What is the gospel?

You may have heard the word ‘gospel’. You may heard places call themselves ‘gospel centred’. You might even know that the greek word euangelion – the word from which we get our word Evangelical – means ‘good news’, or ‘gospel’ so that Evangelicals are ‘gospel’ people. But do you know what the gospel actually is?

Increasingly, I have had conversations with people – those purporting to be Christians who claim to know the gospel – that have made it apparent they don’t know what the gospel is. In one discussion, somebody told me they were very sad because I insisted that prayer is not the gospel (it isn’t, by the way). Another person was put out because I suggested simply doing good wasn’t the gospel (it also isn’t). I’ve heard people call all sorts of things ‘the gospel’ that make it apparent they have no clue what the gospel actually is.

Whilst not always a great way to work out what Greek actually means, euangelion, is a compound word. Eu, which means ‘good’ and angelia, which means ‘message’. The euangelion is the good message, or good news. So the gospel is specifically good news. We can deduce from this that the gospel must, of necessity, involve words and ideas. It is not simply doing stuff – like praying or being nice – because it centres around a message. We can see that it is specifically the news that is good.

So, what is the good news of the gospel? Mark Dever briefly sums it up here:

Any endeavour that does not involve actively sharing that message – or some form of words that communicates these ideas – is not evangelistic. That is, it is not proclaiming the gospel.

Doing good works does not, of itself, convey that message. Praying for people does not, of itself, convey that message. Being kind to people does not, of itself, convey that message. Evangelistic work – that is, gospel work – necessistates sharing the actual gospel.

Now, of course, the way we behave should back up the things we claim to believe. Our lifestyle and the way we act should align with our claim to believe this message about Jesus Christ and all its necessary implications. There is no reason anybody should listen to a hypocrite who claims to believe such things but whose lifestyle and behaviour makes it abundantly clear it hasn’t affected them at all. But we must not confuse our lifestyle and behaviour for the actual gospel itself. Yes, those things should commend the gospel and yes, those things should not highlight that we don’t actually believe the gospel. But they are not the gospel.

The gospel is the message of good news in Jesus Christ. It is the good news that though we are sinners who have rebelled against God and rightly deserve his judgement, Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. Jesus died on the cross so that you and I might know forgiveness of sin and enjoy God for all eternity. If we repent of our sin, trust in Christ and make him Lord of our life, the Bible tells us we will no longer be condemned but adopted into God’s family as sons and heirs in Christ forever. That is the good news. It involves recognising the bad news of our lost estate but knowing the awesome news that though we are lost and dead in sin we might be made alive in Christ.

You simply can’t share that news without opening your mouth. You can’t share that message by deeds alone. Your behaviour cannot convey those ideas. The gospel is that message and evangelism is sharing that good news. We have to know that good news in order to share it with others.

Do you know what the gospel is? Is this the message of life and hope in Jesus Christ that you share? Do you actually share it by conveying these ideas to people using actual words?