Some evangelical versions of the gospel tend to reduce it down – both in terms of its biblical scope (detached from a Jesus centered biblical narrative) and in terms of its application (a narrow individualism)
What then is the bigger story of the gospel?
Bird goes to 3 texts as examples – Romans 1:1-4, 2 Timothy 2:8, 1 Cor 15:1-5. I’ll look at just the last one since they reinforce one another:
‘Christ died and was raised’:- the primary content of the gospel is the death and resurrection of Jesus and its saving significance
‘for our sins’:- strong implication of substitutionary death that removes / atones for sin and brings forgiveness. The background likely being Isaiah 53 and the Suffering Servant.
‘according to the Scriptures’:- likely Scripture as a unified whole understood in light of Christ. The gospel is a continuation and climax of God’s dealings with Israel.
This gospel is what saves:- the gospel has objective content to be believed. ‘Salvation comes through believing that Jesus died and was raised according to the Scriptures.’
This gospel is not a Pauline innovation:- as he received it, he passed it on. The gospel belongs to the story of the Jewish Scriptures.
Each text has its own twist, but together they proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ as a narrative fulfilment of the biblical story.
Some quotes on this theme:
“The gospel is the royal announcement that God has become king in Jesus Christ and has expressed his saving sovereignty through the death and resurrection of his son, which atones, justifies and reconciles. There is no gospel without the heralding of the king, there is no gospel without atonement and resurrection.” Bird, 85
“God promised in the Scriptures that he would renew creation and restore Israel. The gospel is the good news that God has made these promises good in Jesus, the Messiah and Lord. Jesus died and rose for the purpose of atoning for sins and through faith in him and his work believers are reconciled to God. The new age has been launched and God has revealed his saving righteousness in the gospel so that he justifies and delivers from the penalty and power of sin and death.” Bird, 85
“His announcement was that the crucified Jesus of Nazareth has been raised from the dead; that he was thereby proved to be Israel’s Messiah; that he was thereby installed as Lord of the world; or to put it more compactly: Jesus, the crucified and risen Messiah, is Lord.” [Tom Wright]
And this gospel has immediate radical implications: it’s the ‘explosive announcement’ that Jesus the rejected one is reigning Lord of all. He has demonstrated his kingly power by giving up his life for our sins and being raised for our acquittal.
The salvation brought by the gospel is explicated by justification, reconciliation, forgiveness, but these are not the same as the gospel.
This gospel is far removed from a lot of popular evangelical in-house jargon that reduces the gospel to a narrow individualism such as ‘God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life’ or ‘I invited Jesus into my heart’. As Bird says, we need ‘a Saviour not a therapist.’