The word gospel means good news. At the last LDS General Conference, Elder M. Russell Ballard, one of the 12 apostles, said this about the gospel:
“I believe there is one simple but profound—even sublime—principle that encompasses the entirety of the gospel of Jesus Christ. If we wholeheartedly embrace this principle and make it the focus of our lives, it will purify and sanctify us so we can live once again in the presence of God. The Savior spoke of this principle when He answered the Pharisee who asked, “Master, which is the great commandment in the law? “Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. “This is the first and great commandment. “And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Matthew 22:36–40).”
There are a couple of things to note about his words. First, he is talking about a principle that “encompasses the entirety of the gospel of Jesus Christ.” Second, he then quotes the two great commandments about love.
But nowhere does the Bible connect the word “gospel” with commands to us. No, the biblical gospel (good news) is all about what God has done for us – not his commands to us. Paul writing to the Corinthians said: “Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures. (I Corinthians 15:1-4). He then proceeds to talk about Jesus’ resurrection appearances etc. It’s all about what Jesus did – not about what we are commanded to do.
Down through the centuries, most Christians have considered John 3:16 the epitome of the gospel message: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Again it is all about what God did for us.
The good news of the Bible is all about God saving us through Jesus. It is centered on him. Compare that to Elder Ballard’s explanation. There is not one mention of Jesus’ saving acts. And he says he is talking about the principle that encompasses the entirety of the gospel of Jesus Christ! His good news is all about two commands that no one can keep! For who would be bold enough to say that they love God as completely as is commanded? Or that they love their neighbor as themselves – devoting as much time, money, effort on others as they do on themselves? A man-centered gospel is no good news at all.
Thank God that that is not the gospel of the Bible. Thank God that he has given us a God-centered gospel – the good news of salvation worked entirely by him.