I often express the gospel as being Jesus himself. I believe this is correct, but not as helpful as it could be.
On one hand, it is correct to say that the gospel is not about “what” but about “who”. We really should be asking Who is the gospel? I agree that it is correct and Biblical to say “the gospel is Jesus” or “Jesus plus nothing equals the gospel”. Those are correct and helpful.
I contend that it would be abundantly more helpful if we continued the articulation. The Bible texts clearly distinguish between Jesus and the gospel. This means that there is both a person and a message of the gospel.
For Jesus, For the Gospel
We see a distinction made in Scripture between Jesus and the gospel, as in Romans 16:25 and 2 Corinthians 11:4. And Jesus spoke about the gospel separately from himself. For example in Mark 8:35 and in Mark 10:29, Jesus spoke about “me and the gospel”.
“For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it.” (Mark 8:35 NIV84)
Defend, remind, confirm…
While it is true that God does not need to be defended, the Bible says the gospel is to be preached, defended, proclaimed, advanced, understood, obeyed, confessed, reminded and confirmed. Apostle Paul was SO enthralled by the gospel that he made it his life purpose. He was SO enthused by the fact that Jesus fulfilled the Law and the Prophets, that the written code was nailed to the cross, that death could have no victory over Jesus and that his Jewish commandments and regulations had been abolished in the flesh of Jesus.
It is worthwhile to read the whole chapters where the gospel is mentioned. Here are some select verses that stand out to me: Philippians 1:7, Philippians 1:12, Philippians 1:16, Colossians 1:5-6, 2 Thessalonians 1:8, 1 Corinthians 15:1, 2 Corinthians 9:13, Ephesians 2:14-15.
I find that I’m wiling to let go of many things, concede many things and compromise on many things, if only I may testify to the gospel of God’s grace.