I saw this the other day and then noticed Scot McKnight had picked up on it on his blog also. Over at The Christian Century, David Heim reports on an invitation the publication gave to their authors. They asked them to come up with a concise summary of the Gospel message in seven words or less, and then to expand upon that in a few sentences.
So, for example, Martin Marty said,
God, through Jesus Christ, welcomes you anyhow.
The gospel begins and ends with God. Jesus makes God’s action good news. But the word “Jesus” alone doesn’t help me; such Jesus is a nice guy, but I need Jesus Christ, God’s anointed. God welcomes (or “accepts,” etc.) you. According to Luther, the words “for you” are the most important in the sacraments (and preaching). “Anyhow”–fill in sin, guilt, pride, the misfires of “spirituality”–implies that you weren’t welcome without this transaction, and that you bring nothing to it.
Then there’s Lammin Sanneh (BTW: I really like this one!):
God was in Christ reconciling the world.
By his atonement, Christ effected our reconciliation with God and invested in us–without counting the cost–so that we may become teeming vessels of witness and service to others. God was in Christ to show that the only acceptable offering we can give God is ourselves. And we give God only the life that is already God’s. Christ showed that self-giving is self-abnegation. In hymn writer Augustus Toplady’s words: “Nothing in my hands I bring/ Simply to the cross I cling.”
You can go to the article and get links to other authors’ and readers’ responses.
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Scot McKnight made these comments:
Not one apostolic sermon in the Book of Acts focuses on the gospel as God’s love for us in spite of who we are. Read the sermons in Acts 2, 3, 4, 10-11, 13, 14, and 17. The focus is on Jesus. The gospel is about Jesus.
The gospel in three words: Jesus is Lord (or King). Five words: Jesus is the expected Messiah (or King, or Lord). Seven words: Jesus is the expected King who redeems.
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My turn. Let me give you a list of twelve seven-word summaries I came up with:
- Jesus is Israel’s Messiah. All are welcome.
- Jesus is the Promised King. Repent! Believe!
- Jesus died and lives again as King.
- Jesus fulfilled the Scriptures. He is Lord.
- Jesus has introduced a New Creation. Come!
- Jesus invites everyone to enter his Kingdom.
- Jesus the King brought grace and peace.
- Jesus the King forgives, redeems, and recreates.
- God sent Jesus to make everything new.
- Jesus, Messiah of Israel, is everyone’s King.
- God’s grace comes to everyone in Jesus.
- God did what he promised, sending Jesus.
You’ll note several emphases that may be brought out in different ways:
- Israel, Messiah, King, Lord
- Fulfillment of the promises given in the First Testament
- Purpose of his coming: new creation, grace and peace, forgiveness, redemption.
- The response the King calls for: repentance, faith, coming to Jesus
- Jesus came for everyone, not just Israel
If I could make the broadest possible seven-word summary, I would say:
The Gospel is the story of Jesus.
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Now it’s your turn.
Or, if you like, you could follow the lead of an article by Allen O’Brien and its comments: “What the Gospel is NOT, in seven words or less” and give us some seven-word descriptions of the false or inadequate “gospels” that you hear today.