Thinking Out Loud

January 14, 2011

The Gospel In a Single Sentence

When Dane Ortland, a senior editor at Crossway Books asked some people in his Rolodex to summarize the gospel in a single sentence, below are some of the responses he got.  Actually, to be fair, the question asked was to summarize The Bible in a single sentence.  But it’s a re-hash of a familiar theme among certain blogs repeated over and over and over and over and over and over and over again: What is the gospel?

I remain perplexed by this preoccupation, this obsession that certain people in the Reformed tradition have with trying to formulate the ultimate definition of the evangel; the good news. Without being flippant, I think that, like pornography, you know it when you see it; or in this case hear it or read it.

Mylon LeFevre, the musician from the early days of CCM put it this way, “If it didn’t sound like good news, you haven’t heard the gospel.”

I also think that, when considered in the light of the Jewish appreciation of the scriptures as a great jewel that reflects and refracts the light in infinite ways each time we look at it, the idea of trying to formulate a precis of the Bible is to venture into an endless and perhaps even frustrating mission. What would Jesus think of trying to consolidate something so great, so wide, so high, so deep into a finite number of words?

That God loves us and cares for us enough to intervene — that incarnation should ever take place at all — is such a mystery.  Why mess it up with over-analysis? Instead of reading about the gospel, and writing about the gospel, and — oh my goodness! — blogging endlessly about the gospel; would it not be better to get out into the streets and be living the gospel?  My answer would simply be:

  • It’s the story of the history between God and humankind.

Is that not sufficient?

Why? Why? Why? Would someone from within the Reformed tradition be so kind as to give me a reasonable solution to this riddle: Why so much time, so much energy, so much angst over trying to answer a question that never seems to be answered to everyone’s satisfaction?

Nonetheless, here are few answers to Dane’s question:

  • God is in the process of recreating the universe which has been corrupted by sin and has made it possible for all those and only those who follow Jesus to be a part of the magnificent, eternal community that will result.  (Craig Bloomberg)
  • The movement in history from creation to new creation through the redemptive work of Father, Son, and Spirit who saves and changes corrupted people and places for his glory and their good. (Paul House)
  • The message of the Bible is twofold: to show how people can be saved from their sins through faith in Christ’s atonement AND how to live all of life as a follower of God. (Leland Ryken)
  • God reigns over all things for his glory, but we will only enjoy his saving reign in the new heavens and the new earth if we repent and believe in the gospel of Jesus Christ, who is the crucified and risen Lord and who gave himself on the cross for our salvation.  (Tom Schreiner)
  • God made it, we broke it, Jesus fixes it! (Jay Sklar attributed to Michael D. Williams)

Two of the authors merely paraphrased a familiar verse in John 3:

  • God created mankind in order to love them, but we all rejected his love, so God sent His Son to bear our sins on the cross in order that by believing in His sacrificial atonement, we might have life.  (Grant Osborne)
  • God was so covenantally committed to the world that he gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him may have eternal life! (Dan Block)

I thought there was actually more life in the answers given in the comments section:

  • God chose one man (Abraham) in order to make of him one great nation (Israel) so that through it He might bring forth the one great Savior (Jesus) and through Him demonstrate God’s glory and extend God’s grace to all creation.  (John Kitchen)
  • The good news of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ that provides full and free deliverance from the penalty and power of sin, by the grace of God alone, through faith in Christ alone, plus nothing – all to the praise of His glorious name.  (Seth from Lynchburg)
  • Jesus, God’s promised Rescuer and Ruler, lived our life, died our death and rose again in triumphant vindication as the first fruits of the new creation to bring forgiven sinners together under his gracious reign.  (attributed to Steve Timmis)
  • Why try and better John the Baptist? He succintly summarizes the Bible: “Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world”(John 1:29). It’s all there – epiphany, sin, sacrifice, salvation, redemption, justification, forgiveness, release, freedom and victory. (Michael Zarling)
  • The Triune God of Eternity restoring the demonstration of His glory in that which He has created by the redemption of creation through God-man, Jesus Christ our Lord. (Rick from Dallas)

But at the end of the day — if you haven’t already spotted the pattern here — my favorite item in the comment section is this one:

  • Why didn’t you ask any women to contribute?  (Gillian)

To read many of the other featured definitions; and dozens of other comments; or to add your comments to the mix; click over to Dane’s blog, Strawberry Rhubarb.

2 Comments »

  1. Coincidentally, this came as an e-mail forward:

    A woman/ man was asked by a coworker,
    ‘What is it like to be a Christian?’
    The coworker replied, ‘It is like being a pumpkin.’
    God picks you from the patch, brings you in,
    and washes all the dirt off of you.
    Then He scoops out all the yucky stuff.
    He removes the seeds …of doubt, hate, and greed.
    Then He carves you a new smiling face and
    puts His light inside of you to shine for all the world to see.’

    This was passed on to me by another pumpkin.

    Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — January 14, 2011 @ 9:30 pm

  2. […] …And January 2011 was a good month here for several reasons. If you’re new to this blog, another one you missed was this challenge to summarize the gospel in a single sentence.  […]

    Pingback by Wednesday Link List « Thinking Out Loud — January 9, 2013 @ 6:20 am


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