The gospel in three parts . . . times three

April 19, 2010 | Viewpoints | Number 8
Phil Wagler |

Before reading any further, answer this question: What is the gospel?

You didn’t do it, did you? You just kept reading. Bad reader. Return to line one.


Many Christians go into blushed silence when asked to articulate the good news of God’s reign. However, if we are to be cracked pots spilling out this glorious message, the gospel must be understood and lived. To that end, let’s look at three unique, yet interrelated biblical images of the gospel.

• First, Paul describes the gospel as rooted in the historical event of the three-part passion of Jesus: “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures
(I Corinthians 15:3-4).

To begin, the gospel is about the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. It is historically enacted and foretold. The gospel is deed and word. The good news is the culminating event of God’s declared commitment to transform the dust and grime of the world.

• Second, Paul describes three radical implications of this gospel event. He begins with our own resurrection:
[B]ecause of his great love for us, God who is rich in mercy made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions” (Ephesians 2:4-5).

This results in our participation in God’s renovation of the world: “[W]e are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works which God prepared in advance for us to do
(Ephesians 2:10).

And, further, the gospel event ushers in reconciliation: “For he himself is our peace, who has made the two [Jew and gentile] one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility
(Ephesians 2:14).

The gospel event of Easter brings with it the implications of resurrection (new life for those dead in sin), renovation (our participation in God’s work in the world), and reconciliation (our becoming a new people defined not by our ethnicities or traditions, but by Jesus).

• Third, to the Corinthians seeking to understand how to function as a “good news people,” Paul erupts poetically in the “love chapter.” Sadly misused at most weddings, I Corinthians 13 is primarily about how the church lives out the good news. Paul declares: “[N]ow these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love
(I Corinthians 13:13).

The gospel, founded on the historical Easter event and implying the transforming implications of resurrection, renovation and reconciliation, is now brought to its climax. How do we live this out? In three parts:

• First, by clinging in faith to what happened according to the Scriptures and sharing that with our world unashamedly.

• Second, by offering the hope of God’s good works to our world to initiate now what will one day be fulfilled.

• Third, and most gloriously, by expressing this the same way God expressed himself to us: through love.

So, what is the gospel? It is the historical event of Easter in three parts: the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. It is the radical implications that event entails in three parts: resurrection, renovation and reconciliation. And it is the way we live it out in three parts: faith and hope, all crowned, salted, expressed and sourced in love.

Phil Wagler is still awed by God’s good news and seeks to live it out with the churches of Kingsfield in Huron County, Ont. (

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