What is the Gospel?

“Gospel” is an interesting word. Like a lot of words in the Church, it gets used a lot, but I wonder if we know what it means. Churches claim to preach the Gospel, but for some that “Gospel” may be a message of “God loves you so love each other!” with there being no comment on sin and our need for salvation. Others may preach the “Gospel,” and what you get is a message of “God is angry, do better!” with there being no hope for salvation at all. 

Greg Gilbert, in his book, What is the Gospel?, writes, “in order truly to proclaim the gospel, we must carefully explain the death and resurrection of Jesus and the response God requires of sinners. If we say merely that God is redeeming a people and remaking the world, but do not say how he is doing so (through the death and resurrection of Jesus) and how a person can be included in that redemption (through repentance from sin and faith in Jesus), then we have not proclaimed the good news.”

So how can we make sure to get the Gospel right? By definition the Gospel is “good news,” and because the first 4 books of the New Testament are called Gospels, we know it has something to do with Jesus, his life and death and resurrection. But how do we put it all into words?

I think it is helpful to remember that the Gospel is not just the message of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, but it is the full story, from beginning to end, of the Bible. The Gospel is the message of humanity in relationship to God, revealing the holy and eternal God who made all things good, man’s fall into sin and death, and God’s faithful, covenanted work to save His beloved from wrath, culminating in the promised incarnation, perfect obedience, atoning death, justifying resurrection and ascension, and awaited return in glory of Jesus Christ. The Gospel is proclaimed in all of this, and must certainly contain elements of this. All of Scripture points to the salvation found in Jesus Christ (Luke 24:27).

So perhaps a good way to summarize the Gospel would be this: God, in order to redeem His people and deliver them from the wrath they deserved for their sin, graciously gave His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, who perfectly fulfilled God’s righteous law, died upon the cross to atone for sins, and was raised from the dead to justify all who would believe in Him for eternal life. 

Biblical Summaries of the Gospel

There are some very helpful summaries of the Gospel throughout the scriptures. Here are just a few:

  • Jn 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
  • Ro 4:25 [He] was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.
  • Ro 5:8 But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
  • 2 Co 5:19 …In Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.
  • 2 Co 5:21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
  • Ga 3:13–14 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”— so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.
  • Heb 9:28 so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.
  • 1 Pe 2:24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.
  • 1 Pe 3:18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit

Friends, I pray that you may know the Gospel, and know it in its fullest meaning. Rather than just having a knowledge of what it means, I pray that you would know the joy and peace of actually believing the Gospel, that God has brought about the salvation of all who would call upon Him in faith through Jesus Christ!. I pray that you would live in this Gospel. And I pray that we would all become better able to preach this Gospel.


Also Helpful

As I’ve been thinking about this, I came across a couple of very helpful videos:

Voddie Baucham 

A Summary: God in his goodness and mercy sent forth his son… born of a virgin… and Christ died for sin once for all, the just for the unjust, and God imputes our sinfulness on him… and the righteousness of Christ is imputed to us, that God would be the just and the justifier of those who place their faith in Jesus Christ… That we would be saved from the penalty of sin, the power of sin, and one day, the presence of sin.

John Piper

Piper gives this breakdown. The Gospel is: 1) A plan, 2) An Event, 3) An achievement, 4) An offer, 5) The application, and 6) God.

Blessed Assurance

How Can I Be Sure?

We are a skeptical people. Whether its just an inborn lack of trust going back to the fall and the serpent’s deception, or a jaded outlook after receiving your 50th email from a Nigerian Prince who needs your help moving his father’s money out of the country, we are filled with doubts about the world around us.

It would be nice if there was some way to trust what we read in the papers, or if our email inboxes weren’t filled with junk, but you’re hard pressed to find any real guarantee like that today. 

That’s why it is such a blessing that we can have an assurance of salvation in Jesus Christ. When everything else is riddled with doubt and suspicion, we have this firm foundation, this assurance of our faith in Christ. We know that in Him we are secure, our destiny is fixed, the outcome is determined.

The Westminster Confession affirms this assurance: 

Such as truly believe in the Lord Jesus, and love him in sincerity; endeavoring to walk in all good conscience before him, may, in this life, be certainly assured that they are in a state of grace, and may rejoice in the hope of the glory of God; which hope shall never make them ashamed.

Westminster confession of Faith XVIII

What’s even more wonderful is that this assurance is not primarily rooted in experience. Assurance is not a whim or strong feeling we conjure up inside. Assurance doesn’t depend upon the strength of your conviction or eloquence when you first prayed to receive Christ, nor upon your ability to keep on the straight and narrow. As with every good and perfect gift from our Heavenly Father, assurance of salvation comes through faith, founded upon the graces promises of salvation in God’s word. Promises like:

  • Job 19:25–26 For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God,
  • Ps 23:4Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
  • Ro 8:28–29 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.
  • 1 Jn 3:14 We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death.

J.C. Ryle writes, “it cannot be wrong to feel confidently in a matter where God speaks unconditionally, to believe decidedly when God promises decidedly, to have a sure persuasion of pardon and peace when we rest on the word and oath of Him that never changes.” Our assurance, first and foremost, is rooted in the very Word of God. 

It follows, then, that another pillar of our assurance of salvation lies in the fact that we are justified by faith in the perfect and completed work of Christ for us. Our salvation is His work, His gift given to us, His covenant promise. We receive this gift by faith, but we contribute nothing to our salvation but the need. If our salvation were dependent upon us, we would inevitably lose it, because we are deeply flawed and corrupted in our inward being. So our great assurance is in the truth of God’s grace and the salvation He so freely offers in Jesus Christ.

And though the promises of God are available to all in His Word, it is important to remember that not all come to an equal measure of assurance. It is possible to never have full assurance and still be saved. The father who brought his son to Jesus to be healed cried out, “I believe; help my unbelief” (Mark 9:24). 

On this, Ryle also notes, “All God’s children have faith; not all have assurance… I do not shrink from saying that by grace a man may have sufficient faith to flee to Christ—sufficient faith really to lay hold on Him, really to trust in Him, really to be a child of God, really to be saved and yet to his last day be never free from much anxiety, doubt and fear… Faith, let us remember, is the root, and assurance is the flower. Doubtless you can never have the flower without the root; but it is no less certain you may have the root and not the flower.”

Friends, I pray that by the same grace by which you’ve been granted faith in Jesus Christ for your salvation, you may also find the great joy of that faith in your assurance in His completed and perfect work for you.