The word “gospel” means “good news.” It is from the Greek word from which we get “evangelical.” This is what the word looks like in Greek: εὐαγγέλιον. Even if it’s all Greek to you, you can make out the outline of the word, “evangelical”
So, what is the “good news” referenced? In the Bible, the good news is that the Triune God is rescuing his people and his creation from their rebellion against him. Were there no rescue, the only expectation for eternity would be judgment. But, God is gracious and merciful (Ephesians 2:4ff). He sent his only begotten Son to die on the Cross for the sins of those who put their faith and trust in him (John 3:16, 36). One day soon (Revelation 22:12, 20), Jesus will return, and those who have truly believed will spend eternity with Christ on a New Earth (Revelation 21:3-5).” This is the Gospel or the Good News.
Be aware of the sobering truth that for those who reject Christ, the news is not good. We are judged by God’s standard, not our friends and neighbors. All have sin and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).
The below thoughts on 1 Corinthians 15:1-8 provide further information about what is meant by the gospel.
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Our understanding of the Gospel must be based on what the Bible says. First Corinthians 15:1-8 is a good place to begin.
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: that 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 twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.(1 Co 15:1-8).”
In this passage, notice four aspects of the Gospel or Good News:
1. The Gospel was Planned. Paul said that Christ died for our sins, “according to the Scriptures.” Before the foundation of the world, God knew how he would rescue His people and His Creation from sin and destruction. Indeed, Isaiah talks about the good news of Christ 700 years prior to the time of Christ (Isaiah 52:7ff). After the resurrection, Jesus explained on the road to Emmaus how all the Scriptures pointed to his death burial and resurrection (Luke 24:27).
2. The Gospel is centered on the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures. He was buried. He rose again. And, many people saw him, touched him, talked with him, and ate with him after his resurrection. These things really happened. They are the reality on which the Good News is based.
3. The Gospel proclaims that Christ paid the penalty for the sins of his people. I mentioned earlier that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. The only way that sinful people can justly spend eternity with God is if the penalty for their sin is paid. That’s why Paul stressed, “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures.”
4. The Gospel requires that salvation must be received by saving faith. Notice Paul’s “if”:
. . . 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.
Paul’s point is that true faith will be accompanied by a changed life. If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation (1 Corinthians 3:16-17). As surely as God made little green apples from little green apple trees, his grace will result in Christ-like fruit in the life of a believer (Matthew 7:16).
If you say that you have faith in Jesus – – but, you haven’t been changed, then you may not have saving faith. See 1 John 2:3-4, James 2:14-26. Or, as I often stress at our church:
Works or conduct has nothing to do with salvation, but conduct does have something to do with assurance of salvation.
Quacking doesn’t make you a duck. But, ducks do quack. Acting like a Christian, doesn’t make you a Christian. But, Christians act like it.
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Many authors have summarized what Christians mean by the word, “gospel.” R.H. Mounce wrote:
The gospel is the joyous proclamation of God’s redemptive activity in Christ Jesus on behalf of man enslaved by sin.” R.H. Mounce. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology.
Before you criticize his spelling, know that it was in 1525, that William Tyndale penned:
Evangelion (that we call the gospell) is a Greek word; and signifieth good, merry, glad and joyful tidings, that maketh a man’s heart glad, and maketh him sing, dance, and leap for joy. William Tyndale, 1525, From The Prologue to the New Testament.”
See also this post, what scares me most as a pastor in which I talk about the reality that there are some people who think they are Christians who are not. Or, read this post (click here) on assurance of salvation.
I would also recommend John Piper’s sermon, “How I Distinguish Between the Gospel and False Gospels.”
D.A. Carson’s summary of the Bible in 221 Words is also very helpful.