The Central Message of the Gospel

Last week, as the world was awaiting the results of the Roman Catholic papal conclave, President Obama weighed in on the sort of Pope he hoped would be selected. The New York Times quoted him as saying:

Mr. Obama said he hopes that whoever becomes pope will maintain what he called the “central message” of the gospel.

“That is that we treat everybody as children of God and that we love them the way Jesus Christ taught us to love them,” Mr. Obama said. “I think that a pope that, you know, is that clarion voice on behalf of those issues will, you know, will have a tremendous and positive impact on the world.”

My immediate reaction was not political. My immediate reaction was this. It is one thing for someone to attend a church for twenty-five years, but, for whatever reason, not believe the central message of the Gospel. It is another thing altogether for someone to attend a church for twenty-five years and have no idea what the central message of the Gospel is.

After stewing over this for several days, it occurred to me that I, too, have a responsibility in this area. Hopefully Southern Gospel song lyrics alone would make it impossible for someone to read this site for twenty-five years and still be completely oblivious to the central message of the Gospel. But in matters of eternal importance, it is infinitely better to be safe than sorry.

So here is the real central message of the Gospel:

  • “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23, KJV).
  • “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23, KJV).
  • “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit” (I Peter 3:18, KJV).
  • “Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out” (Acts 3:19a, KJV).

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28 Letters to the Editor

Southern Gospel Journal welcomes letters to the editor. We will post the most thoughtful and insightful submissions. Ground rules: Don't attack or belittle groups or fellow posters, or advance heresies rejected by orthodox Christianity. Do keep comments positive, constructive, and on topic.
  1. That’s the central message of the gospel, all right. Obama’s gospel, Satan’s gospel, and the world’s gospel. It’s nearly the opposite of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

    Thanks for your post.

    • You’re welcome, and thanks for the encouragement!

  2. Almost perfect, maybe you could find a verse that explicitly states the physical resurrection and it’ll be perfect!

    • Your’s I mean not Obama’s LOL.

      • I knew what you meant—virtually none of my readers would think that Obama’s definition of the Gospel was anywhere close to the target!

    • In this context, I’m discussing the most basic elements of “what must I do/believe to be saved?” And in that context, if we’re speaking of Jesus’ resurrection, how about “quickened by the Spirit” (more recent translations, “made alive by the Spirit”)? 🙂

  3. Well done my friend! Anyone who has any type of platform associated with the Gospel should be prepared to give such a precise Gospel message.

    A great privilege and responsibility.

    Michael Booth

    • Thank you for the encouragement! For the first several years, I thought of this site as nothing more than a casual hobby. It’s only within the last few years that I’ve come to realize the level of responsibility that doing this brings.

  4. It seems Mr President has confused the central message of the Gospel with the two greatest commandments. That’s I think where he was going with that statement.

    • Maybe so.

      “That is that we treat everybody as children of God and that we love them the way Jesus Christ taught us to love them,”

      The second part of the sentence, while not part of the Gospel, is something that we should do, and correlates with the “great commandments” you refer to.

      The first part would be a disastrous practice for a Christian, resulting in the perishing of sinners.

      • Yes, the first portion sounds suspiciously close to universalism, and that’s what made it so much more than just another instance of casually weak theology.

      • Satan couldn’t and didn’t stop Jesus from doing what was necessary to save man. The only thing he can do is convince man that he doesn’t need to be born again. My, how effective he has been in this endeavor! This doctrine of “everyone’s OK” and “you find your own path to heaven” is pervasive, and is very likely something that Obama believes. This is evidence of that.

  5. Well done. You have a unique platform here and I am glad to see you boldly maximizing it’s potential for the Kingdom. Brave of you to mention Obama’s name, also. 😉

    • Thanks! Well, I did everything I could to make the focus here theology, not politics. 🙂

      Also, if there was ever a safe site to share the Gospel, it ought to be one where Gospel is one of the three words of the domain, and, for the last three or four years, the one highlighted in the logo! 🙂

  6. Daniel- yet another rich, deep, and faithful post. Once again, you nailed it. And to have such a classy guy as is Michael Booth, part of a group that takes the spread of the gospel more seriously than many, just confirms how we feel about this site. I said this before, but having wasted too much time on a “SG” blog site that is diametrically opposed to the gospe lof the Lord Jesus Christ, you just keep serious Christians who love this gospel and this music, coming back here over and over. Great post.

    • Being fairly new to realizing the responsibility I have here, I often second-guess myself as to whether my attempts to say what needs to be said are well-directed or misplaced. So thanks for the encouragement!

  7. I think the core message of the gospel is found in Acts 2, where the church began. If it doesn’t appear ’til Romans, then you have the church existing for nearly 30 years without a core message, which seems unlikely.

    • The Gospel predates the Church. Put in a more technical and precise way, accepting the Gospel, which (as theologians would put it) admits you into the church invisible, dates back to Resurrection Sunday – fifty days before we first find the church visible start to take shape.

      And, in accordance with that, we see every single element of what I discussed above appear in Acts 2. But we can keep going back before Acts 2; we see every single element of the Gospel appear in Jesus’ conversations with His disciples prior to His ascension. Why, then, did I quote from Romans for two of the four passages? (And give me some credit – the other two of the four passages are quoted from Acts and from I Peter!) Well, Paul has a wonderfully succinct way of stating things. I’m hardly the first to notice that.

      And, besides, all Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness. I’m not saying you advocate this notion, but I heartily reject the notion that earlier portions of the New Testament are more authoritative than the later compositions.

    • I believe the Gospel existed before the foundations of the world. Adam and Eve were told the Gospel when God slew an animal to provide them coats of skin. They could only be justified through a blood sacrifice. And God told them about that one Lamb when He said that their seed (Jesus) would bruise Satan’s head.

      • Sorry, and you’re completely right. I was, of course, speaking of our human knowledge of the Gospel, which was not known to any human in full until the Resurrection. But what some theologians call God’s plan of redemption and other theologians call the Covenant of Grace does indeed pre-date the world.

        Turns out that I should have been even more precise! 🙂

      • I knew what you meant…my post was not meant to disagree with yours.

        Truly, God specifically used Paul to provide clear explanations for the majority of the the Church’s critical doctrines. The Church was built upon those doctrines, but Paul laid them out for churches around the world, and for the rest of time on earth.

      • Yes, I knew your intent was to clarify, and I appreciate that! 🙂

        The notion that certain portions of Scripture are more authoritative / pertinent / useful than other portions really bugs me – so much that my thoughts started flying so fast that I had a hard time corralling my thoughts!

        That notion is found in Islam, where the chronology is reverse – the later Suras, I believe, supersede the earlier ones. But it’s not a notion that Christians apply to the New Testament.

  8. Great post!
    I think the Gospel is summed up in John 3:16. The word Gospel means good news, the whole purpose of the bible is that the world which God so loved should not perish, that is the central message, it is the good news. All scripture is given by inspiration by God, all scripture was given to man that he should know where life eternal can be found. If I was asked to summarise the bible from Genesis 1:1 through Revelation 22:21, I’d probably say what John 3:16 says, maybe I wouldn’t use the exact words, but I’d still wouldn’t say what that verse says.

    • Pardon my error, I meant to say I’d still say what that verse says.

      • I knew from the context that that must be what you meant. 🙂

  9. Great post! Every bit of the Gospel message I love, but probably one of my favorite parts that is mentioned is when the linens that were wrapped around the Lords body lay in a pile, but the linens that covered His face were folded neatly at the place where His head lay. In the Hebrew tradition, if you were to attend someones house for a meal, ate the meal, and had absolutely no intentions of coming back, you would through your cloth napkin down on your place setting and walk out. However, if you have every desire to come back to that place, you would fold the napkin neatly and lay it down at your setting. Such a small, yet significant, reminder that our Lord has every intention of coming back! Cannot possibly wait for that day! 🙂

    • whoops through should be throw. 😛

    • I love that little detail, too!