The Divine Imperative

We are all watching the death-throes of a world dislocated from the purpose of God. We know the answer to the human predicament is something the Bible calls "the Gospel" - the good news that God intervened in human affairs to bring the sole answer - a radical change from the inside out through the power of God. This Gospel was embodied in the person of Jesus (John 1:14) and is now embodied in the Church (Ephesians 1:22-23).

The Gospel is the answer to the Rwandas and Bosnias of this world. It is the answer to social upheavals, wars, rising crime rates, family breakdowns. Not just a preached Gospel, but a lived Gospel. The "Gospel become flesh" in the Church and through the Church to a needy world.

At a time of unparalleled church growth in many parts of the world, we as the Western Church have often preached and lived a depleted Gospel. This has resulted in all the problems we see in the Church - moral breakdowns, territorial competition and widespread division - which in turn discredits the message we bring to the world. We all know that the Gospel is God's answer to the world, but it is also God's answer to the Church. It might come as a shock to many that for large sections of the Church this Gospel has been only partially understood and partially embraced. A deficient Gospel will produce deficient Christians and deficient churches.

The Power of the Gospel

"...to preach the gospel - not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power" 1 Corinthians 1:17.

The Gospel is God's answer to 100% of the problems of the Church, of individual Christian lives and of society around us. If we as the Church have fallen short, it is in this: we have reduced the Gospel and emptied its power through the wholesale adoption of philosophies, intellectually-pleasing methods and self-help remedies imported from the world. In the words of Dr J I Packer: "You cannot add to [the Gospel message] without subtracting from it. By augmenting it, you cannot enrich it; you can only impoverish it."

The Reformation of the Gospel

The Reformation, launched by men of God over five hundred years ago, was the beginning of the restoration of the Church back to the pure Gospel message. As Martin Luther wrote in his exposition of the book of Galatians, he was able to look back to "the beginning of the reformation of the Gospel." This restoration process has now reached a critical point in God's plan for the Church.

Understanding the Gospel

The Gospel embraces the whole Christian experience. It doesn't just introduce us to the Christian life. It also establishes us in everything God has planned for our lives. It is imperative that we understand the two levels that God has built into the Gospel.

Every Biblical contract has had a top line (the blessings) and a bottom line (the purpose). It is in understanding the top line and bottom line of the Gospel that the full power of the Gospel is released in the believer and in the Church.

The Top Line of the Gospel

The Gospel is a contract between God and the believer. This individual experience of redemption and reconciliation is the top line of the Gospel. Sadly, this is all many Christians understand of the Gospel - salvation, redemption, forgiveness, healing - all on an individual level. This is the entry-point of the contract, but not its totality. We have not just been saved from something, we have been saved to something.

The Bottom Line of the Gospel

The Gospel is also a contract between God and the Church. This is the bottom line of the Gospel - the purpose He has called us into. This purpose is a corporate experience, not just an individual one. It is in us together that the Gospel expresses its full power to change the world.

Jesus expressed the bottom line of the Gospel in His famous prayer:

"...that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe..." John 17:21.

This is what the world is waiting for. Not theological discussions, but theology in action. The world will believe, according to Jesus, when the Church is moving in a Christ-centred unity. This is what the Gospel has been designed to do - not just open the door into the Christian life, but initiate a transformation process which consolidates unity, purpose and nothing less than the likeness of Christ Himself (Romans 8:29; 2 Corinthians 3:18).

The Gospel was never designed to be just an entry-point experience. The Gospel is what defines the whole Christian experience and the very momentum of church life. It is a whole Gospel for the whole Christian life. In the words of the apostle Paul:

"Now to him who is able to establish you by my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ...so that all nations might believe and obey him" Romans 16:25-26.

Paul Collins has co-authored a special training manual called "Back to the Gospel," which outlines in a clear and concise manner the four parts of the Gospel which make up the whole Gospel for the whole Christian life, an experience "from first to last" (Romans 1:17).


Unless otherwise stated, all scriptures quoted in these articles are from the New International Version of the Bible, © New York International Bible Society, used by permission. Other versions referred to are: KJV (King James Version), NKJB (New King James Bible), TLB (The Living Bible), Amp (The Amplified Bible) and The Message. All versions used by permission.

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