The Fearsome Tycoon made this wonderful comment over at the Boars Head Tavern:
“…The Gospel is the grace of God in Jesus Christ to sinful people; it’s the forgiveness of sins and the resurrection of the dead. Am I still a sinner? Am I still dying? Then I guess I still need the Gospel. The Gospel message isn’t an appeal to make a decision; it’s the message of who Jesus is and what he’s done and is doing on our behalf.
The Gospel isn’t an appeal to conversion. It’s the message of who Jesus is and what he’s done for us. Trying to turn it into a message about making the world a better place is depressing if your world isn’t getting any better, or if you suck at making it better. What man needs isn’t to be spruced up and reformed; he needs grace, and he needs someone to beat death.”
John H followed up with this:
“What I will say is this: the gospel is not a formula. What is it then? Well, in the classic law/gospel distinction, the gospel is the promises of God. All of them. And they find their focus and fulfilment in Christ (2 Corinthians 1:20). So we cannot apply a narrow definition of the gospel (”individual salvation by penal substitutionary atonement” or whatever).
However, the gospel is not the promises of God in the abstract, but as they are proclaimed by the church in word and sacrament. And in the sacraments in particular we find an especial focus on the forgiveness of sins, and on the life and salvation that flow from this forgiveness.
So I think we need to “embrace the AND” here. The gospel is an individual message of forgiveness and personal salvation: we are baptised as individuals; each of us eats and drinks Christ’s body and blood as an individual; we confess our sins and are absolved as individuals. But it is also a corporate message (in that these things all take place within the corporate life of the church) and a universal message (in that all the promises of God, for all creation, find their “Yes” in Christ and belong to the gospel in its fullest and widest sense).”
Gotta love those Lutherans!