A bigger gospel

Part 1.


[‘encouragement’, ‘exhortation’, for life and ministry]

Peter Adam

June 2024

Dear friends,

One of the worrying signs of worldliness in our evangelism, our Christian lives and our churches is an ‘individualised gospel’. We in the West live in a self-obsessed society and culture, and run the danger of preaching a self-obsessed gospel, which confirms this instinctive tendency.

JB Phillips once wrote a book called, ‘Your God is too small’: if our gospel is too small, then we need a bigger gospel, the gospel of our big God.

God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us [Rom 5:8]; For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died [2 Cor 5:14]; and For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God [1 Peter 3:18].

There is a deep theology of the centrality of the church in the gospel of God in the Bible.

Christ came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both [Jews and Gentiles] have access to the Father by one Spirit [Ephes 3:17,18].

This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus [Ephes 3:6].

So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ [Ephes 4:11-13].

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless [Ephes 5:15-27].

I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God” [Rev 21:2-3].

God’s plan in the OT is to create and preserve his people, the nation. God’s plan in the NT is to create and preserve his people, the church of Jesus Christ.

Most books of the Bible are not addressed to individuals, but to God’s people, God’s church. [Even Paul’s letters addressed to individuals are concerned with the welfare of the church, e.g., to Timothy and Titus]. See also Christ’s messages to the 7 churches in Revelation chs 2-3. So we should follow the clear intention of the Bible, and address the church in our preaching. Our Sunday service is one occasion in the week when the Bible is read and heard by the church, and preached to the church.

I can always detect someone who has been converted with a gospel which is too small! For they ask three obvious questions:

  • Why doesn’t God give me everything I expect or want?
  • Do I have to belong to a church?
  • Do I have to share the gospel with other people?

The gospel is about Christ’s death and resurrection, for the sake of his people, his church, and for the sake of his world.

This bigger gospel sets people free from the stifling, selfish, introspective and fatal individualism of our world.

Of course, our society and culture is structured around individuals, we will usually begin where they are. Quite right too! But we should not leave them there! The productive question is not ‘What is the least you need to know to be a Christian?’, but ‘What is the maximum God has revealed?’

A counter to this is the practice of giving the example of evangelising a person who about to die. Here simplicity and brevity is called for, of course. But we should not make this exceptional situation the norm for our ministry.

Teach and preach and train people with this bigger gospel. It will nurture mature Christians, mature churches, and result in more gospel energy for our world.

May our gracious heavenly Father help us to read the Bible to find this bigger gospel, and then give us the energy to teach, preach, and train people with it.

[Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash]