THE GOSPEL (BY PAUL ELLIS)
The original word for gospel (euaggelion, G2098) means good news or glad tidings. It does not mean bad news. By definition, any gospel that leaves you fearful of an angry and judgmental God is no gospel at all. It is not good news. And any so-called gospel that leaves you insecure and uncertain, forever wondering if you are accepted and forgiven is also not good news.
WHAT THE GOSPEL IS NOT
The gospel is not the Bible, the law, or the red-letter teachings of Jesus. The accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are called gospels but they are not the gospel. Collectively, these four books contain more than 60,000 words but the gospel can be summarized in a single sentence, even just a word.
The good news is not the good book, the good law, or the good words of the good Teacher. Neither is it good advice, good instruction, or good wishes. The good news is news—it is the announcement of the glad tidings of a happy God that brings great joy to all (see Luke 2:10). The gospel that Jesus preached begins like this: “For God so loved… that he gave …” (John 3:16). The gospel is first and foremost a declaration of love backed up with a gift. It’s the announcement of a love-gift and the gift is Jesus.
WHAT IS THE GOSPEL?
What is the good news that makes the good news good? It is the revelation of the love of God that comes to us through Jesus Christ. The gospel is the glad and merry news that God is good, he loves you, and he will happily give up everything he has so he can have you. Contrary to popular belief, God is not mad at you. He is not even in a bad mood. The good news declares that God is happy, he is for you, and he wants to share his life with you forever (see Rom. 8:31–32). The gospel is the good news that you can rest from your labors and stop trying to fix your broken and mortal life. A true Savior has come and he offers you his blessed life in exchange. You need not fear death any longer, for the life he offers you is eternal (John 3:15).
The proof of the gospel is found in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. On the cross God showed that he loved us while we were sinners and that he would rather die than live without us (Rom. 5:8). And through the resurrection he proved that nothing—not even death—can separate us from the love that is ours in Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:38-39).
God loves you and wants to be with you (John 14:23, 2 Cor. 5:20). It’s a simple truth, but we will spend eternity exploring the limitless expressions of his unending love. Indeed, this is what we were made for—to receive and respond to our Father’s love. The reason you exist is because God had a dream and wrapped it up in you. This is the best news you ever heard.
THE GOSPEL OF GRACE
The unconditional love of God appears to us as grace. Grace is love come down, and grace is the very essence of the gospel. A gospel without grace is no gospel at all, for it is the grace of God that saves us (Acts 15:11, Eph. 2:8, 2 Tim. 1:9), forgives us (Eph. 1:7), justifies us (Rom. 3:24, Tit. 3:7), declares us righteous (Rom. 5:17, 2 Cor. 5:21) and raises us to new life (Eph. 2:5). It’s a great loss to think that grace is just for “sinners.” Well all need grace (see entry for Acts 13:43).
Jesus is the author and the perfecter of our faith (Heb. 12:2). He doesn’t just get you started; he completes what he began. Grace is for everyone. Grace saves you at the beginning and it keeps you through to the end. “Just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him (Col. 2:6). How did you receive Jesus? By faith. How should you continue to live in him? By faith. It’s faith in his all-sufficient grace from first to last.
The gospel revealed in the Bible goes by several names. There is the gospel of Jesus Christ (Mark 1:1) or the gospel of Christ (Rom. 15:19, 1 Cor. 9:12, 2 Cor. 2:12, 9:13, 10:14, Gal. 1:7, Php. 1:27, 1 Th. 3:2). There is the gospel of God (Mark 1:14, Rom 1:1, 15:16, 2 Cor. 11:7, 1 Th. 2:2, 8, 9, 1 Pet. 4:17), the gospel of the blessed God (1 Tim. 1:11), and the gospel of his Son (Rom 1:9). There is the gospel of the kingdom (Matt. 4:23, 9:35, 24:14, Luke 16:16), and the gospel of the glory of Christ (2 Cor. 4:4). But these are all different labels for the one and only gospel of the grace of God (see entry for Acts 20:24).
The gospel of grace is wholly unlike the rule-based religion many of us are familiar with. Religion is complicated but grace is simple. Religion is vague but grace is crystal clear. Religion finds fault and does nothing to help, but the grace of God propels you triumphantly through life’s toughest challenges. Religion will give you a headache and leave you sick and tired, but grace gives strength to the weary and life to the dead. Religion seeks to bridle the free but grace liberates the prisoner and the oppressed.
As more people come to appreciate the beauty and richness of the undiluted gospel, sermons on other subjects will disappear like yesterday’s news. The power of God is only revealed in the gospel, and we have been called to preach nothing less.
THE SHORT AND SWEET GOSPEL
History’s greatest preachers proclaimed a simple gospel with few words and much power. Paul brought the kingdom of heaven to the pagan city of Corinth with nothing more than a five-word gospel—“Jesus Christ and him crucified”—backed up with the power of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 2:2). Peter needed only twelve words to declare to his fellow Jews the good news that “God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36). Three thousand believed the message and were saved the same day.
John needed only seven words to herald the end of the old covenant and the dawn of the new: “Grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17). And Jesus needed just nine words to reveal himself as the end of all our searching: “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6).
As you can see, there are many different ways of saying the same thing. As long as you are revealing the love of God as personified by Jesus—who he is, what he has done and why—then you are preaching the gospel.
The gospel is simple enough for a child to understand. You don’t need to know Greek to get it. Neither do you need to go to seminary or Bible school to figure it all out. In a word, the gospel is Jesus for Jesus is the embodiment of the Father’s grace (see entry for 1 Cor. 1:4). The grace of God comes to us through Jesus (John 1:14, 17), and we grow in grace by growing in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ (2 Pet. 3:18).
WHAT DO WE DO WITH THE GOSPEL?
Jesus tells us what we must do with the gospel: “Repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15). The apostles said the same thing: “Hear the word of the gospel and believe” (Acts 15:7). We are to believe the good news.
Believing is both the work of God and his command (John 6:29, 1 John 3:23). We are to change our doubting minds and agree with God that he is good and he loves us. We are to receive by faith his saving grace and walk free from our prison of sin and distrust (Acts 16:31). We are to be clothed with his righteousness and be adopted as his dearly-loved children.
The good news is true whether you believe it or not, but it won’t do you any good unless you believe it. Jesus did not come merely to teach and tell stories; he came to rescue you and your family. He wants to set you free from dead religion and the endless quest for self-improvement. He wants to reconcile you to your heavenly Father who loves and accepts you. Believe this good news and find rest for your soul.
The other thing we are to do with this gospel is tell others so that they too may hear the good news (Mark 16:15). Jesus preached the gospel (Luke 20:1) and his disciples and the apostles preached the gospel (Luke 9:6, Acts 8:25, 14:7, 21, 16:10, 1 Cor. 1:17). We tell people the good news of God’s grace so that all may know the peace and joy that comes from receiving the Father’s great love.
THE ETERNAL GOSPEL
The gospel is called the eternal gospel because it offers eternal security to those who believe it (Rev. 14:6). The eternal gospel declares that the blood of Jesus obtained your eternal redemption (Heb. 9:12). In Christ, you have an eternal salvation (Heb. 5:9) and an eternal inheritance (Heb. 9:15), guaranteed by an eternal covenant (Heb. 13:20), resulting in eternal life (John 3:16) and a welcome into the eternal kingdom (2 Pet. 1:11) by the eternal God (Rom 16:26). This good news should bring you eternal comfort (2 Thess. 2:16).