Conversion, as Scripture shows, is not just about Jesus’ cross, even though the cross is central. It is the invitation of the gospel to come to Jesus for both salvation and discipleship. The New Testament teaches us that conversion is an invitation to come to Jesus by faith in his cross and a willingness to surrender all to him, to become his disciples. The coupling of these teachings is the whole gospel. We want to emphasize both.
Let’s look at the teaching on the gospel (the good news) when it is presented with a focus on Jesus’ cross. 1 Corinthians 15: 1-6 shows us that this focus is the key or foundation for our understanding of Jesus and faith in him:
“Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received … ”
Paul’s language is clear—your faith in Jesus and His work on the cross (as he is about to explain it) is the basis of your standing with God. You are saved through it; there is nothing more important! The passage goes on to summarize the core.
“Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the 12. Then He appeared to more than 500 brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep.”
Here, the gospel focuses on Christ – which means the Messiah – and his death for our sin. This requires a grasp, even simple one, of the Old Testament teaching on the Messiah. And this gospel is not just His death—it includes His burial and resurrection—and how they are in accordance with the broader story of Scripture. The Messiah is God’s son, and He conquered sin and death. He is now the reigning king of humanity, and His kingdom will be fully consummated when He returns.
This focus offers the picture assumed throughout the Bible and in Paul’s letters to the church in Rome (Rom. 3:24-25). This is the assumption behind Ephesians 2:8-9: “… by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.” This picture is also assumed in John 3:16 which says, “For God so loved the world that He gave his only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” (ESV).
This core gospel is fundamental to Jesus, but it is more than just His cross. He came to proclaim a kingdom and invite us into salvation and discipleship. Jesus does not just want a transaction where He takes away our sin—He wants to take away our sin and transform our lives, as our king, here and now. He doesn’t just want to give us life in eternity; He wants to give us a new life in this world. The invitation is salvation and life under His kingship in this life and the next. It is a response for now and for eternity.
That is why the Gospel requires discipleship.