1Co 9:16 HCSB "For if I preach the gospel, I have no reason to boast, because an obligation is placed on me. And woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!" These words ring clear to me personally and I suggest that they are meant for everyone who has felt the call to proclaim the gospel of God's mercy, grace and love. So once again, I am faced with answering the question what is the gospel?
In my view, there is no clearer proclamation of the gospel than Isaiah chapter 53. It really must be placed in the greater context of chapters 52-54. The gospel preacher or herald is spoken of clearly in Isa 52:7 How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of the herald, who proclaims peace, who brings news of good things, who proclaims salvation, who says to Zion, "Your God reigns!" So then, the gospel is the message of peace between God and humanity, and the assurance that God is in control at all times. It was brought to fruition by the faith, life, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus.
Isa 53:12 Therefore I will give Him the many as a portion, and He will receive the mighty as spoil, because He submitted Himself to death, and was counted among the rebels; yet He bore the sin of many and interceded for the rebels.
How can I say that it is so simple? What is the nature of the simplicity? Paul states it in 1 Corinthians 15.
1Co 15:1-8 Now brothers, I want to clarify for you the gospel I proclaimed to you; you received it and have taken your stand on it. (2) You are also saved by it, if you hold to the message I proclaimed to you--unless you believed for no purpose. (3) For I passed on to you as most important what I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, (4) that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, (5) and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve. (6) Then He appeared to over 500 brothers at one time; most of them are still alive, but some have fallen asleep. (7) Then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles. (8) Last of all, as to one abnormally born, He also appeared to me.
That is the simple gospel and there is no more. If there were more to the gospel, then, Paul would not be able to say that it was the gospel he proclaimed, the gospel they received, the gospel they have taken their stand on and the gospel by which they were/are saved. If the gospel is more than that… If it takes more than belief, then, Paul is being untruthful.
Why do I say that it is almost Zen? Well, mainly because Zen stresses the experiential over the theoretical. I believe that the gospel is definitely first and foremost experiential. People experience the peace with God based upon the gospel proclamation. That is how it works. That is the source of the indwelling Holy Spirit.
It is interesting to me the amount of people that I know who have this gospel experience, and in spite of what others say and teach, they know at the most basic level that they are in fact a child of God, and are in relationship with Him via Jesus. It is also interesting that they maintain this ever certain relationship in spite of the teaching they receive by institutional Christianity.