God is the Gospel
What is meant by the phrase, "God is the gospel?" You may have heard it before. It is both the title of a non-fiction book and many sermons that have been preached in recent years. The phrase has risen in popularity, thank God, in churches across America. This is good news because the truth behind this statement is desperately needed in our prosperity-driven and consumeristic culture. To be honest, it's much more than a phrase. It's a life-shaping, behavior-transforming, and soul-satisfying declaration of truth.
A Good Place to Start
Let's start with a basic understanding of the gospel. The term itself literally means "good news." So the gospel of Jesus is the good news of how His life, death, and resurrection reconciles us back to God. Separated from our Creator as a result of our rebellion and sin, Jesus rescues us from God's wrath and the just punishment we deserve for our thievery concerning God's glory. Jesus absorbs the wrath and punishment Himself. On the cross, Jesus becomes our substitute--the innocent in place of the guilty. The gospel of Jesus is good news because it addresses our greatest need. The sin that is so prevalent in our lives causes our souls to wander and search for satisfaction where there is none--the created world. The gospel calls us away from our wandering and beckons and our souls "home"--to find soul-satisfaction in the presence of God. Our sin prevented us from coming home, but the gospel rolls out the welcome mat, sets the table, and calls our souls to feast on the all-satisfying glory and presence of God.
We're now getting close to understanding the phrase. It is pushing us to understand that our final and greatest benefit from receiving the gospel is God Himself. He is the treasure the gospel leads to--He is the reward and its greatest gift. All the other benefits of the gospel are considered good because they lead us to God and allow us to treasure God Himself.
Our sins. Our sin being forgiven is good because it is our sin that separates us from seeing and enjoying the glory of God.
Being justified. Justification, or being made perfect through the imputation of Christ's perfect life to us, is good because it allows us access to God's presence.
Heaven. The promise of heaven is good because God is there. Heaven is desirable because it will bring communion with God that is unencumbered by sin, confusion, and suffering.
Resurrection and glorified body. Our physical resurrection and the promise of a glorified body is chiefly good because we will have perfect health and a physical body that allows us to enjoy God's presence forever.
The list could go on and on, but I hope you are starting to see the truth that is emerging. None of the above realities could be considered ultimately good if they did not lead to God Himself. Having our sins forgiven, being seen as perfect, and living forever without suffering in a glorified body and state, while apart from God's presence, would not be the ultimate good news. We could have all the benefits of the gospel, and the Lord Himself be absent from our lives, and we would find our souls longing for home. Our souls, even with all the other benefits, would still not be satisfied. God alone can fill the void in our souls. This means that He Himself is the greatest and ultimate benefit of the gospel.
Not Our Idea
Additionally, we can understand the phrase to mean and describe where the message and truth of the gospel originates. See, the gospel is not our idea. It's not as if we suddenly recognized our need for God and ran to His side. The gospel is God's idea. He initiates rescue and we respond. We didn't convince God to be gracious, it's just who He is. Mercy and grace are His nature, and in the gospel He extends both to weary, wandering, and lost sinners searching for home.
It is hard to talk about such an important subject matter without at least mentioning one of the implications it has on our lives. "God is the gospel" means that there is something far more important than "right" and "wrong" in our lives. And yes, I know there are absolute moral truths and commands in Scripture. But simply living our lives based on right and wrong doesn't seem to offer much joy, passion, and victory to our souls. So, if God is the gospel, and He is the greatest treasure and benefit of receiving the message, maybe we should ask a different question than, "What is right and what is wrong?" What if we asked, "What gets me more of Jesus and what robs me of passion and focus concerning Him?" This question doesn't steer us away from holiness and choosing what is right, it actually steers us towards it. It keeps the goal--which is enjoying God's presence--in the front of our minds and as the motivation for our obedience. Asking this question also helps us navigate the moral "gray" areas of life that the Bible may not directly address.
The gospel presents us with the truth that we are never alone. Our greatest treasure and satisfaction lives inside us! The Holy Spirit resides within us to lead us to Jesus. The Apostle Paul nails it when he says "we have this treasure in jars of clay" (2 Cor. 4:7). Amen to that.