Why “our gospel” is too small

It’s unfortunate, but much of the emphasis in the Evangelical church, especially in the West, has diminished “the gospel” to primarily being about getting our sins forgiven and getting our ticket to heaven. And it is that. But it’s so much more.   

Todd Hunter, in his book, Christianity Beyond Belief, explains it this way.

In my experience, forgiveness (of sins) is often viewed as the finishing line, with a “whew” and a wipe of the brow while thinking I’m in. I have no quarrel with the notion that forgiveness gets us in. But I want to emphasize that it gets us into a new life story, not merely into heaven when we die.

The new life story God is writing for us is this: he intends to have a people on the earth who happily, easily and routinely embody, announce, and demonstrate the rule and reign of his kingdom. Failing to value this overarching story, this wider context, is what betrays most of our thinking about what it means to be a Christian.

“I’m saved” means one thing in the context of a story about “going to heaven when I die.” It means something completely different in the eternal drama in which we are invited, as followers of Jesus, to live on earth under the rule and reign of God (and later go to heaven).  

Let me suggest three results that a diminished view of the gospel brings.      

  • First, if the idea of the gospel is only the forgiveness of my sins and getting me into heaven one day, then it makes the gospel mainly about me! This limited understanding misses the point that the gospel is also about God’s plan for His entire world and the part you and I play in that plan.

Yes, the gospel is about me, but it’s also about God. And certainly the gospel is about me being in heaven one day, but it’s also about me bringing as much of heaven into the world while living in this world! Jesus loves me, and yes, He is concerned about my life. But He’s just as concerned about poverty, sex trafficking, child abuse, domestic violence, institutional injustice, and ethnic cleansing. The gospel isn’t either or, it’s both and.

  • Second, when we live by this small view of the gospel, then “being saved” becomes little more than managing our sin so we can make it to heaven one day. But a more complete understanding of the gospel is that through what Christ has done for us and because of His LIFE already living in us – we can live the eternal-kind of life now!

Certainly salvation is about being saved from something but it’s also about being saved for something. Trust me, as someone who grew up in the church and has been “saved” for fifty years, I’ve heard much more about not sinning than about how to live in and live out of my life in Christ that I already possess. Yes, we are saved from a life of sin and death but we are also saved for a life that’s in union with God and on mission with God. 

  • Third, if we live by this limited understanding of the gospel, then it weakens our belief that we can become more and more like Jesus. I know that very idea shocks many. Yet the bible makes it clear, and the gospel makes it possible.   

When we “get saved” we are forgiven of our sins and granted a new standing before God. This is certainly good news but fortunately, it’s not the full news. God gives us a new standing, but he also gives us a new nature – the very nature of Christ – and then offers us a whole new way of life.

The correlation between our new standing, new nature, and new way of life is similar to a lifelong criminal standing before a judge and being acquitted of the crimes he rightly deserves. But the good news isn’t left there. The criminal is also given a new nature, and because of his new nature he has the potential for a whole new way of life. In essence, he no longer has to be a criminal. He can now become the person God originally designed him to be!

Now that’s incredibly good news. And that’s exactly what God has done for us. We are granted a new nature so that we can become more and more like Christ!

The gospel is HUGE. Let’s live it that way!    


Ken L Roberts

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11 thoughts on “Why “our gospel” is too small

  1. I'm reading this in a cybercafe in Antananarivo, Madagascar with a big YES in my spirit. Excellent post…thank you!!!! By any chance have you read the book "The Hole in Our Gospel: What Does God Expect From Us?" by Richard Stearns, CEO of World Vision? Good stuff….

  2. I really love the image of the criminal with the death sentence. The best part, as you stated, is that we are given a new nature so that we can become what God wants us to be. This is the best definition of "born again" I've ever heard. Thank you.

  3. Jim,

    Coming from a fellow writer and former pastor, your comment means a lot! I'm currently working on a new book, plus I already have about 10 other books I'd like to write and have finished in the next 6 months. I'll had this one to it.



  4. Excellent Ken! The gospel of the Kingdom, not only the forgiveness of sin, is huge. The Kingdom is what Jesus preached and demonstrated. I Look forward to seeing your book on this topic! Many Blessings

  5. I agree with what I just read, but there is this chacter called Satan that is roaming around with all His glorious pictures that takes our mind away from the true picture if only for a moment. Then we have to seek forgiveness and turn back to God. I believe we are still God's child but during this time we loose the fellowship with Him because we have sin in our life. even if it is a small thing. Could be judging someone else because they stumble, or pride because we have conquered something. (with the help of God) but never the less we let pride slip in. We will never be living the perfect life until we are called away to live with Christ. If I'm wrong sorry, but I am human and this is the way I see things. How great it would be if I would keep my focus on God 24/7 but I don't I live in a world that is imperfect. It would be like asking for healing and receiving it and them become proud of it. Or not receiving and blame God if we lose a loved one because of it. again God knows best. I believe He does heal but not always. Sometimes He takes us on to Heaven because if He healed us here we would go our and mess so He would be embarrassed to call us His Child. But by taking the person on to Glory They are Healed. Could be I'm totally wrong. But If I am I ask God to forgive me and show me the correction. Again I do believe in healing and I do believe we must strive to be upright before God. But I know me. I'm human and I have and will stump my toe. But God is always there with open arms when I come back and ask forgiveness and I'm sorry.

  6. Ken,
    Your writing is always on the mark and to the point. We need to be reminded of the things you bring out in your blogs. You write with clarity and simplicity which benefits not only those on your level in terms of being a Pastor but also benefits those who either cannot read for lack of time or those who are intimidated to read books on theology. Good job for sure. Did I read correctly that you have a goal of ten more books in six months? Where do you find the time, and is that not quite an expense? God Bless and give you the energy and whatever else it takes to get the goal achieved.

  7. Annetta

    I agree that we can never be "perfect" and until we are taken to heaven won't be. But I do think there is a greater way to live in this world "in Christ" than what many of us have been taught how to live fully "in Christ" and how to experience a greater dimension to our walk with Christ.

    Thanks for your comments