irreducible gospel

The Irreducible Gospel

Christians constantly reference and preach the gospel. The whole of Christian religion centers around the gospel. And yet, scholars and commentators still debate its essential content. Everyday churchgoers also conflate or confuse its meaning.

So what is the good news of the gospel? How might we boil down Christianity to its most core message?

The good news of the gospel is quite simple, beautiful, and profoundly significant. Put in its most irreducible form, Christians proclaim:

The forgiveness of sins through Jesus Christ.

 I make my case for this irreducible seed of the gospel from the following verses:

  • Luke 1:77 “…to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins.” To know salvation is to know forgiveness.
  • Acts 2:38. Peter calls for repentance “for the forgiveness of your sins.”
  • Colossians 1:14. Redemption is tantamount to the forgiveness of sins.
  • Ephesians 1:7. Again, redemption equals the forgiveness of sins.
  • Matthew 26:28. The blood of the covenant is poured out for the forgiveness of sins.
  • Acts 5:31 “God exalted [Jesus] at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.” Again, the end to which God works in and through Jesus is forgiveness.
  • Acts 10:43. What do we receive if we believe? The forgiveness of sins through his name.
  • Acts 13:38. What did they proclaim? “through this man forgiveness of sins.”

I believe the knowledge of sin serves as an excellent introduction to this gospel message.

I believe repentance and belief, faith, trust, etc. is the proper response to this gospel message.

I believe justification, propitiation, etc. is the explanation of this gospel message.

I believe sanctification, adoption, receiving of the spirit, social justice, etc. is the flowering of this gospel message.

I believe glorification, resurrection, the new heavens and new earth are the consummation of this gospel message.

But the good news itself is the forgiveness of sins through Jesus Christ.

Would you agree? Is it too reduced? How would you tweak this irreducible core?

Published by

Derek Griz

I am a Christian, a husband, a father, and a pastor (Immanuel Church). I write from those perspectives. Connect with me on Twitter (@derekgriz).

5 thoughts on “The Irreducible Gospel”

  1. Derek, since you asked … the gospel is a declaration about Jesus Christ, not our forgiveness, but the good news about Jesus Christ brings us forgiveness and reconciliation and justification and on and on and on. But the theme of the gospel statements in the NT — 1 Cor 15 is the pre-eminent gospel statement for all time — is first of all christology, an announcement that Jesus is here and he is King for all.

    1. Scot,

      Thank you for the response. I truly appreciate your feedback.

      I wonder if our different objectives here lead to different gospel formulations. If you are attempting to resolve the tension between kingdom and justification language, then a gospel with a more prominently stated Christology makes sense. But my goal is an irreducible gospel.

      Because I tend to see conflated gospel formulations, I am interested in a narrow, easy-to-understand, baggage-free definition. I see formulations like gospel plus church tradition, gospel plus “radical” faith, gospel plus deep conviction of sin, or gospel plus Reformed theology.

      I want to declutter these ‘gospels.’ So I am comfortable going small.

      That being said, I would still submit my formulation includes your concerns. In saying “the forgiveness of sins through Jesus Christ,” I think I am encapsulating the message of 1 Corinthians 15.

      “Forgiveness of sins” says a great deal. It suggests I had sin if forgiveness is now available. It indicates some action has taken place. For forgiveness is itself an action (e.g. forgiving a financial debt implies a number of steps and sacrifices). It also speaks of the relationship God desires with me, namely, to be reconciled.

      “Through Jesus Christ” includes a robust Christology. It acknowledges a historical Jesus that is more than a just a historical figure. He is the Christ. That forgiveness is “through” Jesus points to his death, burial, and resurrection.

      The added bonus of this brief formulation is it invokes the language of the last supper (Matthew 26:28), the great commission (Luke 24:47), the early church (Acts 2:38, Acts 5:31, 10:43, 13:38), and the Apostle Paul himself (Ephesians 1:7).

      So I am convinced everything in the history of redemption leading up to and including Christ’s atoning work on the cross can be summed up in the phrase “through Jesus Christ.” And everything that follows (democratization of the Spirit, faith, adoption, sanctification, etc.) is predicated on and grows out of “the forgiveness of sins.”

      Now, I will admit this formulation would not be an appropriate end game. It needs unpacking, and it should be unpacked. But nonetheless, I am arguing this would be a faithful summary of the gospel, one the early church used and one I could likewise use to share the gospel.

      But again, I gladly welcome your feedback. Thanks!

  2. I think we have a hard time grasping how simple the Good News is because we struggle excepting the incredible price that was paid and WE did nothing to earn it. Awesome!

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