The word “gospel” immediately calls to the mind of the believer the good news that our Lord Jesus has provided us with an escape from the penalty for our sins and also an eternal life with Him in heaven. Good news indeed! But the word gospel in the Bible means far more than that. Thus Mark calls his whole book “The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God” (Mk. 1:1 NIV), and the collection of the books by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John was known as “the gospel” prior to the 5th century AD. Clearly, the topic of “the gospel” is so massive that treatment of it would require a treatise! Hence, this article will focus only on certain aspects of what the apostle Paul calls “the gospel of God.” The Gospel Of God Paul said that he was “set apart for the gospel of God” which, is the “gospel He promised beforehand through the prophets ... regarding His Son, who as to His human nature was a descendent of David, and who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by His resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 1:1-3). In this one long sentence, Paul summarized the Good News, the gospel contained in the first four books of the New Testament.
He began with the Good News that Jesus was the Christ, the Messiah (Hebrew for Christ), whose coming had long been promised by the prophets (Lk. 24:27). In Galatians 3:8, he quoted from Genesis, the first book of Moses, and said, “the Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: ‘All nations will be blessed through you’”(Gen. 12:3; 18:18; 22:18). The Good News is that Jesus Christ is not only the Jewish Messiah but also our Messiah, and that it was always God’s intention to bring salvation to us Gentiles through Him!
The Gospel Of Salvation
The Good News to all who will believe is that “you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation (and) having believed you were marked in Him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit” (Eph. 1:13). For us to be sealed, to be saved, Christ had to suffer, die and be resurrected (Lk. 24:26). “He suffered death, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone” (Heb. 2:9), and offer salvation to all who would accept it.
For us to be saved, the Son of God had to humble Himself and become a human being. He was genetically descended from David, Abraham (Mt. 1:1) and Adam (Lk. 3:38); thus He was also the “offspring” of Eve who would “crush” the serpent (Gen. 3:15). By having “shared in (our) humanity” He could “by His death … destroy him who holds the power of death – that is the devil” (Heb. 2:14).
His humanity is also part of the Good News! It means that being human He “suffered when He was tempted, (and therefore) is able to help those who are being tempted” (Heb. 2:18). Consequently, He can “sympathize” with us for He “has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet was without sin” as the Gospels attest (Heb. 4:15). The Good News is that through Him we can “approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Heb. 4:16). This help provides the daily salvation we sinful creatures so much need.
For us to be saved we must be justified, and our justification requires that Jesus be resurrected: “He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification” (Rom. 4:25). The connection between the resurrection of Christ, our salvation and our justification is further given in Romans 10:9-10 when Paul writes: “Believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, (and) you will be saved … For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified.”
We do not have to believe on uncertain evidence that He arose, for Peter testifies that “God has raised this Jesus to life, and we (the disciples) are all witnesses of the fact” (Acts 2:32). And Paul records that after appearing to them “He appeared to more than five hundred brothers at the same time” (1 Cor. 15:5-8), many of whom were still alive at the time of his writing. Thus, Christ’s resurrection is especially “gospel,” or Good News, because it means that those who belong to Him and who die will also be raised (1 Cor. 15:20-23). Salvation from the scourge of death has come to all believers!
The Gospel Of God’s Grace
This phrase is used by Paul to describe his preaching. He says, “The Lord Jesus has given me the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace” (Acts 20:24). He further testifies that “God our Savior … wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:4). It is an important truth of the gospel that we cannot be saved by our own efforts: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast” (Eph. 2:8-9).
From the very beginning man has sought to be righteous before God (Gen. 4:3-5), and also before his fellow man. The extremely religious Pharisees, without success, “sought to establish their own … righteousness” (Rom. 10:3). Their efforts to practice even a God-given religion could not bring them righteousness, because more is required than men can do. So the Good News is that “God made Him who had no sin to be a sin-offering for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21).
This righteousness of God is not just a state of “being” but also a state of “doing.” By God’s grace, we now are “God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Eph. 2:10). The seeking to do these works is what is meant by continuing “to work out your salvation” (Phil. 2:12), not work for your salvation. Doing these works is also what Scripture means by obeying the gospel, not merely obeying rules.
The gospel is that those who believe are given the power to “obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.” But those who will not believe, who “do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ … will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord” (2 Th. 1:8-9).
The Gospel And Judgment
The truth is that “God will judge men’s secrets through Jesus Christ as (the) gospel declares” (Rom. 2:16). The Good News for us, however, is that “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1).
Yes, it is true that “we will all stand before God’s judgment seat” (Rom. 14:10), but believers need not fear, for “God made (us) alive with Christ (and) He forgave us all our sins” (Col. 2:13). Hence, “as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us” (Ps. 103:12). Thus, because our sins have been put away from us, they will not come up when we “appear before the judgment seat of Christ.” His purpose will not be to judge sin but to judge our works “that each may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad” (2 Cor. 5:10).
It is indeed Good News to learn that the only judgment awaiting the believer is the evaluation by our Master of our service for Him. Some of our works will be judged worthless and some will be judged worthy of reward. But amazingly, that which is judged worthy of reward will not have been done by ourselves but by the power of the Holy Spirit given to us when we believed.
Thus, the gospel is not only that we can escape damnation, but also that we can produce praiseworthy fruit for God. Let’s do it!
By Alan Crosby
With permission to publish by: Sam Hadley, Grace & Truth, 210 Chestnut St., Danville, IL., USA. Website: www.gtpress.org