God is the gospel.
The point of that simple sentence is that the highest, best, and final good in the good news is God himself.
In no way do I want to diminish what has traditionally and biblically been called “the gospel” —I just want to make sure we tell the whole story. So here’s my summary of Jesus’ gospel in six steps. These are all essential. If any one of them were to be removed, there would be no gospel.
1. THE GOSPEL IS A PLAN
The gospel originated in the mind of God. It was his plan before the foundation of the world. (Genesis 3)
2. THE GOSPEL IS AN EVENT
The gospel is an event in history. It really happened. If there was no historical Jesus, and if he did not die and rise from the dead, there would be no gospel. (Matthew – Acts)
3. THE GOSPEL IS AN ACHIEVEMENT
In dying, Jesus absorbed the wrath of God. (2Corinthians 5:21)
4. THE GOSPEL IS A FREE OFFER
The good news would vanish if all that “achievement” on the cross were available only by the performance of sufficient good deeds. Therefore, an essential part of the gospel is that this news is proclaimed to all and offered freely to whoever will have faith in Jesus. (Ephesians 2)
5. THE GOSPEL IS AN APPLICATION OF CHRIST’S ACHIEVEMENT TO THE WORLD
The fundamental way all the achievements of Christ become ours is by union with Christ. This is why the tiny phrase “in Christ” is so prevalent in the New Testament.
Now this is where the gospel message usually ends. Plan. Event. Achievement. Free offer. Application. And, of course, this is a glorious ending, but there is still a sixth and final step. (Ephesians 1; 2Corinthians 5:17)
6. THE BEST AND FINAL GOOD
I return to my question: What is the highest and best and final good in the good news?
Second Corinthians 4:4 and 6 (below, emphasis mine) tell us the answer: the glory of God in the face of Christ, or, the glory of Christ who is the image of God.
In their case [the case of those who are perishing] the god of this world [that’s Satan] has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. . . . For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
This is a real glory, a real spiritual light that shines through the gospel from Christ in his saving work and is seen not with the physical eyes but with the eyes of the heart (Eph. 1:17–18).
Brothers, this is what I think our people need to hear over and over: forgiveness and justification and eternal life are good for one ultimate reason—they bring us to God himself.
The ultimate end of the gospel is coming home to God. Knowing him. Seeing him unsullied with our own sin. Enjoying him with the capacities for joy that heaven alone will give. “In your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Ps. 16:11).
Brothers, God is the gospel. What a difference it makes in a church when the people know this and embrace it with all their hearts!