In response to this question, some would define the "Gospel" as “The life of Jesus being lived out in community among others" while others would offer a paragraph description of the redemptive work of God made real in the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus. According to the Scriptures the "Gospel" (the greatest news) is the fusion of both. That is, the Gospel makes sense when it is simultaneously lived and narrated.
In Romans 1:16-17, Paul cues us to the reality that, in Christ, we are Gospel-formed and forming people. Therefore, it is paramount that we know the Gospel, believe the Gospel, allow ourselves to be formed by the Gospel, and demonstrate the Gospel with our lives.
In this post, I will offer specifics on the narrated Gospel message with the hope that it is helpful in creating clear and shared language for us.
The Gospel narrated is a 2-sided coin. Throughout the Scriptures, we can read the Gospel against the grain (thematic) and with the grain (narrative).
Thematically, God is holy and just; Sin is universal and terminal; Jesus is the universal substitute who wore the penalty of our sin; and Faith (rather than works) is what makes us children of God. (Ephesians 2:8-9; Colossians 1:27-29; 2:6-7; Philippians 2:12-13; 1 Peter 1:3-5)
The Thematic Gospel: Through the work of Jesus and the power of His Spirit, God accepts us in our unacceptable-ness, empowers us, and is changing us. Because of God's work, we have been saved from slavery to sin, are being saved from the power of sin, and will be saved from the presence of sin.
The Gospel Narrative begins with Creation where God is the Author and Main Character; continues through the Fall where the community of humanity rebelled and broke the relationship between themselves and God; Redemption where God took the initiative to reconcile the broken relationship; and Restoration which was consummated in Christ who, in turn, has chosen us to tangibly participate as His Body in ongoing restoration. (Ephesians 1; 2:10; 2:14-22; 2 Corinthians 5:15-21; Revelation 21)
The Narrative Gospel: God sent His Son to redeem the world and to create a new humanity. All is being made new by God through His Church who participates with Him in His restorative mission.
In answering the question, "What is the Gospel Message?" our response can and must capture both the Gospel's Power (Thematic) and Purpose (Narrative):
We have been saved by God's redemptive work for God's restorative work.