1. the teachings of Jesus and the apostles; the Christian revelation.
2. the story of Christ’s life and teachings, esp. as contained in the first four books of the New Testament, namely Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
3. usually initial capital letter) any of these four books.
4. something regarded as true and implicitly believed: to take his report for gospel
5. a doctrine regarded as of prime importance: political gospel.
6. glad tidings, esp. concerning salvation and the kingdom of God as announced to the world by Christ.
7. (often initial capital letter) Ecclesiastical. an extract from one of the four Gospels, forming part of the Eucharistic service in certain churches.
The word gospel is translated from the Greek εὐαγγέλιον which means good news. It is the message of the life, death and resurrection of Christ through which the believer is saved from sin and to life. Indeed, there are various ways of looking at the gospel, depending upon the way in which you are looking at the term. This article will be restricted to the theological implications for mankind, but we must also be cognizant of the greater story of God’s creation, its corruption and His reconciliation. See the article “What is Reconciliation?” for a broader sense of God’s overarching purpose in the good news.
In its most simple form, the gospel is a confession of the primary tradition of faith which is presented in 1 Corinthians 15:1-8: Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which 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 according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; and last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me also. 1 Corinthians 15:1-8
It is by the gospel that we are saved.
We are not saved by any works of the flesh or attempts and efforts to reach out to God. Neither are we saved by any religious system nor any other belief. It is purely and only on the merits of and by trusting in the gospel that we are saved.
While we will focus on the significance of the event in the next point, it is important to point out that assertion necessarily implies incarnation. Being divine, the Son could not die. So, He emptied Himself of prestige and privilege and was clothed with flesh, bone and suffering, being born of the virgin and living a perfect and obedient life until He breathed His last.
Christ died for your sins.
He bore our sins and the wrath of His Father as our perfect sacrifice. This is substitutionary atonement; that Jesus died for our sins and in our place. He took the curse which was ours and made it His own. He was our substitute. Though we deserved to die, yet He died.
Christ died according to the scriptures.
He was not taken by surprise and neither was this plan some last minute insertion into God’s redemptive program. From all eternity Christ was appointed and willingly chose to submit Himself to death.
Christ was buried.
His burial represents to us His actual death to assure us that the price has adequately been paid. Done away with is the claim that perhaps He merely escaped from the cross and reappeared. He truly died and lay in a tomb for three days.
Christ was raised on the third day.
Being fully God, death could not hold Him. Our payment being rendered in full, He rose victorious over death and sin. We have evidence of divine satisfaction. God’s wrath was fully spent.
Christ appeared to a number of persons.
This is not some contrived narrative to make us feel good. Rather, those who witnessed to His resurrection attested to it not only in word, but by choosing gladly to face death. Such confidence on their part inspires subsequent confidence in those of us who have not seen with our own eyes.
The above summary is a basic answer to the question, “What is the gospel?” It is the good news that though we were dead in our transgressions and sins, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us, in our place. For the means by which to enter into the benefits of the gospel see “What Must I do to be Saved?” and “Is Christ the Only Way?”
In order to believe in this gospel, it is necessary that we try to put together the requisite elements of the tradition which Paul mentions. These elements include: sin, death, substitutionary atonement, and faith.
In the beginning man and woman were created good, in the image of God, in harmony with themselves, each other, their Creator and the rest of His creation. However, such peace was not to last. Rather, taking of the fruit which they were commanded not to eat, the man and woman succumbed to sin’s enticing deceit and fell. No longer did they enjoy the accord in which they had lived. Now, cursed with pain, suffering, solitude, and ultimately death, they were alienated from a holy God.
This curse was not limited only to the man and woman, but rather has been passed on to all of their progeny and therefore lies within all men according to their very nature. We are, by nature and by choice, cut off from the One Who created us.
From the entirety of Scripture, we can see that man is not born into a state of neutrality, but is rather, by nature, a hostile and willing enemy of God. Man’s heart and mind are darkened and dulled such that the fleeting pleasures of sin are more alluring than the eternal joy of the Master. Man is utterly rebellious, unable and unwilling to save himself.
How does the Potter deal with the rebellion of His clay? Genesis 2:17 “but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.” God’s warning is not empty and His word is always accomplished8 so the man and his wife and all of the generations which proceed from them are subjected to the curse of death.
Not only are they given over to physical death, but also spiritual death in which they are estranged from the heavenly Father. This spiritual death points toward hell, the absence of the goodness of the Lord, an eternity of suffering for a slew of sins against an infinitely holy God. We have been separated from our greatest good and united with the one who sought to usurp the throne.
1 Corinthians 15:56
The wages of sin is death, the Bible says, and someone has to pay; there is a penalty which accompanies our transgression. Man has trespassed and therefore is the only one who should pay and yet he cannot, being himself sinful. God has demanded payment and yet is the only One Who could pay. However, He certainly should not, being Himself holy. What was to be done?
God alone could pay and so pay He did, with the blood of His Son. The Son of God became sin and bore the wrath of His Father, being a curse on our behalf. He became our substitution, dying for our sins, in our place. He did not deserve to die, we did, but He willingly became obedient to the payment required that we might be reconciled to Him. We deserved to die and owed a payment, but He purchased our freedom. God has been declared both just and the justifier of the justified.
Especially relevant given Hebrews 10:4
1 Corinthians 5:7
2 Corinthians 5:21
1 Timothy 2:6
1 Peter 2:24
1 Peter 3:18
How do we enter into the blessings of the divine transaction? Given that we are blinded by sin and are natural enemies of God, can we really expect to earn such entrance? How good is good enough to be considered perfect?
In order to prevent human boasting and gain all glory in the glorious work of salvation, God established only one way to gain entry into His presence. Through faith alone may we enter into the joys of our Lord.
2 Timothy 3:15
1 John 5:4-5
1 John 5:13