What is the Gospel?


Gospel is a term used 98 times in the New Testament. In Greek, gospel means "good news." The question is, "The good news of what?" One very good definition can be found in the Evangelical Dictionary of Theology edited by Walter Elwell, "the gospel is the joyous proclamation of God's redemptive activity in Christ Jesus on behalf of man enslaved by sin."

The term "gospel" is also referred to in specific books in the Bible that set forth the life and teaching of Jesus, for example the Gospel of Matthew, Gospel of Mark, etc. The importance of the gospel cannot be overstated. It is the culminating concept of the entire Bible. One of the most famous Bible passages is :

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life

John 3:16

John 3:16 is what most Christians would give as an answer to "what is the gospel?" The problem for unbelievers is the word "gospel" isn't used in the passage. If you look for the word "gospel" in the Bible, you'll find that it doesn't appear in the Old Testament. The first time it appears is in Matthew -

And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people.

Matthew 4:23

Even then, the term is used, but it isn't explained. This happens again in Matthew -

And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people.

Matthew 9:35

 

The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them.

Matthew 11:5

In Mark, Jesus explains that the gospel is of such great importance, that a man must be willing to give up everything for it -

And when he had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel's, the same shall save it. For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?

Mark 8:34-37

Fortunately, we have the apostle Paul. In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul clearly defines the gospel -

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 Corinthians 15:1-8).

Mark 8:34-37

The first four verses of this scripture define the gospel. The second four verses, picking up at "and that he appeared to Cephas", are evidence that His resurrection is true. Paul used this evidence for the historicity of the resurrection as part of the gospel message. He insists that the resurrection was not a figment of someone's imagination. He clearly states there were over 500 witnesses at one time. He also states that he himself was a witness.

The gospel is salvation for any who believes that Christ died for their sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures. As in Greek, this is good news.