What is the Gospel?

Okay, I’ll admit it. I grew up in a Christian home. No, far worse than that, I grew up as a missionary kid, spending my first 18 years with my parents on the mission field.

I have taught Sunday school classes (to children, teens and adults), I was a leader in Pioneer Girls, I even taught children’s catechism (church membership) classes for several years.

But when asked to define the “gospel” I was stumped. I knew the word, I’d used it, I even knew that the gospel involved salvation. But… Okay, PLEASE tell me I’m not alone in this!

But, being of curious mind, I set about trying to come up with a good, clear definition. It was harder than I thought! Far too many “scholars” or commentaries simply used the word without any definition—supposing, I suppose, that everyone just knew it, so the word needed no definition. (And maybe for you it doesn’t! My bad.)

So, after years of research, here’s what I found: the word gospel literally means “good news,” so let’s do this as a “bad news” “good news” scenario. 

The bad news is found in Romans 3:23: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” There’s two bits of bad news here. One is that God is holy—seriously holy. In fact, Habakkuk 1:13 says God’s “eyes are too pure to look on evil.” The second bit of bad news is that we—you and I—are NOT holy. Since we are sinners, we are part of that evil that God can’t stand. 

(By the way, if you think you are not a sinner, I have another bit of bad news for you. First, in Romans 3:23 we find out that “ALL”—pretty sure that includes you—are sinners. Then, just in case you think you are exempt, check out 1 John 1:8: “If we say, ‘We have no sin,’ we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”) 

So, how about some good news? Okay, let’s go right to the verse everyone knows: John 3:16. “For God loved the world in this way: He gave his one and only son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”

That’s right. God—that holy God who can’t even look at evil—set up a way for sinners to come to Him. And that way, the ONLY way, is through Jesus Christ. But He didn’t wait for us to be “good enough.” The Bible says, “But God proves his own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom 5:8).

There’s a whole lot packed into that: Jesus—God Himself—came to earth to be born as a man. He lived a perfectly sinless life, died on the cross, rose again to prove His power over sin and death, and now is in heaven where He intercedes for us with God the Father. Now, when God looks at us, He actually sees Jesus’ righteousness, and on that basis accepts us. 

And that, my friends, is the gospel! Jesus came, He died, He rose from the dead. He alone can remove that sin barrier that separated us from God. 

There’s just one more step. This is a gift from God. There’s nothing you can do to earn it. There’s nothing you can do to bypass it. But you must receive it. “Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:13).

Saved; sins forgiven; fellowship with God restored; eternity in heaven promised. That’s a beautiful thing. 

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