Has anyone asked you the meaning of the word “gospel”? Have you struggled to articulate the gospel’s definition, or do you actually understand what the gospel is? The word gospel is commonly used in Christian circles, but people often find it hard to articulate the meaning entirely.
The gospel means “good news”, or to bring or announce the good news. In classical Greek, the messenger (euangelos) brought a message of victory, political, or personal news that caused joy. The gospel is the message of forgiveness for sin through the atoning work of Jesus Christ. Amen!
It is essential to understand the full meaning of the term gospel. Sometimes we limit the gospel’s definition to only focus on how someone may receive salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. This is only part of the gospel message, and to fully appreciate the “good news” you need to understand the entire meaning of the gospel.
The Apostle Paul sums up the gospel in 1 Corinthians 15:1-8 saying, “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 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.”
This passage is remarkable because it gives us all the elements of the gospel message. Let us break it down.
Firstly, Christ died for our sins.
1 Corinthians 15:3 says “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures,”
We are all sinners given over to death because of sin, and in our strength, we are unable to stop sinning. Romans 6:23 says “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
For this very reason, Jesus came into the world, lived a perfect life, and in His grace chose to die on our behalf as our substitute. Jesus lived a perfect life with no sin, becoming the perfect sacrifice so that God will forgive all those who put their faith in Jesus because His righteousness covers all who put their trust in Him. Amen!
Secondly, Christ died according to scripture.
The second part of 1 Corinthians 15:3 states “that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures,”
The life, death, and resurrection of Christ are fully validated throughout scripture. It was not the words of a single man. Instead, the Old Testament pointed toward the Christ, confirming and informing us to recognise Christ when He came aligning to prophecy.
Jesus explains this to two of the disciples on the road to Emmaus in Luke 24:25-27 saying “And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.”
Thirdly, Christ died, He was buried, and resurrected from the dead on the third day
1 Corinthians 15:4 says “that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,”
The resurrection of Christ is vital, because not only was it prophecied of the Christ in the Old Testament (Psalm 16:10); but the Apostle Paul also teaches that if there is no resurrection, then the Christian faith is of no value and a lie.
1 Corinthians 15:17 says “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.”
That is why the Christian faith is unique. It is unique because of the resurrection of Christ. He has overcome sin and death through His resurrection, and as a result, we receive the forgiveness of sins. Additionally, it is a proclamation that Jesus is not only man but also God. Amen!
Fourthly, He appeared to many people alive
1 Corinthians 15:5-8 “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.”
The resurrection of Jesus was a significant fact upon which the gospel was to be established. As stated earlier in 1 Corinthians 15:17, if Christ did not rise from the dead, then, your faith is futile, and you are still in your sins. Throughout the gospels, we see this fact of numerous witnesses to the resurrection being established and confirmed, especially by those who were alive and could verify this fact (1 Corinthians 15:6).
Fifthly, the power of the gospel
Finally, to bring all this together, we need to go back to 1 Corinthians 15:1-2 to understand the power of the gospel. Let’s read the passage; it says,” 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.”
In these passages, we can see three distinct characteristics of the power of the gospel. Firstly, “you received the gospel”. Jesus says in Mark 1:15 saying “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” According to the word of God, this receiving of the gospel is not your own doing, but it is a work of God by His grace, given as a gift – your salvation. This is the Holy Spirit’s work, and no man can come to Jesus unless drawn by God and revealed by Jesus Christ. Amen! Like the Corinthian church, if you are a Christian, then this event happened at some point in the past.
Secondly, it is the gospel in “which you stand”. Christians stand on the gospel as their authority for eternal life and life in the Kingdom of God. We stand on the gospel’s truth that Christ died for our sins and rose from the dead, which are the fundamental truths of Christianity as explained in the following verses in 1 Corinthians 15:3-8.
And thirdly, “by which you are being saved”. This shows that salvation is an ongoing process. The scriptures from Genesis to Revelation are God’s word and given to us for our sanctification and knowledge of God. The gospel is the entire message given to us in the Bible. There are three phases in salvation, and these are:
- Having received the gospel (past) – our justification
- God works in us so that we become more like Him, being transformed into His image (1 Corinthians 3:18) (present) – our sanctification
- Ultimately, we will be like Him (future) – our glorification.
In conclusion, the “gospel” or the good news is that God gave His only Son to die for our sins, guaranteeing salvation and eternal life with Christ. This is only possible because of the sinless life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, overcoming death and sin, and witnessed by many who Christ chose. His death is the propitiation for our sins. Salvation is only possible by faith in Christ, not a result of works but given to those who are called by grace (Ephesians 2:8-9)
We stand on this truth and are being saved by it. All of the scriptures show us the way of God, His plan, His redemption, His requirements for us, and enables us to live a holy life, bringing glory to God.
Romans 1:1-6 explains it this way “Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations, including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ,”
Again, the gospel encapsulates all of scripture to bring about salvation and the obedience of faith for the sake of His name among all nations and to advance the kingdom of God. Amen!
The bad news is that if you do not receive Christ in your life, you are still in your sins, condemned along with the world, and will receive judgment for your sins with eternal punishment and separation from God.
So I encourage you, if you do not know Christ, then seek Him with all your heart and receive this free gift of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ and His perfect sacrifice on the cross for your sins.