Let me ask you a question. What do you understand the gospel to be?
Some might answer like this:
“Accept Jesus as your Savior, and when you die, you will go to Heaven.”
“Put your faith in Jesus, and your sins will be forgiven.”
“Follow Jesus, and you will find meaning and purpose for your life.”
All of these answers are right – but they are only partially correct. These statements are parts of the gospel, but they are not the entirety of the gospel.
Let’s start with the word gospel. It is an English word that was used in the Middle Ages to mean “Good Day” or “Good news.” It was a standard greeting used. When the King James Bible was translated in 1611, the Greek word εὐαγγέλιον euangelion – meaning good news. One who delivers good news is εὐαγγελιστής euangelistēs. For whatever we understand about the gospel, it is essentially a message that is good.
Now, let’s take this a little further. What did Jesus say the gospel is?
In Matthew’s version of the Olivette Discourse, Jesus is talking about the destruction of the temple as well as His ultimate return.
“And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” Matthew 24:14 NIV
Here is what we notice about this verse:
- The gospel (good news) is linked to the kingdom (Matthew uses the phrase the Kingdom of Heaven along with the Kingdom of God throughout his gospel).
- It is preached to the whole world, to all nations. This means it is open to everybody.
- When the preaching of the gospel reaches the whole world, then the end will come.
Now, whether or not Jesus is referring to the end of time or the end of the temple, that would be for another blog post. But let’s just agree that when the gospel reaches the whole world, it is significant. But I want to stop and talk about the first bullet point – the gospel is intrinsically linked to the Kingdom of God.
In my first installment in the series, I reviewed how the Kingdom of God is not only for the future but is also for now. In the second installment, I looked at how the beatitudes teach us how to live in the Kingdom of God. So the gospel must have, as its center, not only a future state of Jesus followers but also a right now component.
Let’s look at another passage:
“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.” Mark 8:34-38 NIV
So, here is another aspect of the gospel – it is valuable. Jesus links the gospel to Him. There is an expectancy that there will be sacrifices made for those who follow Him and deliver the gospel. The place Jesus and the gospel have in our lives has eternal consequences. To finish looking at this passage, notice how Jesus states: “If anyone is ashamed of me and my words” (vs. 38a). Jesus’ words are equated with the gospel.
Now let’s take a quick look at how Paul interpreted the gospel:
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. 17 For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith.'” Romans 1:16-17 NIV
What do we see here?
- The gospel is the power of God to bring salvation – When the gospel is preached, there is power, form the Holy Spirit that draws people to the faith
- Again, the gospel is for everyone.
- The gospel reveals God’s righteousness
- This righteousness is based on faith – which is a free will trust
So, the gospel is much more than going to heaven. The gospel is a message that starts with the original purpose of humanity. We were designed to live in harmony with God. We were created to live in His Kingdom. But sin damaged that relationship. Through Israel, God showed the world what it meant to live in harmony with Him. The first covenant with Israel was God saying, “I will be your God, you will be my people.” But Israel, like the rest of humanity, consistently broke that covenant. This was God showing humanity that, on their own, they could never restore their relationship with Him. So, He sent Jesus, His son, to take on the punishment of sin. Because God loved us with an eternal love, he paid the price so that relationship can be restored with Him. The gospel is the message of Jesus. His power, His righteousness, dying for our sin, resurrecting with a new body, ascending back to God, and sending the Holy Spirit, so that all who put their faith (their trust) into Him will be restored to God’s Kingdom and right relationship. This faith starts immediately and lasts for eternity. The gospel is the good news that we, who are damaged by sin, can be forgiven and given an eternal place, starting now and lasting forever, in the Kingdom of God.