If I were to ask you what the Gospel was and its purpose, how would you answer?
Most would say something like, "Jesus died for my sins". Others might say, "Christ died in my place, was buried and rose again." There might be those who would quote John 3:16, I Corinthians 15:3-4, or Romans 10:9. All of these are correct and contain in them the elements of the Gospel, but from a comprehensive Scriptural understanding, they are only pieces of the whole.
In other words, the Gospel is much bigger than that.
You see, most people think of the Gospel in personal, individual terms: how does it apply to me? That is often how we present the Gospel, whether in personal witnessing or in a public, evangelistic service. The Gospel is portrayed as simply the death of Christ for the sins of individuals, and that they (individually) must apply that fact to their own experience, repenting of sin, calling upon the name of the Lord, and believing on his name for salvation. Certainly, for each of us, there is truth to this experience, as those of us who belong to Christ can testify. There was a time when we individually came to the place where we recognized that we had broken God's Law, that we were sinners, and therefore were under the condemnation of a just, righteous and holy God for our sin. In that realization came the blinding truth of the atonement of the Son of God for that sin--that Christ had fully paid for our sin on the cross, bearing our sins on himself, and facing the full fury and wrath of God on that sin. The resurrection of Christ three days later was the validation of his deity and the victory over death, thus giving us the hope of eternal life in him. This was the Gospel to us, and applied individually, it is what saves us.
The danger in this comes when we limit the Gospel to individual experience. Too often in pulpits the Gospel is seen only as an eternal "fire escape" from hell, and a ticket to heaven. But the danger lies in limiting the Gospel simply to my own personal life and experience. Certainly, that is the place in which it begins--my understanding of the Gospel comes through the teaching of the Scriptures by the inner working of the Holy Spirit when I am saved. I want to know how this applies to me today. Over time, we can see it begin to impact my life holistically, affecting every area of my mind, my heart, my will and emotions. My daily choices are impacted by the Gospel as its truth diffuses its way throughout my life.
This is where you and I need to begin to think in the broader sense of what the Gospel is and does. The Gospel is not just the death, burial and resurrection of Christ for individual sinners like you and me. That is just the beginning. The Gospel begins in Genesis 3:15 where we read what is called the "proto-evangelion", or first gospel. The prophecy of God, in his pronouncement of judgment on the serpent (Satan), was this, "I will put enmity (a state of opposition, or make enemies) between you and the woman, between your offspring (seed) and her offspring (seed); he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel." This enmity, or conflict, has been going on ever since. Satan, the adversary of God, has been building his kingdom of darkness in this world in opposition to the Kingdom of God. The story of the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, is the account of this battle that has been ongoing since the opening chapters of Creation when the serpent said to Eve, "God knows that when you eat of it (the forbidden fruit) your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing (and deciding for yourself) good and evil." (Genesis 3:5). It is a battle of world-views, and the weapons of this warfare are thoughts and ideas.
What does this "first Gospel" have to do with us as individuals? The application is made when we understand that we are a part of this conflict. God did not send Christ to save us in our sin, to simply give us a "ticket to heaven" and eternal life. We were saved by Christ, redeemed for his eternal plan and purpose to play our part in this battle of the ages. The Gospel saves me, then transforms me (Romans 12:1-2), and through the Word and the working of the Spirit it begins to change me into the image of Christ. In Romans 12 and 13, the Apostle goes on to demonstrate what this looks like in the behaviour of the believer, how he interacts with other believers in the Church, and eventually how this spreads into every area of his life; to how he treats his enemies, his responsibility to civil authority, his business dealings, etc. In other words, it not only impacts every area of his life, but makes its way out into society at large, to the point where, as Paul goes on to say in chapters 14 and 15, all people will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord; the Gospel will go into all the earth, so that the Gentiles will glorify God and sing praises to his name.
The exciting thing to consider is that you and I are a part of this grand design. God has chosen each of us, as his children, to fulfill our part in taking the Gospel to the nations. As we share the Gospel to individuals, teaching and discipling them, the truth of God's word spreads through the Word as it is taught and lived out in the lives of these individuals. The result is that God's kingdom spreads, people are brought under his dominion, lives are changed, families are transformed, and eventually entire nations are brought under the dominion of the Gospel and into the kingdom of Christ.
The Gospel is much bigger than you and I as individuals. It is the outworking of the ultimate purpose of God in Christ: to crush the head of the serpent, to destroy the works of the devil, and to put all things under his (Christ's) feet.
Soli Deo Gloria