In his excellent book Gospel-Centered Hermeneutics, Graeme Goldsworthy makes the following assertion (p. 59):
It cannot be stressed too much that to confuse the gospel with certain important things that go hand in hand with it is to invite theological, hermeneutical and spiritual confusion. Such ingredients of preaching and teaching that we might want to link with the gospel would include the need for the gospel (sin and judgment), the means of receiving the benefits of the gospel (faith and repentance), the results or fruit of the gospel (regeneration, conversion, sanctification, glorification) and the results of rejectingit (wrath, judgment, hell). These, however we define and proclaim them, are not in themselves the gospel. If something is not what God did in and through the historical Jesus tow thousand years ago, it is not the gospel. Thus Christians cannot ‘live the gospel’ as they are often exhorted to do. They can only believe it, proclaim it and seek to live consistently with it. Only Jesus lived (and died) the gospel. It is a once-for-all finished and perfect event done for us by another.
I am profoundly indebted to Goldsworthy for many things, but I must confess to finding myself disagreeing with this statement. I think I understand what Goldsworthy is trying to affirm: the rootedness of the gospel in the actions of Jesus. On that I agree. But can we really say that we do not live the good news of Jesus Christ? Or have I become accustomed to the language of “living the gospel” when in reality the idea is not strictly biblical? Or is Goldsworthy splitting hairs that on one level may be valuable but on other levels are unnecessary?