What Is the Gospel?
If you’re a Christian, I’ll assume that you agree we should all be striving to understand how the gospel relates to every text of Scripture.
But maybe that’s a poor assumption. Perhaps you aren’t certain why the connection between the gospel and Scripture itself is important. Or maybe you aren’t yet a believer. Before we go any further, let’s establish that doing so truly is a worthy objective to pursue.
What Is the Gospel?
To start, we need to define the gospel. What it is? Well, the gospel is the proclamation that the Son of God took on humanity, died for his peoples’ sins, rose from the dead, ascended into heaven, reigns in heaven, and will return to glorify his people and judge the world.
2 Reasons the Gospel Impacts Our Understanding of the Word
First, Jesus said that the Old Testament Scriptures bear witness about him—not in part, but as a whole (John 5:39-40). So if we read the Old Testament thinking that Jesus isn’t connected to it, we’re missing the point. We’re missing the gospel.
Second, God tells us that the communication of the gospel itself is what God uses to bear fruit in us (Rom. 1:13-15; Gal. 3:1-3). And if God uses the act of sharing the gospel to grow our faith, then it’s important that we see how the gospel is revealed throughout Scripture.
How to See Jesus in the Whole Bible
Now, we’ve said that we should see the gospel related to every part of the Bible, and we’ve defined what the gospel is. But how do we see Jesus in the whole Bible like he said we should?
It takes practice. So don’t get discouraged if you can’t do it right away—you’ll get better over time. Secondly, make sure that every time you read the Bible, you pray. And specifically, when you pray, thank God for how he’s saved you and how he will save you. Even if you don’t understand how a particular text relates to the gospel, you’ll at least be reading it as someone who is trusting the gospel in their reading.
As you practice and pray, strive also to understand the context of what you’re reading. Know where the passage you’re reading fits. How does it either: (1) set the stage of world history for Jesus’s death and resurrection or (2) result from Jesus’s death and resurrection?
3. Start Simple
Brace yourself: I’m going to recommend a children’s book. Why? Because if this seems a little daunting, The Big Picture Story Bible gives a simple and clear explanation. It will help.
4. Start with Understanding the Overarching Story
Reading big chunks of Scripture will also be a big help. Just don’t get bogged down in details. Don’t miss the forest for the trees because it could be that God himself explains what you’re reading!
5. Consider the Original Audience
As you read, remember the original audience. Read the Bible as that audience—as if you’re an ancient Israelite or a first-century church member, for instance. Ask yourself: what does this say about what God has done to save his people?
6. Consider the Facets of the Gospel as You Read
Remember the definition we established for the gospel? It’s multifaceted. So as you read, consider: how does the passage relate to how the Son became man to show us God’s glory? Does it relate at all to his death for our sins? Does it relate at all to his being vindicated through rising from the dead? How does it relate to his glorification as the true Son of God? Does it relate to his sovereign reign over all creation and his giving of spiritual life to his people? How does it relate to the ultimate future and our dwelling with Christ forever? Does it relate to Jesus judging the world?
That might seem overwhelming, but it is most simply seeking to understand what Jesus has done, is doing, and will do. Does any of that relate to your text? For example, people often struggle when they read the accounts of God commanding Israel to completely eradicate entire ethnic groups from the land. Yet, this reminds us of how God will one day judge the whole world in like manner and provide for us who trust him for forgiveness with a promised land.
7. Ask: What Are the Commands For?
What are God’s commands for? For starters, they are to show believers our sin so that we’ll trust in Christ to forgive us (Rom. 7:7). So, we should see commands in Scripture and consider how we fail to keep them—and how we rebel against them—and then thank God for how he’s forgiven us in Christ!
In addition, God’s commands show us how we’re to love God and other people. We’re to do those specific things which God commands—that’s how we love (Now, there are commands that specific to the actual nation of Israel that aren’t obligatory for Christians today. Learn to discern those but recognize that they are still relevant. For example, we don’t have to sow a field with only one kind of seed. However, all of our work is to be done in a holy way, knowing that everything is from God).
Because the resurrected Jesus does truly reign over all things, we can continue to grow in love for and obedience of God’s commands.
- Every text of Scripture really does relate to Jesus, and we need that
- When you read the Bible, thank God for how he’s saved you, and how he will save you when he returns
- Remember what Jesus has done, is doing, and will do—and consider how your text relates to him
- Pray in response to God—confess sins and ask for help to respond in obedience to him