When you hear the word gospel, what comes to mind? Maybe it’s a conversation with someone you meet on the streets or you think of a tract. Maybe even different forms of evangelism come to mind, like Lifestyle, Friendship, or Open Air Preaching. But what actually does the word gospel mean?
The word gospel means good news but good news of what?
According to Dictionary.com the word carries these meanings; the teachings of Jesus and the apostles; the Christian revelation. The story of Christ's life and teachings, especially as contained in the first four books of the new testament, namely Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Something regarded as true and implicitly believed: to take his report for gospel. A doctrine regarded as of prime importance: political gospel. Further defined as; the story of Christ's life and teachings as narrated in the Gospels
Let’s dig a little deeper now. If you had to surmise the entire Bible how would you do it? This is how I would describe it. The Bible is the progressive revelation of Jesus Christ and God’s promise of salvation.
Beginning in the New Testament this promise comes to life. Jesus Christ, God Himself in the flesh comes to Earth to bring the hope and good news of salvation to all mankind no matter a person’s race or nationality. “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14
So Jesus Christ while on Earth was the Gospel. He was the message of salvation. He provided the only way to Heaven, then and now. There may be many paths to Christ, but once at the foot of the cross, He is the only way to Heaven. The Gospels refer to the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Why? It’s their accounts of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the only means of salvation for fallen mankind. It’s not the stories of each of these Apostles, but the story of redemption of man and God’s fulfillment of His promise.
In Romans 1:16 we read, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” Then in Hebrews 4:12 we learn, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” The gospel is the only means God has gifted to us fallen wretched sinners to bring the good news of salvation to all. The gospel is not only the Word of God, the gospel was God in the flesh. The gospel was Jesus Christ as He was the Living Word of God. This is not negated now that He rose Himself from the grave and now sits at the right hand of God.
In the Third Commandment we are told, ““You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.” If to belittle the name of God, use His name as a filthy cuss word, or use His name to express excitement or surprise is a violation of this commandment, then what does it mean when we do this with His Word. Consider this, applying the previous to any part of the Bible, which is the written Word of God given to man, then that would be taking His name in vain as well. To twist scripture or use any part of the Bible or the gospel in a way that demeans the Creator’s Word, is blasphemy.
The Word of God is to be looked upon with reverence, holiness and awe. It is to be lifted up and treated with more honor and respect than anything or anyone else on Earth. We are told to love God with all of our hearts, souls, mind and strength. There is no exception clause in this. This applies to all aspects of God and His Word. The gospel is not only God’s way of salvation, but is the very Word of God, the fulfillment of His promises, the essence and very reason God came to Earth in the form of a man.
It was Spurgeon, who uttered these words. “Heart-work, carried out afterwards into life-work, —this is what the Lord wants. You may perish as well with true doctrines as with false, if you pervert the true doctrine into licentiousness. You may go to hell by the cross as surely as you may by the theatre, or by the vilest of sin. You may perish with the name of Jesus on your lips, and with a sound creed sealed on your very bosom, for "except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." "Be not deceived; God is not mocked; for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall lie also reap." Now, if any of you belong to either of these four classes, I think you cannot help knowing it, and, being destitute of gospel holiness, you have good cause to bewail your character, and tremble for your destiny. But, to help you still further, brethren, that man is destitute of true holiness who can look back upon his own past sin without sorrow. Oh, to think of our past lives! There were some of us who knew the Lord at fifteen years of age, but those fifteen years of unregeneracy, —we can never forget them! Others may say, "We did not know him till we were fifty or sixty." Ah, my dear brethren! You have much to weep over, but so have those of us who knew the Lord in early life. I can look back upon God's mercy with delight, but I hope I shall never be able to look back upon my sins with complacency.”
CARM.org describes the gospel this way: The gospel is the singularly most important communication of God to man. In Jesus, who is God the Son, we have the revelation of God’s love and sacrifice that saves us from God's righteous judgment upon sinners.
How Others Have Defined the Gospel
This is why the New Testament often defines the gospel as, simply, Christ. The gospel is the "gospel of Christ" (Romans 15:19; 1 Corinthians 9:12; 2 Corinthians 2:12; 9:13; 10:14; Galatians 1:7; Philippians 1:27; etc.). Or, more specifically, the gospel is "the gospel of the glory of Christ" (2 Corinthians 4:4). And even more wonderfully, perhaps, Paul says that the preaching of the gospel is the preaching of "the unsearchable riches of Christ" (Ephesians 3:8). http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/what-is-the-christian-gospel
The Gospel of Jesus Christ, the message from God to man delivered by the very Creator Himself come to Earth in the form of a lowly man. If we can take shortcuts with the word gospel when applied to the Word of God, we then are undermining and blaspheming the very God we claim to be proclaiming.
“There is no greater message to be heard than that which we call the Gospel. But as important as that is, it is often given to massive distortions or over simplifications. People think they’re preaching the Gospel to you when they tell you, ‘you can have a purpose to your life’, or that ‘you can have meaning to your life’, or that ‘you can have a personal relationship with Jesus.’ All of those things are true, and they’re all important, but they don’t get to the heart of the Gospel.
The Gospel is called the ‘good news’ because it addresses the most serious problem that you and I have as human beings, and that problem is simply this: God is holy and He is just, and I’m not. And at the end of my life, I’m going to stand before a just and holy God, and I’ll be judged. And I’ll be judged either on the basis of my own righteousness – or lack of it – or the righteousness of another. The good news of the Gospel is that Jesus lived a life of perfect righteousness, of perfect obedience to God, not for His own well-being but for His people. He has done for me what I couldn’t possibly do for myself. But not only has He lived that life of perfect obedience, He offered Himself as a perfect sacrifice to satisfy the justice and the righteousness of God.
The great misconception in our day is this: that God isn’t concerned to protect His own integrity. He’s a kind of wishy-washy deity, who just waves a wand of forgiveness over everybody. No. For God to forgive you is a very costly matter. It cost the sacrifice of His own Son. So valuable was that sacrifice that God pronounced it valuable by raising Him from the dead – so that Christ died for us, He was raised for our justification. So the Gospel is something objective. It is the message of who Jesus is and what He did. And it also has a subjective dimension. How the benefits of Jesus are subjectively appropriated to us? How do I get it? The Bible makes it clear that we are justified not by our works, not by our efforts, not by our deeds, but by faith – and by faith alone. The only way you can receive the benefit of Christ’s life and death is by putting your trust in Him – and in Him alone. You do that, you’re declared just by God, you’re adopted into His family, you’re forgiven of all of your sins, and you have begun your pilgrimage for eternity.” R.C. Sproul http://www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/what-gospel/
From John MacArthur: First of all, the first key word in the divine vocabulary of the gospel of Christ is that it is the power of God. The good news about Jesus Christ has power. The word is dunamis, we get our word dynamite from it. And Paul has in mind the fact that the gospel of Christ carries with it the omnipotence of God- The all-powerful God is behind it, operative in regenerating a person.
Now through the years, most commentators have said what this means is that you have a symbolic call to evangelism here. And they borrow it from that idea, from Romans 10:15. “Blessed are the feet of those who preach the good news.” Which is a quote from Isaiah 52:7. But Romans 10:15, “And the feet of those who preach the good news,” is not a verse to explain this. In the first place, that has nothing to do with warfare. That has nothing to do with shoes. That’s just saying to the people who hear the gospel will bless the people who brought it to them. Paul is not talking about going anywhere. He’s not talking about traversing any place. He’s not talking about taking the gospel to anyone. He’s talking about standing, not going. The issue is not evangelism. The issue is taking a firm stand in a battle against the devil as he assaults our lives. It’s like 1 Corinthians 16:13, “Stand fast in the faith.” The idea here is that our feet need to be equipped to stand firmly when the attacking blows come.
What is it that can allow the believer to stand unflinching, take his stand, never slip, never slide, never fall under attack, what is it that gives us a firm footing? It is having your feet prepared with the gospel of peace...The gospel of peace. What does that mean? Well the gospel of peace is the gospel, sometimes called the gospel of Christ, it’s sometimes called the gospel of God like in Romans 1. And here it’s called the gospel of peace.
What is the gospel of peace? It is the good news that you have made peace with God. That’s essentially the theme of the opening verses of Romans 5. Look at this Romans 5 verse 1, “Having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. What does it mean to be at peace with God? Simply it means that God is not our enemy, but God is our strength. And it takes you right back to Ephesians 6:10, “Be ye strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might.” It means He’s on our side. We stand firm because we know that we are in reality invincible.
John MacArthur goes on to explain, “He (Paul) refers to the gospel as the gospel of God. He calls it the Gospel of the Blessed God. He calls it the gospel of His Son, the gospel of Christ, the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. He calls it the gospel of grace. He calls it the gospel of peace. He calls it the gospel of our salvation. But most wonderfully he calls it “My Gospel.” And then he extends that, and calls it “Our Gospel.”
What was his gospel? What is our gospel? What is the gospel of grace? The gospel of peace? The gospel of salvation? The gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ? The Gospel of the blessed God? What is it? We need to know what it is because it is that gospel which we proclaim. In familiar words to all of us, Romans chapter 1, Paul says, “I am eager to preach the gospel. I’m not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God to salvation to everyone who believes, the Jew first, and then the Greek,” that’s chronological.
So what is it that he preached? What is it that he was eager to preach? What is it that he was obligated to preach? What is this gospel?
Looking at it negatively for a moment, you might open your Bible to Galatians chapter 1, and this is just by way of a brief introduction here. Galatians chapter 1 and verse 6 gives us a warning of the deadly danger of distorting the gospel. Galatians 1 verse 6, “I’m amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ for a different gospel… a different gospel.”
He says, “I am amazed.” The Greek verb there is thaumazo, it is used very often in the gospels of people marveling over the inexplicable miracles of Jesus. Paul literally finds it incredible that someone would abandon the gospel, or be drawn to a different gospel. Paul uses that word thaumazo for two realities. One of them is here, and the other one is in 2 Thessalonians 1:7 to 10, where he describes the return of Jesus Christ and what a marvel and a wonder that’s going to be when He comes in flaming fire and reeks vengeance on those who obey not the gospel.
So he holds this word pretty close to the vest, just letting it out twice. I’m amazed that you’re so quickly deserting, defecting from Him who called you. Here we’re talking about an effectual call, an internal call, a real call, and a call to salvation.
So what we’re talking about here is people who are called effectually, that is converted people who are being pulled away and seduced by another gospel. They’re being enamored. They’re being sort of mentally titillated by another gospel. And then he says in verse 7, which is really not another because there is no other gospel, only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. And then this warning, “Even if we… that plural pronoun that he likes to use when he refers to himself because it’s a more humble way to refer to yourself… we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be anathema.” Damned, devoted to destruction. Used also in 1 Corinthians 16:22, “If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be damned.” So the most important truth of all truth and all truth is important, all truth matters, but the most important truth is the gospel… the gospel matters most. So we’re looking at Paul’s gospel, which is the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ and the gospel of the blessed God, it is the gospel of peace, it is the gospel of grace, it is the gospel of salvation.
“Worship of the living God is serious business. It is not something to be trifled with or taken lightly.” ~ R.C. Sproul
While it’s true the Christian has liberty in Christ, it doesn’t mean the Christian has the liberty to take the Word of God or God’s gospel and abuse it, belittle it, make it relevant, or use it in a play on words. The only God honoring thing a Christian can do with the gospel is share it and look at it for what it is, The Holy Word of the Living God.
When I hear the word gospel, I think of God, His promise, salvation, hope, holiness, and His Son Jesus Christ born in the flesh to bring the only means by which mankind could be saved from their sin and Hell. I hear Heaven and the eternal blessing of worshipping God our Creator in holiness set free from any sin or distractions, to spend eternity in the presence of Jesus Christ.
Christians look around and wonder what is wrong in Christendom, it starts with how we look at the very Word of God. God’s Word has never failed, it is those of us who profess Christ that have failed the very Word we claim to hold dear. We have failed in that we have not given the Word of God and His promises what it truly needs, unwavering devotion and set above anything or anyone else. In short, we have failed to keep his Word reverent instead of relevant. We have failed to keep His Word in Awe and looked upon with the utmost reverence.
There is something a Christian will never be guilty of, holding God’s Word in too much awe, reverence or looked upon with too much holiness. Belittle the Word of God or the gospel in a way that does not honor and uplift His Word, and you have profaned His name, His Word and the Gospel of God Almighty.