I recently had an exchange with a fellow Christian wherein they made the comment:
"The gospel in 3 words is love. Make a friend, be a friend, bring a friend to Christ."
Now, I am not certain if they were saying that the Gospel is love, or if they were saying that the three-tiered "friend" model they presented is girded with love. What I am certain of is, that although the Gospel is rooted in the love of God, it is not merely "love" as a stationary concept or emotion. Nor is it, "Make a friend, be a friend, bring a friend to Christ." We Christians should adamantly oppose and labor to correct such misrepresentations of the Gospel.
Here is my response:
"The gospel is not something we do, but it is [an announcement of] something that has been done... and so we proclaim a message of something that has occurred in a historical context."
The good news is not that we do something. In fact, it is not good news if my efforts are the primary thrust (especially since our best efforts fall short, no matter who we are). Furthermore, a continuous action is not a message. A message is information that is proclaimed. With regard to the good news of the Gospel message, it is the historical information about God, Humanity, Holiness, Sin, Redemption, Judgment, Reconciliation, and Reprobation (though, this is not an exhaustive list, nor an infallible recipe) according to the Bible. The Gospel, therefore, is an informative message (though much more than a mere message) about a variety of biblical subjects; the good news of salvation that follows the reality of human depravity and the need of Christ Jesus the Savior.
While there is much to be said of God's sovereignty in salvation (with regard to predestination, election, regeneration, conversion, faith, etc.), the aim here is to present the external elements and communication of the Gospel, not to plumb the depths of soteriology. That being said, I usually find that people who speak of the Gospel also point to the response of the recipient of the message. This is also considered by many as an aspect of the good news, since the free offer of the Gospel is available to all persons (which is really good news). Many present this response as an essential aspect of the Gospel message. In many cases, however, if the Gospel is proclaimed accurately, a response is implied and not necessarily an explicit element. Furthermore, without going into too much detail, I would argue that Scripture is clear that any human response is a secondary cause... that is to say, the Holy Spirit, according to His sovereign will, 'causes' us to respond to the Gospel (in a way). Nonetheless, all people who have been confronted with the Gospel respond... either positively or negatively.
The following is the presentation of the Gospel (along with a call for response) that I declared to the person mentioned above. I humbly pray that the Holy Spirit not only uses it to inform and instruct Christians as to what the Gospel is, but also that if any unbelievers may read it, that He would give them an understanding and grant them repentance and faith in Christ Jesus for His glory and their joy.
"The all-powerful, sovereign, holy and majestic God, who has no beginning or end, Created the earth and humanity with it. He created man upright and in His image; they had a perfect relationship. Man committed treason by sinning against God when he and his wife were deceived... they disobeyed God and attempted to usurp His position of authority and steal His glory. God cursed the man and woman, the serpent who deceived them, and the earth. Adam and Eve were now separated from God and spiritually dead, and would see physical death as a punishment for their sin. Adam was the representative or federal head of all of humanity, and so we are guilty of the same sin. We have inherited the fallen nature of him... we are not sinners because we sin, rather, we sin because we are sinners by nature. Fortunately, God promised that the Seed of the woman would crush the head of the serpent, and thus, save us from the penalty of sin. He maintained the bloodline through history through Adam to Abraham to Isaac to Jacob to Moses to David and all the way to Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Mary and Joseph. Jesus, who is the Messiah that the Law and Prophets in the Old Testament refer to is God in the flesh... the incarnation of the second person of the Trinity: the eternally begotten Son of God who was the agent of Creation. He lived a perfectly obedient life under the Law, following it completely. He was fully man and truly God... He is a man, because only a man can atone for the sins of humanity; likewise, He is God because only God is perfect and righteous. He willingly laid down His life as a substitution for the penalty of sin. The sin of he/she who believes in Him is covered and removed by His work on the cross. The wrath of God that is justly deserved for sin is satisfied by Jesus' sacrifice. His righteousness, by the application of the Holy Spirit through the instrumental means of faith, is accredited to those who believe in Him as Lord and Savior. We who trust in Jesus and what He has done are declared righteous according to His merits and not our own. He died, putting to death the power of sin... but He was raised to life by the same power of God that gives us faith and new life in Christ by the Holy Spirit. Though we die physically, we will be resurrected and inherit imperishable bodies so that we may live forever according to promises of God in Jesus. The person and work of Christ is the only way sinful humanity is reconciled with their holy and loving Father and Creator. There must be a response to what God has done in Christ... Deny Him, and you will be judged for your sin and incur the just penalty of the eternal wrath of God in the lake of fire... a conscience state of infinite torment and bodily agony/anguish. Respond with repentance (a perpetual lifestyle of turning away from sin and turning toward God) and faith (believe on the Lord Jesus Christ as God and Savior and trust in the Triune God alone as worthy of praise and adoration; treasure Him above all things and live obediently) and you will be reconciled with your Creator and enjoy fellowship with Him for eternity in the place where there is no sin, no pain nor sadness... where every tear will be wiped away."
I welcome your comments, so... if you would like Scripture references, if you have prayer requests or questions, if you disagree or think I missed something crucial, or if you have any suggestions as to how this presentation can be improved (with regard to biblical fidelity)... please leave a comment.
Recommended books on the Gospel: