The Gospel of Jesus Christ

by Benjamin Dean

SCRIPTURES

EPIGRAPHS

PREFACE

FIVE INGREDIENTS

FIVE WORDS

FIVE PHRASES

FIVE SENTENCES

FIVE PARAGRAPHS

  • About God
  • About Sin
  • About Christ
  • About Salvation
  • About Conversion

FIVE PAGES

SCRIPTURES

‘The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many’ (Mark 10:45).

‘For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life’ (John 3:16).

‘Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life”’ (John 8:12).

‘Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”’ (John 11:25).

‘Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners’ (1 Tim 1:15)

‘And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come”’ (Revelation 12:10).

‘Sing praises to the LORD, for he has done gloriously; let this be made known in all the earth (Isaiah 12:5).

EPIGRAPHS

‘There are two things which all treatment of the Scriptures is aiming at: a way to discover what needs to be understood, and a way to put across to others what has been understood. Let us first discuss the way of discovery, and after that the way of putting our discoveries across’ (Augustine). 1Augustine, Teaching Christianity, 1.1; trans. Edmund Hill, O.P. (New City Press, 2014), 99; emphasis supplied.

‘Nothing is more familiar or more characteristic among Christians than assertion. Take away assertions, and you take away Christianity’ (Luther). 2Martin Luther, The Bondage of the Will, trans. J. I. Packer and O. R. Johnstone(James Clarke, 1957 [Orig. 1525]), 67.

‘Our Lord Jesus Christ came into the world as Redeemer of all, and that news of salvation is carried in his name to every nation great and small. It is a true fruit of faith that we know God to be our Father and are touched by his love. The door is open that we may come to him. In promising to be our Saviour he shows us that he is always willing to welcome us’ (Calvin). 3John Calvin, Sermons on 1 Timothy, 233; slightly amended.

‘For the Christian faith goes mainly to establish these two facts, the corruption of nature and redemption by Jesus Christ’ (Pascal). 4Blaise Pascal, Pensées, 3.194.

‘My one design is to bring poor souls to Jesus Christ’ (George Whitefield). 5A Letter from the Reverend Mr. Whitefield, to Some Church Members of the Presbyterian Persuasion, in Answer to Certain Scruples and Queries Relating to Some Passages in his Printed Sermons and Other Writings (Boston: S. Ireland and T. Green, 1740), 12; cited in A. Atherstone and D. C. Jones eds., The Routledge Research Companion to the History of Evangelicalism (Routledge, 2022), 1.

‘The more you have of a rational knowledge of the things of the gospel, the more opportunity there will be, when the Spirit breathes into your heart, to see the excellence of these things, and to taste the sweetness of them.’ (Jonathan Edwards) 6Jonathan Edwards, ‘The Importance and Advantage of a Thorough Knowledge of Divine Truth,’ in The Sermons of Jonathan Edwards: A Reader, edited by Wilson H. Kimmach, Kenneth P. Minkema, and Douglas A. Sweeney (Yale University Press, 1999), 45; slightly amended.

‘A theology that proclaims the God who saves from judgment by forgiveness through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ does not need to be adapted’ (Broughton Knox). 7D. Broughton Knox, Selected WorksVolume 1: The Doctrine of God (Matthias Media, 2000), 60.

‘There is only one Christian message’ (Billy Graham). 8Billy Graham, Just as I Am: The Autobiography of Billy Graham (HarperCollins/Zondervan, 1997), 727.

‘The gospel is the life-transforming message of salvation from sin and all its consequences through the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is both a declaration and summons: announcing what has been done for us in Christ and calling us to repentance, faith, and submission to his lordship’ (Ngozi Okeke and Mark Thompson). 9Ngozi Okeke and Mark Thompson, ‘What is the Gospel?’ in Charles Raven ed., The Truth Shall Set You Free: Global Anglicans in the 21st Century (The Latimer Trust, 2013), 17.

PREFACE

There is a wonderful clip dating from 1968 featuring J. R. R. Tolkien, author of what still seems widely regarded as the single greatest English-language novel. Tolkien talks about how the fiction unfolded, dismissing the suggestion that his masterpiece is an allegory of the nuclear bomb. He explains how ‘One reviewer once said, “Well this is a jolly, jolly book, isn’t it? All the right boys come home and everybody is happy and glad. It isn’t true of course!”’ Tolkein exclaims, ‘He can’t have read the story!’, remarking ‘If you really come down to any large story, that interests people and can hold their attention for considerable time, stories, human stories, are frankly always about one thing, aren’t they? Death. The inevitability of death. I don’t know whether you would agree with that.’ 

Next, Tolkein reaches into a pocket and pulls from his wallet a note containing words from Simone de Beauvoir, which he reads out loud, saying ‘They seem to me to put it in a nutshell: “There is no such thing as a natural death. Nothing that happens to man is ever natural, since his presence calls the whole world into question. All men must die, and for every man his death is an accident and, even if he knows it and consents to it, an unjustifiable violation.”’ Tolkein comments: ‘Well, you may agree with these words or not, but those are the key spring of The Lord of the Rings.10https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rre7zQGcldI [accessed 21 October 2022]. Thanks to Gregory B. Dean for drawing my attention to this.

In this world obviously nothing is forever, and death is terrible. Yet the denial of death and dying – subtle or blatant – is commonplace. 11See the Pulitzer Prize-winning work of Ernest Becker, The Denial of Death (Free Press, 1973). It has probably ever been so since the emergence of sin and evil. For from that point on, ‘the human race stood grievously burdened by great misery and in deep need of mercy.’ 12Augustine, Enchiridion, 2.7; Outler ed., 339. The Latin word Enchiridion means ‘handbook’ or ‘manual,’ and the work is a kind of commentary on the Apostles’ Creed. Given this situation, the gospel of Jesus Christ is good news because it provides cast-iron comfort, genuine hope, and real solutions to everything, always, forever, including mortality. It is not morbidity to say so.

Doubtless, ‘the universal reality of misery evokes in all people a need for deliverance, a deliverance from above’. 13Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics. Abridged, 393. But the Christian gospel diagnoses the nature of our fate more exactly, claiming that human unhappiness is not fundamentally physical (accident, addiction, calamity, hunger, disease, death) or psychological (negative emotions, aimlessness, anxiety, confusion, resentment, disappointment, sexual frustration, grief, bereavement). Nor are our worst problems essentially social(isolation, friendlessness, marital and family breakdown), political (civil unrest, poor governance, tyranny, war), economic (poverty) or environmental(climate change and loss of natural habitat).Our plight is greater than penury. The first, worst, deepest, and most intractable problems are God-related. They are moral, relational, spiritual. They concern what comes on the back of sin, and all its consequences, which include the breadth of unhappiness we have observed above. God, who is both infinitely holy and loving, is the source of all being and meaning, that is, the source of all that is good. Thus, in our passive and active rebellion against God we not only dishonour and despise him, but also are in a flight from all that is truly good, into blindness and misery. 14My heartfelt thanks, as always, to Robert Doyle for comments and improvements on an earlier version of this work.

Ultimately, the Christian gospel is the best and most significant good news because it deals with the greatest threat and biggest problem we all have to face: a final Divine judgment following death. Because he is holy, just, and loving, God will not let our rebellion and hatred of him be the last word for the good creation he has brought into existence to live beside him in loving and dependent fellowship. Our rebellion and hatred must be overthrown, and will be.

The message of Jesus carries within it not just the assertion that human beings have, after dying, to face God’s final verdict on their lives. It also includes powerful warnings about it. These are designed to help us avoid condemnation at the Day of Judgment, and so to escape – as Christ memorably put it – being ‘thrown into hell’ (Matt 5:29; 18:9; Mark 9:45, 47). The gospel is most essential good news because it provides solutions to humanity’s worst problems – yes, to dying, but still more severely and seriously, to the judgment of God that follows death. In our self-willed hostility, with the devil and the rest of the rebel angels, we will be consigned to eternal banishment from God’s presence, and thus from all that is good, a banishment which is deserved, a punishment. The certain reality of such things is crystal clear wherever one looks in the New Testament Scriptures: ‘For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. … Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him’ (John 3:17-18, 36).

The good news of salvation in Christ that we intend here to discover is deliverance, from sin, Satan, death, wrath, and curse, bringing acceptance and peace with God, reconciliation, relationship, and glory. 15Paraphrasing John Owen, Works, 16:346. The gospel of grace is the greatest and most important good news because it contains promises from God, about the forgiveness of sins and – by contrast with endless punishment – the creation of a new relationship with God, establishing endless new spiritual life in personal loving fellowship with God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and thus together with each other and all the other creatures. Instead of irreversible condemnation by God, the good news of Jesus promises new birth, acquittal, a declaration of innocence, absolute individual vindication, and consequent personal renewal to everlasting perfection ‘in the paradise of God’ (Rev 2:7; cf. Luke 23:43; 2 Cor 12:3). The reconciliation that Christ brings reaches to the very depths of our being and thus out to each other and our loving Creator.

These solutions and promises declared in the gospel are said to be based upon a series of unchangeable historical facts.Indeed, the nature of the gospel is not merely a teaching or a message but is composed of concrete events regarding a real person. It claims testimony ‘to the facts about’ the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 23:11).The good news declares that these events and facts are actually acts and works of God. The most crucial happenings of all took place with Jesus’ birth, life, death, and raising up as Lord and Christ. The gospel says that by virtue of what happened to him, with him, and through him, the saving plan and purpose of God was accomplished, uniquely, objectively, decisively, once for all, and for all time. ‘The gospel is not proclaimed if Christ is not proclaimed, and the authentic Christ has not been proclaimed if his death and resurrection are not central (the message is “Christ died for our sins and was raised”).’ 16The Gospel Coalition Confessional Statement, paragraph 6, in D. A. Carson and Timothy Keller eds., The Gospel as Center: Renewing our Faith and Reforming Our Ministry Practices (Crossway, 2012), 276. With the person and work of Jesus – most notably, his crucifixion and resurrection from the tomb – sinful human beings were delivered and rescued from their most pressing plight and predicament; and the Kingdom of God with Christ the King, was established for always as a saving reality and realm. 

This Biblical good news is breaking news that remains current continuing good news forever into the future. For through the gospel we learn that the victory of God over sin and evil, realized by Christ’s sin-bearing death and death-defeating resurrection, qualified him capable and competent to take up the highest possible office of executive authority and influence in the cosmos. ‘In fact, the gospel declaration – “Jesus is Lord” – is a declaration of Jesus ascended: that the story of Jesus did not finish with his bodily resurrection but is ongoing, for he reigns.’ 17‘The ascension is the counterpart to the incarnation as we see in passages like Philippians 2:5-11.’ Robert C. Doyle, ‘The Ascension of Jesus Christ and Present Heavenly Session,’ Unpublished Lecture Notes, 1.

Given some current size estimates of the universe extending anywhere between 200 billion and 2 trillion galaxies, Jesus’ universal rule is no small thing; 18See Christopher J. Conselice, et al, ‘The Evolution of Galaxy Number Density at Z < 8 and its Implications,’ Draft Version, October 11, 2016, available at https://arxiv.org/pdf/1607.03909.pdf [accessed 310323]. and, above all, the gospel announces this cosmos-wide Kingdom and Reign of Christ. For Jesus’ sacrificial death for our sins warranted his elevation to the position of director and governor of the universe, ruling over all things, visible and invisible, eternally. From that point on he has reigned, and he reigns now, absolutely and supremely, across the entire Kingdom of God. He is ‘Head of the New Humanity, the Prince of the New Creation, the King of the Kingdom which he has won and established through his incarnate life and passion.’ 19Thomas F. Torrance, Space, Time, and Resurrection (T&T Clark, 1975), 112.

Being both Lord and Saviour, seated now at the right hand of God the Father, Jesus Christ is today (1) overseeing all the kingdoms of the world in all ages, (2) supporting and advocating for his followers and friends, (3) sending forth his Spirit’s personal power and presence, and (4) causing ‘repentance for the forgiveness of sins to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem’ (Luke 24:47). Until the final end point when he eventually returns in glory at the finish of history, Jesus’ main intention and current preoccupation is that ‘this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come’ (Matt 24:14).

FIVE INGREDIENTS

Special Language

In the Bible, ‘gospel’ is specialized language. The word is specific, yet also rich, embracing, multi-faceted, flexible, used in a range of ways:

First, the New Testament uses it to describe the heart of the Old Testament promises of salvation. Secondly, it is used of the saving event of Jesus of Nazareth as the grounds of salvation for all who believe. Thirdly, it designates the proclamation of that saving event as the means by which people are confronted with the truth about Christ. Finally, it is the name applied by the early church to the distinct literary genre, found in the New Testament, by which the story of Jesus is told and preserved for posterity.’ 20G. Goldsworthy, ‘Gospel,’ in T. D. Alexander and Brian S. Rosner eds., New Dictionary of Biblical Theology (IVP, 2000), 524; italics supplied.

So, in Scripture ‘gospel’ language is specialized yet flexible, employed in several related ways. Prominent among them is the sense that, whatever the gospel is, it is a message. More literally, the gospel is ‘a word,’ a logos (e.g., Mark 16:20; Acts 13:36; 1 Cor 2:4; 2 Tim 4:15, 17; Heb 4:2; 1 John 1:5; 3:11). It is a message about the fulfilment of God’s plans and promises, realized by the Divine Word and Son of God coming into the world through the birth of a real human being, Jesus of Nazareth (John 1:1-18).

It is, most fundamentally, a message about Jesus’ supreme Lordship through death and resurrection.

It is, again fundamentally, a message by which we are saved from our sins (Acts 11:14), because it is at heart a message of reconciliation with God, in Christ, through forgiveness (2 Cor 5:19).

The Greek word underlying our English translation ‘gospel’ is euangellion in both its nounal and verbal forms. Euangellion is the word from which we get the term ‘evangelism’: announcing God’s message. In the Greek version of the Old Testament and in the New Testament it means ‘news’ or ‘message.’ Context decides whether it is ‘good news’ or even ‘bad news’ (e.g. 1 Kings 1:42, Is 52:7, 2 Sam 4:9-10, Jer 20:15).  The Bible often ‘uses the term to refer to the message that God has fulfilled his promise to send a Savior to rescue broken people, restore creation’s glory, and rule over all with compassion and justice.’ 21Bryan Chapel, ‘What is the Gospel?’ in D. A. Carson and Timothy Keller eds., The Gospel as Center: Renewing our Faith and Reforming Our Ministry Practices (Crossway, 2012),116. Thus, English Bibles most often translate euangellion  as ‘good news.’ But as Paul points out, this gospel message and the messenger, depending on how it is received, is ‘an aroma of Christ’: to one a ‘fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life’ (2 Cor 2:14-16).

For good reason, the term also soon came to use as a title of the now-canonical written Gospels, those appearing at the front of the New Testament Scriptures, according to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. These documents tell the story of Jesus Christ upon which the ongoing message about him is based. In fact, the written Gospels report that ‘the gospel of God’ and ‘the gospel of the kingdom’ was a message originally preached by Jesus himself (Mark 1:14; Matt 9:35). So, the gospel is, firstly, a message promoted by Jesus. Later, Paul (and others) spoke of ‘the gospel’ of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection (Rom 1:3-4; 1 Cor 15:1-5; 2 Tim 2:8). So, the gospel is, secondly, a message proclaimed about Jesus. To be a Christian is, purely and simply, to trust and follow Jesus Christ, believing that the Biblical message about him makes much more sense of the world and our experience than anything else.

Several Subjects

The Biblical gospel consists of several topics, heralded by multiple persons, written down by multiple authors in multiple types of literature, addressing a number of various and different subjects. This does not mean that ‘the gospel’ refers to everything in the Bible, or to everything in the New Testament, or to anything in the Christian faith. Still less does it suggest that ‘the gospel’ can mean whatever we like best about Jesus or the Bible. But it is to acknowledge that were one to unfold the themes of even a few Biblical texts offering summary definitions of the gospel (say, Mark 1:1; 14:9; Matt 4:23; 9:35; 24:14; Acts 13:16-41; 14:15-17; 17:22-31; Rom 1:3-4; 1 Cor 15:3-5; 2 Tim 2:8), there would be rather more than a single point; and of course, there is a great deal of other material to take in. 22The definition offered in N. Gray Sutanto’s essay is constricted: ‘The gospel is the good news of Jesus’ death and resurrection.’ That is absolutely primary and central but hardly it. For example, no mention follows of so obvious a theme in Jesus’ and the apostles’ proclamation of the gospel as the lordship of Christ in the Kingdom of God. See https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/essay/the-gospel/ [accessed 310323].

 It is to recognize that the four written Gospels and wider New Testament writings present a broad range of realities regarding ‘the gospel,’ and that the gospel message within them and growing out of them includes an whole array of claims composed of different elements of various kinds. The gospel is longer and more layered than a single soundbite. 

Perhaps the most remarkable short summary of the Biblical gospel remains the Apostles’ Creed:

I believe in God the Father Almighty,

Maker of heaven and earth.

I believe in Jesus Christ, his only-begotten Son, our Lord;

who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary;

suffered under Pontius Pilate;

was crucified, dead, and buried;

he descended into hell;

the third day he rose again from the dead;

he ascended into heaven,

and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty;

from there he shall come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit;

the holy catholic‘23“Catholic” means universal; that is, there is one church across all times, places, and peoples’ (Chad Van Dixhoorn, CreedsConfessions, and Catechisms: A Reader’s Edition. Crossway, 2022; 13 n.1).

 church; 

the communion of saints;

the forgiveness of sins;

the resurrection of the body;

and the life everlasting. Amen.

The Creed was not written by the Apostles themselves and its authorship is unknown. But reflecting the spirit, pattern, and high points of New Testament teaching, the Creed contains 

‘all the fundamental articles of the Christian faith necessary to salvation, in the form of facts, in simple Scriptural language, in the most natural order. … It is by far the best popular summary of the Christian faith ever made within so brief a space. … It is not a logical statement of abstract doctrines, but a profession of living facts and saving truths. … It is intelligible and edifying to a child, and fresh and rich to the profoundest Christian scholar, who, as he advances in age, delights to go back to primitive foundations and first principles. … It can never be superseded for popular use.’ 24Schaff, Creeds, 1:14-15. The substance of The Apostles’ Creed dates from the second century onward. But due to fear of persecution and misunderstanding in the face of violent opposition, at first it was memorized rather than put down in writing. Written versions of it were fragmentary until persecution paused, and the Roman empire was Christianized. The first full Latin text was provided by Rufinus (A.D. 390), and the Greek by Marcellus of Ancyra (A.D. 336-341). See Schaff, Creeds, 1:16-20; then to Karl Barth, Dogmatics in Outline(SCM Press, 1949/2001); Justo L. González, The Apostle’s Creed for Today (Westminster John Knox, 2007); Michael Horton, We Believe: Recovering the Essentials of the Apostles’ Creed (Thomas Nelson, 1998); Alister McGrath, “I Believe”: Exploring the Apostles’ Creed (InterVarsity, 1998); J. I. Packer, Growing in Christ (Crossway, 1994).

That is not to suggest that the Apostles’ Creed is adequate to answer all questions and inform about all issues. The Nicene Creed (325) provided clearer expression of Jesus’ divinity. The Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed (381) added statements about the full divinity of the Holy Spirit. The Creed of Chalcedon (451) clarified the relation of Christ’s divinity and humanity, whilst The Athanasian Creed (c. 8th century) brought stronger expression of God’s Triunity. 25A brief introduction is Justin S. Holcombe, Know the Creeds and Councils (Zondervan, 2014). 

Later, the Reformation Creeds were much more explicit about the inspiration and authority of the Bible as well as matters of sin, grace, and justification by faith. 26See Schaff, The Creeds of Christendom. Volume 3. The Evangelical Protestant Creeds.

There are literally thousands of very fine ‘gospel’ statements and summaries. The opening words of The Heidelberg Catechism (1563) offer a wonderful summary of the Christian good news, cast in highly experiential and personal terms: 

‘Question. What is your only comfort in life and in death? Answer. That I, with body and soul, both in life and in death, am not my own, but belong to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ, who with his precious blood has fully satisfied for all my sins, and redeemed me from all the power of the devil; and so preserves me that without the will of my Father in heaven not a hair can fall from my head; indeed, that all things must work together for my salvation. Consequently, by his Holy Spirit, he also assures me of eternal life, and makes me heartily willing and ready from now on to live unto him.’ 27Schaff, Creeds, 3:307-8.

Rather remarkably, it was not until the final years of the 20th century that a full formal statement focused directly on the gospel itself appeared.28See the reproduction of this in the section ‘Five Pages’ below.

If one were to offer an informal and conversational presentation of the gospel, it could run something like this:

that Jesus is one hundred percent God, and one hundred percent human; 

that without him, human beings face a ‘dreadful sentence of eternal death;’29Calvin, Inst. 3.2.1; Battles ed., 542.

but Jesus loves us, lived and died for our sins, and rose again from the dead; 

that because of what Jesus suffered and did to achieve our forgiveness we can be right with God, now, and forever; 

that Jesus is alive, and ruling at the right hand of God; 

he may be personally known, loved, and trusted;

that there is a wonderful new relationship with God to enjoy, and great new power from God to experience;  

that life is hard but good, because we’re not left doing it alone, for through Jesus our Heavenly Father is with us by his Spirit; 

that beyond death there is a magnificent future in a perfect world to look forward to;

turning to God and away from sin, these truths may be believed, trusted, relied on, and lived for, serving the Lord as he give us strength, for the rest of our earthly lives until he returns.

The Main Thing

So, the gospel can be cast in both careful formal language as well as in everyday informal language. It is something that addresses and speaks to all of us, something that all of us can grasp hold of, understand, and relate to at whatever level we will. Additionally, the gospel is a broad specific category, embracing multiple aspects with far-reaching implications and numerous impacts. There is a comprehensiveness and an immensityto the Biblical good news. Yet all its elements are interlinked, gathered around a central strand, unified by a single person. The core content of the Christian gospel – as declared by Jesus himself, and then believed and promoted about him by the first Christians – may be straightforwardly summarized.

In simplest terms, the gospel announces, ‘the Christ’ (Acts 8:5); it states, ‘the good news about Jesus’ (Acts 8:35); ‘proclaiming the Kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ’ (Acts 28:31). 

In fewest words, its substance may be boiled down further to the brief declaration, ‘Jesus is Lord’ (Rom 10:9; 1 Cor 12:3), ‘Jesus Christ is Lord’ (2 Cor 4:3-5; Phil 2:11), ‘Jesus Christ our Lord’ (Rom 1:4). 

Of ‘first’ and fundamental ‘importance’ regarding the nature of Christ’s Lordship is his death for our sins ‘in accordance with the Scriptures,’ his resurrection from the dead (1 Cor 15:3-4), his all-powerful appointment as Son of God (Rom 1:4), and his super-exaltation ‘above every name … in heaven and on earth’ (Phil 2:9-10).

The ‘essential ingredients’ of the Christian message are therefore, in brief, the Lord Jesus Christ and him crucified, resolving sin by God’s grace, offering forgiveness for guilt, new birth, and eternal life through the gift of the Holy Spirit. 30Packer, Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God, 66.

The declaration of this message includes the demand following from it. An obligation is bound up with it. This message we should believe and express by repentance and faith. That is the gospel’s consistent focus. That is its constant theme.

A Fivefold Pattern

So, ‘the gospel’ can refer to a person (our Lord Jesus Christ), to actions and events (his saving work), to their accomplishmentsstatus, and ongoing operations (Jesus’ Lordship and Kingdom), to the benefits of these achievements (salvation), to a certain set of written narratives (the canonical Gospels), and to a wider message (a body of news, truths, facts, to be communicated, stated, expounded, heard, received, and appropriately responded to). 

Moreover, the gospel in the New Testament is set forth in a variety of moods, styles, and genres. There is narrative and proclamation, biography and autobiography, story-like presentation and detailed conceptual analysis, letters and visions, facts and interpretation, events plus message, persons, ideas, promises, and commands. The good news is a thought-pattern, a framework, a matrix, a worldview, an announcement, an argument, a logic, a summons.

In what follows we will explore the suggestion that among all the ‘gospel’ material in the Bible it is possible to trace a five-part pattern, set of themes, and talking points. These five great overarching truths are expressed and taught over and over repeatedly. Taken together they form ‘the doctrinal components of the gospel.’ 31David Wells, Turning to God (Baker Books, 1989, 2011), 20.

 They distil, clarify, and communicate the common core contents and concepts of the Christian good news.

For clarity’s sake, our consideration will develop gradually, moving from drastically short and simple expression onward to greater complexity and length. We shall try to lay out the nature and structure of the Biblical gospel in a fivefold pattern, beginning as briefly as possible with just five words. These are followed – step by step, piece by piece – with five phrases, five sentences, five paragraphs, five pages, and (finally) five longer parts containing fuller clarifications.        

FIVE WORDS

The shape and structure of the gospel may be indicated, very simply and straightforwardly, in the following five words:

  • God
  • Sin
  • Christ 
  • Forgiveness
  • Faith

Taken together these five words offer a clear, uncomplicated, non-technical outline of the Biblical gospel’s contents, an outline which can be easily digested, comfortably memorized, and used without difficulty as a set of headings for fuller explanation and instruction. 32For comparison, the reader may wish to consult the learnable gospel outlines offered in John Chapman, Know and Tell the Gospel. 4th edition (Matthias Media, 2005), 150-162.

FIVE PHRASES

By way of expansion, the gospel tells us:

  • About God’s character and relationship to us
  • About sin and its consequences
  • About Christ’s identity and action
  • About salvation, based on forgiveness, issuing in eternal life
  • About conversion, full-hearted faith, life-long trust, and turning to God from sin

FIVE SENTENCES33These five sentences are partly verbatim and partly developed from Peter Jensen, The Revelation of God, 46, 49, 53, 58, and 61.

The shape and substance of the gospel may be next expressed in five theses:

  • The gospel is a totally positive life-changing word from the God who speaks, creates, rules, judges, and saves
  • The gospel includes a warning of judgment to come on sinful humanity
  • The gospel centers on Jesus Christ as Lord by his life, death, resurrection, exaltation, and return
  • The gospel of salvation has immediate impact now through the forgiveness of sins and the creation of new spiritual life in relationship with God, but its strongest stress is on promised outcomes in the eternal future
  • The gospel demands conversion – faith and repentance – in response to God’s grace and mercy

FIVE PARAGRAPHS

(1) About God

So, the gospel tells us, firstly, about God: that he is our Creator, through whose goodness and greatness we exist, in whose hands and by whose constant care every human person lives and breathes each moment.34The pattern here followed is guided by J. I. Packer, Collected Shorter Writings, 2:229-30, 250-51; idem, Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God (IVP, 2010 [Orig. 1961]), 66-81. The Creator is a communicator. Communication is essential to him. The good news of the gospel is itself a communication, a message, a revelation in words. Indeed, it is the fundamental revelation, main message, and verbal communication issued by God himself. God’s Word, God’s speaking, is instrumental in all God’s ways and works. Indeed, speech is essential to God’s very being and nature: ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God’ (John 1:1). The Bible begins with God bringing the world into existence by speaking. ‘In the beginning’ (Gen 1:1), God created ‘the beginning’ with a series of words which he spoke. The Bible proceeds from the outset with God talking to people, telling them things, clearly, directly, understandably, and then causing much of what he has said to be written down, placed on public record, and distributed in the Scriptures, through which God carries on speaking to people throughout history and to each of us today. It is these Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments that publish the only Divinely authorised version of gospel. So, ‘the gospel of God’ is Biblical. It was ‘promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures [of the Old Testament]’ (Rom 1:2), and it was passed on by Jesus and the Apostles ‘in accordance with the Scriptures’ [of the Old Testament] (1 Cor 15:1-11) and put into writing in what came to be called the New Testament. In the Bible, God tells us many things.  He made the world to be our home.  He greatly values us, and unconditionally loves us. He made us in his image to live in harmony with him and with all else that he made. The intention is for us to enjoy him, to serve him, to worship him forever, keeping him at the front of our minds, living in conscious, individual, obedient, personal, interactive, loving relationship with him and with other creatures. Because God is our Maker, his claim upon us is absolute. With perfect goodness, he owns us.  We belong to him and owe everything to him. So, we are not here by accident or through chance.  Human beings have been put here by God for very good reasons, and God’s goals and objectives should always determine ours. Every individual human life has unique worth and meaning.  He made us, firstly, for himself and, secondly, for each other. Anything else or less simply cannot work. Without that purpose as our foundation and focus, our lives are empty, incomplete, unfulfilled, unsatisfied, lacking meaning, and in terrible danger. God made us to draw us to himself, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in him. 35Augustine, Confessions, 1.1; trans. Boulding, 39.

 God rightly rules over all that he has made and bound up within his rule is God’s role as Judge and Saviour.  ‘Not till the Creator’s claim is seen can we ever grasp the sinfulness of sin.’ 36Packer, Collected Shorter Writings, 2:229.

 In the gospel, God addresses sinful human beings, speaks out loud to them in human words, calls to them, graciously commands and invites them. Through the words of the Bible, through human ambassadors – teachers and preachers – God communicates the gospel message. Through the presentation of a reasonable fact-based gospel message that engages mind, emotions, and will, God communicates, revealing and offering himself to us in such a way that declares, argues, convinces, persuades, commands, and instates us into an everlasting personal living relationship to him.

(2) About Sin

The gospel tells us, secondly, about sin and its effects. This is the condition and need that the gospel addresses. Sin originally began not with people but in the mind and will of the devil. Yet sin entered the human world through the temptation and disobedience of the first human couple. Sin itself combines unbelief, mistrust, failure, revolt, lawlessness. Its essence is rebellion against God. Its result is the insane, senseless ruin of relationships, with the Creator, with each other, and of our wider environment. Each one of us remains responsible and accountable to God, but we are now by nature corrupt, rebellious, guilty, unclean, indebted, under the perfectly just judgment of God, and ‘nothing we can do for ourselves can put us right.’ 37Packer, Collected Shorter Writings, 2:250.

 Alienated from God, we are hostile, helpless, enslaved, powerless, bound to confusion, heartache, pain, suffering, death, and Divine judgment. In the very nature of things, our guilt before God requires condemnation, and condemnation demands punishment. Not only so, but because sin is essentially satanic, outside of Jesus Christ human beings lie subject to Satan, trapped within the realm and power of evil. Sin is very sinful, and the evil flowing from it is very evil. God’s mercy restrains sin’s worst excesses.  Yet everyone is implicated, and everything is affected and spoiled. God’s holiness, love, and righteousness respond to sin and evil in relentless wrath and judgment, past, present, and future. God’s hatred of sin arises from his love, for whatever harms or hurts what God loves is not to be tolerated. The perfect goodness of God means that he must hate and reject evil, regarding real wrong with real loathing, judging it justly, reasonably, fairly. The alternative would be indifference. In the end, at the climax of history, to put things permanently right, God’s final judgment, based on complete knowledge about all things, will be delivered without partiality. He will determine the relational, personal, moral, and spiritual position of each of his creatures, humans, and angels. ‘The basis for the judgment is relationship with God and obedience to the gospel.’38Chapman, Know and Tell the Gospel, 64.

 In the final analysis, at the last judgment, an individual person’s future destiny – heaven or hell – is determined according to our relation to Jesus Christ, and our relation to Jesus Christ is determined by our acceptance or rejection of, and obedience or disobedience to, the gospel. Evil will be overthrown, sin undone, wrong punished. Justice will eventually prevail, and by forgiveness, restoration, and whole-scale re-creation, the kingdom of God will proceed for the perfect eternal good of all. It is worth emphasising that God’s judgment stresses our accountability, responsibility, and worth.  ‘The truth of divine judgment on human wrong is necessary in a moral universe, upholding the goodness of God, respecting the dignity of humanity.’39Bradshaw, ‘Judgment of God,’ 478. In judgment, God provides public disclosure and affirmation of ‘those values on which the common life of society depends.’40Oliver M. T. O’Donovan, ‘Punishment,’ in New Dictionary of Theology: Historical and Systematic, eds. Martin Davie et al (IVP, 2016), 717. Based on perfect wisdom, knowing exactly how and when to act for the best, God’s judgment of sin gives rulings that set things in order and put matters permanently right. As seen in the rescue of Israel from slavery in Egypt, God judges sin to remove both the blindness it brings and its tyrannical rule, and thereby restore us to relationship with him (Ex 2:23-25; 5:1-2; 6:1-13; 7:5; 12:29-32; 14:1-4). The occasion of God’s judgment is both now in history, during the course of this present life, as well as decisively and ultimately at the ‘day on which he will judge the world’ (Acts 17:31) before ‘the great white throne’ (Rev 20:11-15). 41These concluding sentences are drawn from ‘Great Truths: Sin and Death,’ 4.1 https://www.greattruthsglobal.org/sin-and-death/.

 Integral then to the gospel is the declaration of God’s final judgment upon sin, either of forgiveness or of condemnation. 42Beeke, Reformed Systematic Theology, vol 3, chapter 12, page XX.

 In the gospel, God’s judgment upon sin delivers two types of verdict. Either God’s judgment announces a verdict of forgiveness, which opens paradise – the everlasting kingdom of heaven – to believers. Or, God’s judgment delivers a verdict of condemnation, which shuts the kingdom of heaven against unbelievers, away from the presence of God who is the source of all that is good (2 Thess 1:9), thus consigning them to everlasting conscious torment, which Jesus described as  ‘the hell of fire’ (Matt 5:22). 43‘How is the kingdom of heaven opened and shut by the preaching of the holy gospel? In this way: that, according to the command of Christ, it is proclaimed and openly witnessed to believers, one and all, that as often as they accept with true faith the promise of the gospel, all their sins are really forgiven them of God for the sake of Christ’s merits; and on the contrary, to all unbelievers and hypocrites, that the wrath of God and eternal condemnation abide on them so long as they are not converted: according to which witness of the gospel will be the judgment of God, both in this life and in that which is to come’ (Heidelberg Catechism, Question 84; Schaff, The Creeds of Christendom, 3:337).

 ‘Not till we begin to grasp these things can we ever appreciate the dimensions of the declaration that Jesus Christ saves us from sin.’ 44Packer, Collected Shorter Writings, 2:229.

(3) About Christ

The gospel tells us, thirdly, about Jesus Christ. It speaks of Jesus’ identity and action, of who he is, what he did, what he is doing, and what he will do: the Son of God and Son of Man, fully Divine and fully human, who came from heaven, by God’s great love, a perfect example of human life and a perfect expression of God’s own nature, to assume the judgment due to us by suffering and dying in our place for our sins, to be raised from the dead, and is alive and well, reigning at God’s right hand, the one and only Lord of lords and King of kings, who will come again in glory to be our Judge and Saviour. This good news involves both the facts and events as well as the meaning and significance of Jesus’ life, death, resurrection, and reign.  It spells out these things, requiring that we understand ‘the meaning and purpose of human life in terms of him’ and his achievements accomplished on our behalf. 45Packer, Collected Shorter Writings, 2:229.

 To be clear, the message of the gospel is a message about Jesus that includes teaching about bothhis Divine-human identity and his saving work. The gospel joins and combines Jesus’ Divine-human person with his reconciling work. The gospel does not set forth the person and character of Jesus without his atoning and redeeming work. The good news identifies three indispensable aspects of Jesus’ identity and action: (1) Incarnation – Jesus Christ is God the eternal Son incarnate, made human. He is the God-man who ‘came into the world to save sinners’ (1 Tim 1:15). (2) Atonement – Jesus’ earthly life concluded with his sacrificial death for human beings.  His judicial execution by crucifixion ‘was really his saving action of bearing away the world’s sins.’ 46Packer, Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God, 73.

(3) Exaltation – Jesus’ resurrection from the dead and his ascension into heaven to rule at God’s right hand as Saviour and Judge demonstrates, first and foremost, the value and effect of his death as substitutionary, saving, redeeming, atoning, reconciling. Based on Jesus death being expiatory – bearing and removing our guilt – and propitiatory – turning away from us God’s punishment of our sins – ‘Jesus has been raised, and enthroned, and made King, and lives to save to the uttermost all who acknowledge his lordship.’ 47Packer, Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God, 73.

 Having said this, 

‘it is certainly true that a theory of atonement, however orthodox, is no substitute for the Saviour: it is the living Christ who saves, not any theory about him. But Jesus of Nazareth cannot be known as the living Christ unless we are clear that he was eternal God, and his passion was his redeeming action of bearing away humanity’s sins; nor shall we know how to approach him till we have learned that he is now God’s King on the throne of the universe. Not till we are aware of these things can we see what the response for which Christ calls really means.’ 48Packer, Collected Shorter Writings, 2:229; slightly amended.

(4) About Salvation

The gospel tells us, fourthly, about forgiveness and eternal life.Our human condition as sinners in the hands of a God who in his holiness and love is instinctively angry about sin is so serious that nothing less than full pardon for our own individual offences, combined with whole-scale supernatural personal renewal, can save us and bring us to eternal well-being in the kingdom of God.The forgiveness of sins through Jesus’ suffering and rising from the dead undoubtedly is the most basic provision of the gospel (Luke 24:46-47; Acts 10:38-43).Through the forgiveness of sins comes true knowledge of salvation ‘because of the tender mercy of our God’ (Luke 1:77-78).Forgiveness deals with our relational alienation from God and is fundamental, then, as the condition, basis, and beginning of unceasing new life at peace with God.In fact, with God’s forgiveness there is an entirely fresh start.Through the power of the Holy Spirit – God’s un-bodily personal energy and action – applying the value of Jesus’ death and resurrection to individual human persons comes an additional birth, a spiritual re-birth.The new birth of which the New Testament speaks is, clearly, distinct from natural physical birth.‘The concept is of God renovating the heart, the core of a person’s being.’ 49Packer, Concise Theology, 157.

Being ‘born of God’ (John 1:13) is an inward change and transformation so powerful and deep that there is in fact a regeneration, a generation of new life, ‘brought about by the direct influence of God upon the soul.’ 50Helm, The Beginnings, 15.

God creates new life in a person, granting a new nature, implanting a new mind with new beliefs, new intentions, new desires, new values, bringing new identity, new relationships, new family, new purpose, new actions, new objectives, and a wholly new personal future destiny.We may not fully fathom how God does this, but we can grasp that Almighty God can and does cause new life, new goals, new hope, new meaning, making a completely new beginning of an endless new life.By God’s own immediate, powerful action upon us, we ‘become children of God’ (John 1:13). In the gospel, by bringing us to be ‘born again,’ God lovingly, graciously, ‘shows his fatherly face,’ 51Calvin, ‘The Gift of Prayer,’ in Sermons on 1 Timothy, 239. becoming forever our Father who is in heaven. 52The following material in the second part of this paragraph is also inserted into the 1999 statement, reproduced below. See the sections on ‘New Creation’ and ‘The Full Unveiling of the New Creation and Final Judgment’. Thanks are due to Robert C. Doyle for development of this. Paul’s description of salvation as a ‘new creation’ highlights the full reversal of the all-embracing disaster of Adam’s revolt and our participation in it (Gen 3:1-19, Rom 5:12-21). In that primal sin in which we aspired to be our own gods, we see in Adam and Eve’s banishment from Eden an all-encompassing threefold spoiling of relationships. First, our relationship with God is fully broken, for we are banished from his Good Presence. Second, our relationship with each other as human persons is painfully marred by competition for dominance. After all, to be a ‘god’ is to claim and seek to assert sovereignty over all things, including the other ‘gods’. Third, we now can only enjoy the benefits of material creation in painful struggle with it, in which our bodies are eventually consumed by it in death. In Christ, however, ‘everything is new’ (2 Cor 5:17). It is ‘future in final completion’, but ‘has already begun in the believer.’ 53Philip H. Towner, “New Creation” in Walter A. Elwell (ed) Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology(Baker, 1996), 563.

 Now in Christ we call upon God as ‘Father’, each other as brothers and sisters (Gal 6:1-16, Eph 2:11-22), and look forward to the day when the material creation will be freed from the futility and bondage it suffers because of our sin (Rom 8:18-25). On the Last Day we will see the full unveiling of the new creation. Mary is told that it is Jesus, the Son of the Most High, who will bring in the kingdom of God ‘without end’ (Lk 1:31-33). Although many are self-blinded to it, Christ presently rules over all on behalf of the Father. When Jesus returns in all his glory, ‘and all the angels with him’, with all the nations gathered before him (Matt 25:31-32), the gospel tells us two things will happen. First, as all have sinned, so all who do not receive Christ will be judged according to their just deserts as measured by God’s holy law, and face eternal retributive punishment. The devil and all his works, all evil, will be overthrown and banished (Matt 25:31-46). Second, as the first heaven and the first earth marred by sin passes away, God will come and dwell directly with us, his people, and make all things new. ‘“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away (Rev 21:4).”’ The eager longing of creation for the full redemption of our bodies, our glory as sons and daughters of God, will be consummated. Material creation will with us in our glory enjoy freedom from sin and travail (Rom 8:18-25).

(5) About Conversion

The gospel tells us, fifthly, about how to respond: by whole-hearted life-long belief, faith, repentance, obedience, discipleship, and service to Jesus Christ. Thus, the gospel involves both an announcement and an invitation, a declaration, and a summons. Rather than ‘perish’ (John 3:16), we should commit ourselves completely to Jesus as the one unique Lord and Saviour, believing his claims, trusting his promises, receiving his benefits (fundamentally, forgiveness and transformation), turning entirely to God and away from evil, following Jesus, learning from him, serving him, whatever it takes, whatever it costs, full-heartedly and single-mindedly, for the rest of our earthly lives.

‘Faith is credence and conviction regarding the Gospel message, and a consequent casting of oneself on the promises of Christ and the Christ of those promises as one’s only hope. Repentance is a change of heart and mind, leading to a new life of denying self and serving the Saviour as King in self’s place. Discipleship is a matter of relating oneself to the living, exalted Christ as both learner and follower, and to the rest of Christ’s disciples as one who longs both to learn from them and to give to them, and who knows that his master’s will is for him to be in their company.’ 54Packer, Collected Shorter Writings, 2:229.

FIVE PAGES

Prelude

The gospel of Jesus Christ is news, good news: the best and most important news that any human being ever hears. 55The present section ‘Five Pages’ is largely a reproduction – with amendments to paragraph headings and layout – of The Gospel of Jesus Christ: An Evangelical Celebration © 1999 byThe Committee On Evangelical Unity In The Gospel, as rendered in J. I. Packer and Thomas C. Oden, One Faith: The Evangelical Consensus(InterVarsity Press, 2004), 185-195 [used with permission]. The reproduction of the text proceeds exactly, with two exceptions: one entirely new paragraph – ‘New Creation’ – has been inserted, and the original short paragraph on ‘Final Judgment’ has been clarified, rewritten, and retitled ‘The Full Unveiling of the New Creation and Final Judgment.’ The original text of The Gospel of Jesus Christ: An Evangelical Celebration, together with a list of writers and signatories, is available in many places online, e.g., http://www.onthewing.org/user/Creed_Gospel%201999.pdf [accessed 220614]. This statement was produced and endorsed by a broad range of English-speaking evangelical leaders (including magisterial and charismatic, Reformed and Arminian, Baptist and Paedobaptist traditions). Widely recognised as an accurate and even definitive presentation of fundamental Biblical convictions, the scope of this document’s acceptance is similar to that of The Lausanne Covenant (1974), The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy (1978), and The Amsterdam Declaration (2000). ‘Earlier statements [issued in the history of evangelical Protestantism] had centred on the authority of Scripture, Christian worship, political ethics, social responsibility and the environment, as well as on evangelization, but this was the first to focus primarily on the gospel itself and, more particularly, on the specifics of justification by faith’ (Packer and Oden, One Faith, 32).

This gospel declares the only way to know God in peace, love, and joy is through the reconciling death of Jesus Christ the risen Lord. 

This gospel is the central message of the Holy Scriptures, and is the true key to understanding them. 

This gospel identifies Jesus Christ, the Messiah of Israel, as the Son of God and God the Son, the second Person of the Holy Trinity, whose incarnation, ministry, death, resurrection, and ascension fulfilled the Father’s saving will. His death for sins and his resurrection from the dead were promised beforehand by the prophets and attested by eyewitnesses. In God’s own time and in God’s own way, Jesus Christ shall return as glorious Lord and Judge of all (1 Thess. 4:13-18; Matt. 25:31-32). He is now giving the Holy Spirit from the Father to all those who are truly his. The three Persons of the Trinity thus combine in the work of saving sinners. 

This gospel sets forth Jesus Christ as the living Savior, Master, Life, and Hope of all who put their trust in him. It tells us that the eternal destiny of all people depends on whether they are savingly related to Jesus Christ. 

This gospel is the only gospel: there is no other; and to change its substance is to pervert and indeed destroy it. This gospel is so simple that small children can understand it, and it is so profound that studies by the wisest theologians will never exhaust its riches. 

All Christians are called to unity in love and unity in truth. As evangelicals who derive our very name from the gospel, we celebrate this great good news of God’s saving work in Jesus Christ as the true bond of Christian unity, whether among organized churches and denominations or in the many transdenominational cooperative enterprises of Christians together.

The Bible declares that all who truly trust in Christ and his gospel are sons and daughters of God through grace, and hence are our brothers and sisters in Christ. 

All who are justified experience reconciliation with the Father, full remission of sins, transition from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light, the reality of being a new creature in Christ, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit. They enjoy access to the Father with all the peace and joy that this brings.

The gospel requires of all believers worship, which means constant praise and giving of thanks to God, submission to all that he has revealed in his written word, prayerful dependence on him, and vigilance lest his truth be even inadvertently compromised or obscured. Because of the radical change Christ has brought us, Paul describes Christian worship as discerning with our renewed minds ‘what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect’ (Rom 12:1-2). 56This paragraph and the following two paragraphs are slightly amended from the original.

To share the joy and hope of this Gospel is a supreme privilege. It is also an abiding obligation, for the Great Commission of Jesus Christ still stands: proclaim the Gospel everywhere, he said, teaching, baptizing, and making disciples (Matt 28:16-28). 

The following is a declaration of what the Gospel is. In it we affirm our commitment to the task outlined in the Great Commission, and with it our allegiance to Christ himself, to the Gospel itself, and to each other as fellow evangelical believers.

The Heart of the Gospel

This gospel of Jesus Christ which God sets forth in the infallible Scriptures combines Jesus’ own declaration of the present reality of the kingdom of God with the apostles’ account of the person, place, and work of Christ, and how sinful humans benefit from it. The Patristic Rule of Faith, the historic creeds, the Reformation confessions, and the doctrinal bases of later evangelical bodies all witness to the substance of this biblical message. 

The heart of the gospel is that our holy, loving Creator, confronted with human hostility and rebellion, has chosen in his own freedom and faithfulness to become our holy, loving Redeemer and Restorer. The Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world (1 John 4:14): it is through his one and only Son that God’s one and only plan of salvation is implemented. So Peter announced: ‘Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved’ (Acts 4:12). And Christ himself taught: ‘I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me’ (John 14:6). 

Humanity (1)

Through the gospel we learn that we human beings, who were made for fellowship with God, are by nature—that is, ‘in Adam’ (1 Cor 15:22)—dead in sin, unresponsive to and separated from our Maker. We are constantly twisting his truth, breaking his law, belittling his goals and standards, and offending his holiness by our unholiness, so that we truly are ‘without hope and without God in the world’ (Rom 1:18-32, 3:9-20; Eph 2:1-3, 12). Yet God in grace took the initiative to reconcile us to himself through the sinless life and vicarious death of his beloved Son (Eph 2:4-10; Rom 3:21-24). 

Atonement (1)

‘Atonement’ is a big and multifaceted concept. In Christian theology it means ‘the reconciliation of God and humankind through Jesus Christ.’ 57Oxford English Dictionary, Dictionary app version 2.3.0 (294), Apple Inc. This paragraph is additional to the original.

To this end, the Father sent the Son to free us from the dominion of sin and Satan, and to make us God’s children and friends. Jesus paid our penalty in our place on his cross, satisfying the retributive demands of divine justice by shedding his blood in sacrifice and so making possible justification for all who trust in him (Rom 3:25-26). The Bible describes this mighty substitutionary transaction as the achieving of ransom, reconciliation, redemption, propitiation, and conquest of evil powers (Matt 20:28; 2 Cor 5:18-21; Rom 3:23-25; John 12:31; Col 2:15). It secures for us a restored relationship with God that brings pardon and peace, acceptance and access, and adoption into God’s family (Col 1:20, 2:13-14; Rom 5:1-2; Gal 4:4-7; 1 Pet 3:18). The faith in God and in Christ to which the gospel calls us is a trustful outgoing of our hearts to lay hold of these promised and proffered benefits. 

This gospel further proclaims the bodily resurrection, ascension, and enthronement of Jesus as evidence of the efficacy of his once-for-all sacrifice for us, of the reality of his present personal ministry to us, and of the certainty of his future return to glorify us (1 Cor 15; Heb 1:1-4, 2:1- 18, 4:14-16, 7:1-10:25). In the life of faith as the gospel presents it, believers are united with their risen Lord, communing with him, and looking to him in repentance and hope for empowering through the Holy Spirit, so that henceforth they may not sin but serve him truly. 

Justification (1)

God’s justification of those who trust him, according to the gospel, is a decisive transition, here and now, from a state of condemnation and wrath because of their sins to one of acceptance and favor by virtue of Jesus’ flawless obedience culminating in his voluntary sin-bearing death. God ‘justifies the wicked’ (ungodly: Rom 4:5) by imputing (reckoning, crediting, counting, accounting) righteousness to them and ceasing to count their sins against them (Rom 4:1-8). Sinners receive through faith in Christ alone ‘the gift of righteousness’ (Rom 1:17, 5:17; Phil 3:9) and thus become ‘the righteousness of God’ in him who was ‘made sin’ for them (2 Cor 5:21). 

As our sins were reckoned to Christ, so Christ’s righteousness is reckoned to us. This is justification by the imputation of Christ’s righteousness. All we bring to the transaction is our need of it. 

Faith (1)

Our faith in the God who bestows it, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, is itself the fruit of God’s grace. Faith links us savingly to Jesus, but inasmuch as it involves an acknowledgment that we have no merit of our own, it is confessedly not a meritorious work. 

The gospel assures us that all who have entrusted their lives to Jesus Christ are born-again children of God (John 1:12), indwelt, empowered, and assured of their status and hope by the Holy Spirit (Rom 7:6, 8:9-17). The moment we truly believe in Christ, the Father declares us righteous in him and begins conforming us to his likeness. Genuine faith acknowledges and depends upon Jesus as Lord and shows itself in growing obedience to the divine commands, though this contributes nothing to the ground of our justification (James 2:14-26; Heb 6:1-12). 

Sanctification (1) 

By his sanctifying grace, Christ works within us through faith, renewing our fallen nature and leading us to real maturity, that measure of development which is meant by ‘the fullness of Christ’ (Eph 4:13). The gospel calls us to live as obedient servants of Christ and as his emissaries in the world, doing justice, loving mercy, and helping all in need, thus seeking to bear witness to the kingdom of Christ. At death, Christ takes the believer to himself (Phil 1:21) for unimaginable joy in the ceaseless worship of God (Rev 22:1-5). 

Salvation (1)

Salvation in its full sense is from the guilt of sin in the past, the power of sin in the present, and the presence of sin in the future. Thus, while in foretaste believers enjoy salvation now, they still await its fullness (Mark 14:61-62; Heb 9:28). Salvation is a Trinitarian reality, initiated by the Father, implemented by the Son, and applied by the Holy Spirit. It has a global dimension, for God’s plan is to save believers out of every tribe and tongue (Rev 5:9) to be his church, a new humanity, the people of God, the body and bride of Christ, and the community of the Holy Spirit. All the heirs of final salvation are called here and now to serve their Lord and each other in love, to share in the fellowship of Jesus’ sufferings, and to work together to make Christ known to the whole world.

New Creation 58This section – ‘New Creation’ – is additional to the original 1999 statement.

Mary is told that it is Jesus, the Son of the Most High, who will bring in the kingdom of God ‘without end’ (Lk 1:31-33).

Paul’s description of salvation as a ‘new creation’ highlights the full reversal of the all-embracing disaster of Adam’s revolt and our participation in it (Gen 3:1-19, Rom 5:12-21). In that primal sin in which we aspired to be our own gods, we see in Adam and Eve’s banishment from Eden an all-encompassing threefold spoiling of relationships. First, our relationship with God is fully broken, for we are banished from his Good Presence. Second, our relationship with each other as human persons is painfully marred by competition for dominance. After all, to be a ‘god’ is to claim and seek to assert sovereignty over all things, including the other ‘gods’. Third, we now can only enjoy the benefits of material creation in painful struggle with it, in which our bodies are eventually consumed by it in death.

In Christ, ‘everything is new’ (2 Cor 5:17). It is ‘future in final completion,’ but ‘has already begun in the believer.’ 59Philip H. Towner, “New Creation” in Walter A. Elwell (ed) Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology(Baker, 1996), 563.

Now in Christ we call upon God as ‘Father’, each other as brothers and sisters (Gal 6:1-16, Eph 2:11-22), and look forward to the day when the material creation will be freed from the futility and bondage it suffers because of our sin (Rom 8:18-25).

The Full Unveiling of the New Creation and Final Judgment 60This section – ‘The Full Unveiling of the New Creation and Final Judgment’ – is an amplification of the original section on ‘Final Judgment’ contained in the 1999 statement.

On the Last Day we will see the full unveiling of the new creation. Although many are self-blinded to it, Christ presently rules over all on behalf of the Father. When Jesus returns in all his glory, ‘and all the angels with him’, with all the nations gathered before him (Matt 25:31-32), the gospel tells us two things will happen.

First, as all have sinned, so all who do not receive Christ will be judged according to their just deserts as measured by God’s holy law, and face eternal retributive punishment. The devil and all his works, all evil, will be overthrown and banished (Matt 25:31-46). 

Second, as the first heaven and the first earth marred by sin passes away, God will come and dwell directly with us, his people, and make all things new. ‘“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. (Rev 21:4).”’ The eager longing of creation for the full redemption of our bodies, our glory as sons and daughters of God, will be consummated. Material creation will with us in our glory enjoy freedom from sin and travail (Rom 8:18-25).

Unity in the Gospel

Christians are commanded to love each other despite differences of race, gender, privilege, and social, political, and economic background (John 13:34-35; Gal 3:28-29), and to be of one mind wherever possible (John 17:20-21; Phil 2:2; Rom 14:1-15:13). We know that divisions among Christians hinder our witness in the world, and we desire greater mutual understanding and truth-speaking in love. We know too that as trustees of God’s revealed truth we cannot embrace any form of doctrinal indifferentism, or relativism, or pluralism by which God’s truth is sacrificed for a false peace. 

Doctrinal disagreements call for debate. Dialogue for mutual understanding and, if possible, narrowing of the differences is valuable, doubly so when the avowed goal is unity in primary things, with liberty in secondary things, and charity in all things. 

In the foregoing paragraphs, an attempt has been made to state what is primary and essential in the gospel as evangelicals understand it. Useful dialogue, however, requires not only charity in our attitudes, but also clarity in our utterances. Our extended analysis of justification by faith alone through Christ alone reflects our belief that Gospel truth is of crucial importance and is not always well understood and correctly affirmed. For added clarity, out of love for God’s truth and Christ’s church, we now cast the key points of what has been said into specific affirmations and denials regarding the gospel and our unity in it and in Christ.

The Gospel Revealed

Affirmations and Denials. 1. We affirm that the gospel entrusted to the church is, in the first instance, God’s gospel (Mark 1:14; Rom 1:1). God is its author, and he reveals it to us in and by his Word. Its authority and truth rest on him alone. 

We deny that the truth or authority of the gospel derives from any human insight or invention (Gal 1:1-11). We also deny that the truth or authority of the gospel rests on the authority of any particular church or human institution.

The Power of the Gospel

Affirmations and Denials. 2. We affirm that the gospel is the saving power of God in that the gospel effects salvation to everyone who believes, without distinction (Rom 1:16). This efficacy of the gospel is by the power of God himself (1 Cor 1:18). 

We deny that the power of the gospel rests in the eloquence of the preacher, the technique of the evangelist, or the persuasion of rational argument (1 Cor 1:21; 2:1-5). 

Humanity (2)

Affirmations and Denials. 3. We affirm that the gospel diagnoses the universal human condition as one of sinful rebellion against God, which, if unchanged, will lead each person to eternal loss under God’s condemnation. 

We deny any rejection of the fallenness of human nature or any assertion of the natural goodness, or divinity, of the human race. 

Salvation (2)

Affirmations and Denials. 4. We affirm that Jesus Christ is the only way of salvation, the only Mediator between God and humanity (John 14:6; 1 Tim 2:5). 

We deny that anyone is saved in any other way than by Jesus Christ and his gospel. The Bible offers no hope that sincere worshipers of other religions will be saved without personal faith in Jesus Christ. 

For the Whole World

Affirmations and Denials. 5. We affirm that the church is commanded by God and is therefore under divine obligation to preach the gospel to every living person (Luke 24:47; Matt 28:18-19). 

We deny that any particular class or group of persons, whatever their ethnic or cultural identity, may be ignored or passed over in the preaching of the gospel (1 Cor 9:19-22). God purposes a global church made up from people of every tribe, language, and nation (Rev 7:9). 

The Deity of Jesus Christ

Affirmations and Denials. 6. We affirm that faith in Jesus Christ as the divine Word (or Logos, John 1:1), the second Person of the Trinity, co-eternal and co-essential with the Father and the Holy Spirit (Heb 1:3), is foundational to faith in the gospel.

We deny that any view of Jesus Christ which reduces or rejects his full deity is gospel faith or will avail to salvation. 

Incarnation

Affirmations and Denials. 7. We affirm that Jesus Christ is God incarnate (John 1:14). The virgin-born descendant of David (Rom 1:3), he had a true human nature, was subject to the Law of God (Gal 4:5), and was like us at all points, except without sin (Heb 2:17, 7:26-28). We affirm that faith in the true humanity of Christ is essential to faith in the gospel. 

We deny that anyone who rejects the humanity of Christ, his incarnation, or his sinlessness, or who maintains that these truths are not essential to the gospel, will be saved (1 John 4:2-3). 

Atonement (2)

Affirmations and Denials. 8. We affirm that the atonement of Christ by which, in his obedience, he offered a perfect sacrifice, propitiating the Father by paying for our sins and satisfying divine justice on our behalf according to God’s eternal plan, is an essential element of the gospel. 

We deny that any view of the Atonement that rejects the substitutionary satisfaction of divine justice, accomplished vicariously for believers, is compatible with the teaching of the gospel. 

The Obedience of Jesus Christ in Life and Death

Affirmations and Denials. 9. We affirm that Christ’s saving work included both his life and his death on our behalf (Gal 3:13). We declare that faith in the perfect obedience of Christ by which he fulfilled all the demands of the Law of God in our behalf is essential to the gospel.

We deny that our salvation was achieved merely or exclusively by the death of Christ without reference to his life of perfect righteousness. 

Jesus Christ’s Death and Resurrection

Affirmations and Denials. 10. We affirm that the bodily resurrection of Christ from the dead is essential to the biblical gospel (1 Cor 15:14). 

We deny the validity of any so-called gospel that denies the historical reality of the bodily resurrection of Christ. 

Justification (2)

Affirmations and Denials. 11. We affirm that the biblical doctrine of justification by faith alone in Christ alone is essential to the gospel (Rom 3:28; 4:5; Gal 2:16). 

We deny that any person can believe the biblical gospel and at the same time reject the apostolic teaching of justification by faith alone in Christ alone. We also deny that there is more than one true gospel (Gal 1:6-9). 

Affirmations and Denials. 12. We affirm that the doctrine of the imputation (reckoning or counting) both of our sins to Christ and of his righteousness to us, whereby our sins are fully forgiven and we are fully accepted, is essential to the biblical gospel (2 Cor 5:19-21). 

We deny that we are justified by the righteousness of Christ infused into us or by any righteousness that is thought to inhere within us. 

Affirmations and Denials. 13. We affirm that the righteousness of Christ by which we are justified is properly his own, which he achieved apart from us, in and by his perfect obedience. This righteousness is counted, reckoned, or imputed to us by the forensic (that is, legal) declaration of God, as the sole ground of our justification. 

We deny that any works we perform at any stage of our existence add to the merit of Christ or earn for us any merit that contributes in any way to the ground of our justification (Gal 2:16; Eph 2:8-9; Titus 3:5). 

The Spirit’s Indwelling

Affirmations and Denials. 14. We affirm that, while all believers are indwelt by the Holy Spirit and are in the process of being made holy and conformed to the image of Christ, those consequences of justification are not its ground. God declares us just, remits our sins, and adopts us as his children, by his grace alone, and through faith alone, because of Christ alone, while we are still sinners (Rom 4:5). 

We deny that believers must be inherently righteous by virtue of their cooperation with God’s life-transforming grace before God will declare them justified in Christ. We are justified while we are still sinners. 

Sanctification (2)

Affirmations and Denials. 15. We affirm that saving faith results in sanctification, the transformation of life in growing conformity to Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit. Sanctification means ongoing repentance, a life of turning from sin to serve Jesus Christ in grateful reliance on him as one’s Lord and Master (Gal 5:22-25; Rom 8:4, 13-14). 

We reject any view of justification which divorces it from our sanctifying union with Christ and our increasing conformity to his image through prayer, repentance, cross-bearing, and life in the Spirit. 

Faith (2)

Affirmations and Denials. 16. We affirm that saving faith includes mental assent to the content of the gospel, acknowledgment of our own sin and need, and personal trust and reliance upon Christ and his work. 

We deny that saving faith includes only mental acceptance of the gospel, and that justification is secured by a mere outward profession of faith. We further deny that any element of saving faith is a meritorious work or earns salvation for us. 

Doctrine

Affirmations and Denials. 17. We affirm that, although true doctrine [teaching] is vital for spiritual health and well-being, we are not saved by doctrine. Doctrine is necessary to inform us how we may be saved by Christ, but it is Christ who saves. 

We deny that the doctrines of the gospel can be rejected without harm. Denial of the Gospel brings spiritual ruin and exposes us to God’s judgment. 

Evangelism

Affirmations and Denials. 18. We affirm that Jesus Christ commands his followers to proclaim the gospel to all living persons, evangelizing everyone everywhere, and discipling believers within the fellowship of the church. A full and faithful witness to Christ includes the witness of personal testimony, godly living, and acts of mercy and charity to our neighbor, without which the preaching of the gospel appears barren. 

We deny that the witness of personal testimony, godly living, and acts of mercy and charity to our neighbors constitutes evangelism apart from the proclamation of the gospel.

Conclusion

Our Commitment. As evangelicals united in the gospel, we promise to watch over and care for one another, to pray for and forgive one another, and to reach out in love and truth to God’s people everywhere, for we are one family, one in the Holy Spirit, and one in Christ.

Centuries ago it was truly said that in things necessary there must be unity, in things less than necessary there must be liberty, and in all things there must be charity. We see all these gospel truths as necessary.

Now to God, the Author of the truth and grace of this gospel, through Jesus Christ, its subject and our Lord, be praise and glory forever and ever. Amen.

Copyright © Benjamin T. F. Dean.

  • 1
    Augustine, Teaching Christianity, 1.1; trans. Edmund Hill, O.P. (New City Press, 2014), 99; emphasis supplied.
  • 2
    Martin Luther, The Bondage of the Will, trans. J. I. Packer and O. R. Johnstone(James Clarke, 1957 [Orig. 1525]), 67.
  • 3
    John Calvin, Sermons on 1 Timothy, 233; slightly amended.
  • 4
    Blaise Pascal, Pensées, 3.194.
  • 5
    A Letter from the Reverend Mr. Whitefield, to Some Church Members of the Presbyterian Persuasion, in Answer to Certain Scruples and Queries Relating to Some Passages in his Printed Sermons and Other Writings (Boston: S. Ireland and T. Green, 1740), 12; cited in A. Atherstone and D. C. Jones eds., The Routledge Research Companion to the History of Evangelicalism (Routledge, 2022), 1.
  • 6
    Jonathan Edwards, ‘The Importance and Advantage of a Thorough Knowledge of Divine Truth,’ in The Sermons of Jonathan Edwards: A Reader, edited by Wilson H. Kimmach, Kenneth P. Minkema, and Douglas A. Sweeney (Yale University Press, 1999), 45; slightly amended.
  • 7
    D. Broughton Knox, Selected WorksVolume 1: The Doctrine of God (Matthias Media, 2000), 60.
  • 8
    Billy Graham, Just as I Am: The Autobiography of Billy Graham (HarperCollins/Zondervan, 1997), 727.
  • 9
    Ngozi Okeke and Mark Thompson, ‘What is the Gospel?’ in Charles Raven ed., The Truth Shall Set You Free: Global Anglicans in the 21st Century (The Latimer Trust, 2013), 17.
  • 10
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rre7zQGcldI [accessed 21 October 2022]. Thanks to Gregory B. Dean for drawing my attention to this.
  • 11
    See the Pulitzer Prize-winning work of Ernest Becker, The Denial of Death (Free Press, 1973).
  • 12
    Augustine, Enchiridion, 2.7; Outler ed., 339. The Latin word Enchiridion means ‘handbook’ or ‘manual,’ and the work is a kind of commentary on the Apostles’ Creed.
  • 13
    Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics. Abridged, 393.
  • 14
    My heartfelt thanks, as always, to Robert Doyle for comments and improvements on an earlier version of this work.
  • 15
    Paraphrasing John Owen, Works, 16:346.
  • 16
    The Gospel Coalition Confessional Statement, paragraph 6, in D. A. Carson and Timothy Keller eds., The Gospel as Center: Renewing our Faith and Reforming Our Ministry Practices (Crossway, 2012), 276.
  • 17
    ‘The ascension is the counterpart to the incarnation as we see in passages like Philippians 2:5-11.’ Robert C. Doyle, ‘The Ascension of Jesus Christ and Present Heavenly Session,’ Unpublished Lecture Notes, 1.
  • 18
    See Christopher J. Conselice, et al, ‘The Evolution of Galaxy Number Density at Z < 8 and its Implications,’ Draft Version, October 11, 2016, available at https://arxiv.org/pdf/1607.03909.pdf [accessed 310323].
  • 19
    Thomas F. Torrance, Space, Time, and Resurrection (T&T Clark, 1975), 112.
  • 20
    G. Goldsworthy, ‘Gospel,’ in T. D. Alexander and Brian S. Rosner eds., New Dictionary of Biblical Theology (IVP, 2000), 524; italics supplied.
  • 21
    Bryan Chapel, ‘What is the Gospel?’ in D. A. Carson and Timothy Keller eds., The Gospel as Center: Renewing our Faith and Reforming Our Ministry Practices (Crossway, 2012),116.
  • 22
    The definition offered in N. Gray Sutanto’s essay is constricted: ‘The gospel is the good news of Jesus’ death and resurrection.’ That is absolutely primary and central but hardly it. For example, no mention follows of so obvious a theme in Jesus’ and the apostles’ proclamation of the gospel as the lordship of Christ in the Kingdom of God. See https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/essay/the-gospel/ [accessed 310323].
  • 23
    “Catholic” means universal; that is, there is one church across all times, places, and peoples’ (Chad Van Dixhoorn, CreedsConfessions, and Catechisms: A Reader’s Edition. Crossway, 2022; 13 n.1).
  • 24
    Schaff, Creeds, 1:14-15. The substance of The Apostles’ Creed dates from the second century onward. But due to fear of persecution and misunderstanding in the face of violent opposition, at first it was memorized rather than put down in writing. Written versions of it were fragmentary until persecution paused, and the Roman empire was Christianized. The first full Latin text was provided by Rufinus (A.D. 390), and the Greek by Marcellus of Ancyra (A.D. 336-341). See Schaff, Creeds, 1:16-20; then to Karl Barth, Dogmatics in Outline(SCM Press, 1949/2001); Justo L. González, The Apostle’s Creed for Today (Westminster John Knox, 2007); Michael Horton, We Believe: Recovering the Essentials of the Apostles’ Creed (Thomas Nelson, 1998); Alister McGrath, “I Believe”: Exploring the Apostles’ Creed (InterVarsity, 1998); J. I. Packer, Growing in Christ (Crossway, 1994).
  • 25
    A brief introduction is Justin S. Holcombe, Know the Creeds and Councils (Zondervan, 2014). 
  • 26
    See Schaff, The Creeds of Christendom. Volume 3. The Evangelical Protestant Creeds.
  • 27
    Schaff, Creeds, 3:307-8.
  • 28
    See the reproduction of this in the section ‘Five Pages’ below.
  • 29
    Calvin, Inst. 3.2.1; Battles ed., 542.
  • 30
    Packer, Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God, 66.
  • 31
    David Wells, Turning to God (Baker Books, 1989, 2011), 20.
  • 32
    For comparison, the reader may wish to consult the learnable gospel outlines offered in John Chapman, Know and Tell the Gospel. 4th edition (Matthias Media, 2005), 150-162.
  • 33
    These five sentences are partly verbatim and partly developed from Peter Jensen, The Revelation of God, 46, 49, 53, 58, and 61.
  • 34
    The pattern here followed is guided by J. I. Packer, Collected Shorter Writings, 2:229-30, 250-51; idem, Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God (IVP, 2010 [Orig. 1961]), 66-81.
  • 35
    Augustine, Confessions, 1.1; trans. Boulding, 39.
  • 36
    Packer, Collected Shorter Writings, 2:229.
  • 37
    Packer, Collected Shorter Writings, 2:250.
  • 38
    Chapman, Know and Tell the Gospel, 64.
  • 39
    Bradshaw, ‘Judgment of God,’ 478.
  • 40
    Oliver M. T. O’Donovan, ‘Punishment,’ in New Dictionary of Theology: Historical and Systematic, eds. Martin Davie et al (IVP, 2016), 717.
  • 41
    These concluding sentences are drawn from ‘Great Truths: Sin and Death,’ 4.1 https://www.greattruthsglobal.org/sin-and-death/.
  • 42
    Beeke, Reformed Systematic Theology, vol 3, chapter 12, page XX.
  • 43
    ‘How is the kingdom of heaven opened and shut by the preaching of the holy gospel? In this way: that, according to the command of Christ, it is proclaimed and openly witnessed to believers, one and all, that as often as they accept with true faith the promise of the gospel, all their sins are really forgiven them of God for the sake of Christ’s merits; and on the contrary, to all unbelievers and hypocrites, that the wrath of God and eternal condemnation abide on them so long as they are not converted: according to which witness of the gospel will be the judgment of God, both in this life and in that which is to come’ (Heidelberg Catechism, Question 84; Schaff, The Creeds of Christendom, 3:337).
  • 44
    Packer, Collected Shorter Writings, 2:229.
  • 45
    Packer, Collected Shorter Writings, 2:229.
  • 46
    Packer, Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God, 73.
  • 47
    Packer, Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God, 73.
  • 48
    Packer, Collected Shorter Writings, 2:229; slightly amended.
  • 49
    Packer, Concise Theology, 157.
  • 50
    Helm, The Beginnings, 15.
  • 51
    Calvin, ‘The Gift of Prayer,’ in Sermons on 1 Timothy, 239.
  • 52
    The following material in the second part of this paragraph is also inserted into the 1999 statement, reproduced below. See the sections on ‘New Creation’ and ‘The Full Unveiling of the New Creation and Final Judgment’. Thanks are due to Robert C. Doyle for development of this.
  • 53
    Philip H. Towner, “New Creation” in Walter A. Elwell (ed) Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology(Baker, 1996), 563.
  • 54
    Packer, Collected Shorter Writings, 2:229.
  • 55
    The present section ‘Five Pages’ is largely a reproduction – with amendments to paragraph headings and layout – of The Gospel of Jesus Christ: An Evangelical Celebration © 1999 byThe Committee On Evangelical Unity In The Gospel, as rendered in J. I. Packer and Thomas C. Oden, One Faith: The Evangelical Consensus(InterVarsity Press, 2004), 185-195 [used with permission]. The reproduction of the text proceeds exactly, with two exceptions: one entirely new paragraph – ‘New Creation’ – has been inserted, and the original short paragraph on ‘Final Judgment’ has been clarified, rewritten, and retitled ‘The Full Unveiling of the New Creation and Final Judgment.’ The original text of The Gospel of Jesus Christ: An Evangelical Celebration, together with a list of writers and signatories, is available in many places online, e.g., http://www.onthewing.org/user/Creed_Gospel%201999.pdf [accessed 220614]. This statement was produced and endorsed by a broad range of English-speaking evangelical leaders (including magisterial and charismatic, Reformed and Arminian, Baptist and Paedobaptist traditions). Widely recognised as an accurate and even definitive presentation of fundamental Biblical convictions, the scope of this document’s acceptance is similar to that of The Lausanne Covenant (1974), The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy (1978), and The Amsterdam Declaration (2000). ‘Earlier statements [issued in the history of evangelical Protestantism] had centred on the authority of Scripture, Christian worship, political ethics, social responsibility and the environment, as well as on evangelization, but this was the first to focus primarily on the gospel itself and, more particularly, on the specifics of justification by faith’ (Packer and Oden, One Faith, 32).
  • 56
    This paragraph and the following two paragraphs are slightly amended from the original.
  • 57
    Oxford English Dictionary, Dictionary app version 2.3.0 (294), Apple Inc. This paragraph is additional to the original.
  • 58
    This section – ‘New Creation’ – is additional to the original 1999 statement.
  • 59
    Philip H. Towner, “New Creation” in Walter A. Elwell (ed) Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology(Baker, 1996), 563.
  • 60
    This section – ‘The Full Unveiling of the New Creation and Final Judgment’ – is an amplification of the original section on ‘Final Judgment’ contained in the 1999 statement.