What is the Gospel?

The word gospel simply means “good news.” And when we speak about the Christian gospel, we’re speaking of the good news about Jesus. Now, when it comes to the good news about Jesus, two things come to my mind.

First, there is the fact of the gospel. Consider what the apostle Paul says in 1 Timothy 1:15: “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ came into the world to save sinners.”

Then in 1 Corinthians 15:1–4, Paul says this: “Now I want to make clear for you, brothers and sisters, the gospel I preached to you, which you received, on which you have taken your stand and by which you are being saved, if you hold to the message I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I passed on to you as most important what I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.”

Our good news–the good news of Jesus–is grounded in history. There are events that took place that constitute the gospel. These events are like an anchor that keeps us securely in place amidst all of the other opinions and voices that challenge and question our faith. Without the historical facts of Jesus’ death and resurrection, our faith, as Paul points out, “is worthless.”

The second thing about the gospel is this: it is also a relationship. It’s something we experience personally. It’s not simply some abstract fact of past history, but a reality that profoundly impinges on and transforms our present and future. Because of the facts of the gospel we place our faith in the gospel. Receiving the gospel means entering a relationship with the Maker of heaven and earth–with the one who created us, who created you.

The people in Corinth to whom Paul wrote received the gospel and were being saved by this gospel. In other words, it changed their lives. It reoriented their lives to conform to the truth of who God is. It was something they came to know and experience. The actions of God in history revealed his love.

Lastly, Jesus is the gospel. Believing in the gospel means believing in Jesus. It means coming to experience the presence of Jesus in your life. This means experiencing the grace and mercy of God. Paul knew this experience, too, and he speaks of how “the grace of our Lord overflowed for me.” He says that “I received mercy.” His life was changed. Because of the facts of the gospel, he had an encounter with the living Christ that transformed him from, as he says, “a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent” to “an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life” (1 Timothy 1:13, 16).

For us, this means that we too can be changed. We too can have a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. The facts of the gospel are a gateway to an encounter of grace and mercy. Because Jesus died and was raised, Paul encountered Jesus and experienced transformation on the road to Damascus. Because Jesus died and was raised, I came to know who I really am and to live a life grounded in God’s love and truth.

So think of your life for a moment. And think of the good news of Jesus. Then finish this sentence: “Because Jesus died and was raised, I . . .”

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