For the past few weeks we’ve been in the beginning of our new series called “Supremacy” where we’re slowly walking through Paul’s letter to the Colossians. This week we come to Colossians 1:21-23, if you have not yet opened your Bibles to those verses, I invite you to do so now. As you turn there let me ask you a question: what is the gospel? What is the good news of Jesus Christ? In his book, What is the Gospel, Greg Gilbert says on the surface of things one would think asking this question to a group of Christians is as unnecessary as asking as group of carpenters what a hammer is. It may seem unnecessary because the gospel itself stands at the very center of Christianity, and because of this Christians throughout the ages have claimed to be about the gospel over all else. It’s what we build our lives upon, it what we teach our children, it’s what we preach to ourselves and to others, it’s the foundation of the Church.
Even though this is the case, how firm a grasp do you think most Christians really have on the content of the gospel? If someone asked you the question “What is the gospel?” how would you answer? The sense I’ve gotten over the years is that too many Christians respond by stating something far less and far short of what the Bible calls “the gospel.” Answers to this question that I’ve received have ranged from “The truth” or “God loves you and has wonderful plan for your life” or “That God will forgive your sins if you believe” or “the announcement of God’s love” or “the message that we’re in God’s kingdom.” You see what, or rather who, is missing in all of these answers? Jesus Christ.
It’s a sad state of affairs when most Christians today cannot give an adequate explanation of the gospel. Perhaps it reveals that those who think they’re part of the Church today, aren’t. After all, since the gospel is central to what Christianity is, why do we call people Christians who can’t explain what the gospel is? To know what something is means you should be able to explain it in its most basic form. You don’t need to have a perfect knowledge of the Bible to explain the gospel, you don’t need to know all the ins and outs of the work of Christ to be able to explain the gospel, you don’t need to go to Bible college or seminary to be able to explain the gospel. But, there are a few things you must know to be able to explain the gospel, without which you won’t know the gospel, and cannot be truly saved. In the small city of Colossae, the Church had a misunderstanding about the nature of the gospel and because of this Paul presents the gospel to them in many places throughout his letter. One of those many places is our text today, 1:21-23. In this passage there is a succinct explanation of the gospel, along with 3 other items that both precede and follow true belief in the gospel.