Just some more reflections on the gospel here.
Since the letter of Paul to the Romans is a critical source for Reformation theology I suppose I would be remiss not to include it in the discussion. So, what does Paul have to say explicitly in Romans? Well, we don’t have to look far. Paul introduces the gospel in the very first paragraph:
Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God, the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures regarding his Son, who as to his human nature was a descendant of David, and who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord. Through him and for his name’s sake, we received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith. And you also are among those who are called to belong to Jesus Christ.
And not a word about atonement theology – penal substitution, Christus Victor or anything. Now of course I am aware that Paul has a lot to say about justification by faith and atonement later on in this letter – so again, don’t hear me dismissing atonement as unimportant – but I think it is important to recognise that Paul could speak of the gospel without mentioning them, even here. So I reiterate the point that while atonement theology is connected to the gospel in important ways it is not, in and of itself, the gospel. And this has obvious implications for how we share the good news, at least I hope they’re obvious.
Oh, and just in case this is missed, observe how the Spirit is mentioned right up front, and how a call to a transformed lifestyle, as a consequence of faith, is included as implications of this gospel.