul defines the “gospel” as the good news of God’s kingdom by referring specifically to Christ’s death and resurrection. In this narrower sense, the good news of the gospel is salvation and eternal life through faith in Christ, and it is most commonly what Christians mean when referring to the “gospel” and sharing the good news of Jesus. But what exactly is the content of the gospel message of Jesus?
- The gospel message is incarnational (Defining the Gospel pt. 2)
- The gospel message is about Christ (Defining the Gospel pt. 3)
- Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures
(Defining the Gospel pt. 3)
“…that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures…” (1 Corinthians 15:4 / ESV)
Verse 4: Raised on the third day
According to the Scriptures, He was then raised on the third day. The Cross and the Resurrection are bookends of Jesus’ work of salvation. At the Cross, He paid for our sins. By His resurrection, we too will be raised to eternal life.
It’s the resurrection that people often struggle with the most— after all, every day people die, but it’s not every day that people rise from the dead. We cannot have “good news” without eternal life, and we cannot have a gospel message without the Resurrection. Both the Cross and the Resurrection are part of the gospel.
Some wonder how God can actually raise us from the dead. How does he do that? What kind of bodies will we have? What about those lost at sea? What about those who were burned in fire? How can God reassemble us?
It is much more difficult to believe that God made an entire universe and keeps it running in all its precision every day than it is to trust God to raise the dead. He created life, He should know how to raise the dead.
Our refusal to believe in Christ’s resurrection is more a matter of the will than the mind. Often, we shift the argument. An all-powerful God, by definition of being “all-powerful,” can raise the dead. Our problem is willful unbelief. Some would rather deny the complete existence of an all-powerful God and instead embrace the phenomenally astronomical odds that somehow inanimate elements arranged themselves by chance resulting not simply in an ordered universe, but in self-conscious life. It is harder to believe that sentient life can arise from the random ordering of inanimate elements than it is to believe that an all-powerful, intelligent God, can give life and raise the dead.
In short, there is no good news of the gospel without the death of Jesus that deals with our sin, and the Resurrection of Jesus that gives us eternal life.
If we cut the reality of Christ’s resurrection from the stated message of the gospel, we are left with the Cross, but nowhere to go. This subtle, but important distinction can lead to the church’s emphasis to address the effects of sin throughout the world without realizing that the world and all that is in it will perish by fire. Jesus did not come to make Rome a better city, but to set the captives free.
Such reality does not excuse the church from addressing the core issues of society, which start with sin and manifest in all injustice, unrighteousness, and godlessness our society. The Cross addresses the root problem of sin in the heart of every individual and its manifestation throughout the world. But the Resurrection points us toward the goal of eternal life.
Authored by Dr. David F. Ingrassia, Stewarding Pastor of Charlotte Awake