I am not ashamed of the good news, for it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes. (Romans 1:16)
God, whom I serve with my whole heart in preaching the good news of his son (Romans 1:9)Simply put, Jesus is the gospel. Those who say "God is the gospel" are reasonably close to the mark, since in Jesus all the fullness of the godhead dwells. But in God, without reference to Christ, there is much hidden that we do not know, while in Christ these things are revealed. In Christ we see God's goodness. Those followers of Christ who first took the good news throughout the world did not teach primarily about God in all his hidden mystery, which was a given; they particularly preached the power of God in Christ Jesus. This is the gospel, the good news. The four books in the Bible which bear the name "gospel" are the accounts of Christ's life.
We have not understood the power of God if we recognize that God helps us through Christ but still locate the power behind our salvation somewhere else besides Christ -- such as in our own decision, or in some hidden decree of God that elects people for Christ rather than through Christ. The good news -- the hearer's encounter with Christ -- is itself the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes. The power of God for salvation comes in Christ and through Christ, not from ourselves, not through some separate grace.
This has implications for our evangelism. God has not sent us out empty-handed and powerless to draw people to him. But the power is in the message of Christ, not in our clever words, not in our reasoning and not in our emotions. When we rely on clever words and human arguments and our own efforts, we get small results and even those are bad ones. Paul, in his evangelism, insisted he was sent "to preach the good news -- not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power" (I Cor. 1:17). Because Paul's cleverness could not win people to Christ, only to Paul. Paul's cleverness could only divide the church if he built on it and put his weight on it. Soon enough and even without his wishing it, some followed Paul and some Peter and some Apollos -- instead of Christ. Paul was frustrated; "Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized into the name of Paul?" (I Cor. 1:13)
Understanding the good news fully, Paul "resolved to know nothing except Jesus Christ, and him crucified." (I Cor. 2:2). There is power in the message of Christ, God's power for salvation. When we preach Christ as Paul did, through our words people see Christ and encounter Christ. It is the purpose of our evangelism to bring a person to encounter Christ, or to bring Christ, through our message, to that person. God has chosen to transform our hearts through Christ, to give the Holy Spirit through Christ, to bring us to repentance and new life through Christ. Before Christ came, God's will was a mystery, but "he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into efect when the times will have reached their fulfillment -- to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ" (Ephesians 1:9-10) Therefore we put aside our own cleverness and leadership, our own wisdom and power, and proclaim Christ.
Index for systematic theology series