Most Christians believe our responsibility is to make disciples by sharing the “gospel.” But what is the “gospel” and how do we share it? It may sound like a simple question, but the answers can vary quite a bit.
Some believe that to share the gospel means to tell the story of Jesus and then gain a commitment of faith from the listener—often saying a prayer or walking down the church aisle.
Others might point to Christ’s works transforming influence preaching the gospel. Some, misquoting St. Francis of Assisi, might say that we are to “preach the gospel at all times, and when necessary, use words” implying the content of the message should be obvious from our transforming deeds.
Yet others might emphasize the “full gospel” referring to the manifest work of the Holy Spirit in the believer.
Do these definitions accurately capture the content of the gospel message?
Over its long history, “gospel” is at times used in general or specific senses depending on context. For example, the Old Testament Hebrew terms to convey “good news” in general (often announcing military victory) are translated by the OT Greek version with the same New Testament term for “gospel” that also carries this general connotation of “good news.”
Notably, before the Cross and Resurrection, both John the Baptist (Mark 1:14) and Jesus (Matthew 4:23) refer to the “gospel” as the “good news” of the coming of the kingdom of God. That good news about God’s kingdom is narrower than “good news” in general but is not what we usually mean when we talk about the “gospel” of Jesus.
Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” (John the Baptist in Mark 1:14 / ESV)
And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people. (Jesus in Matthew 4:23 / ESV)
In a narrower sense, “Gospel” can refer to the written testimonies found in the “Gospel of St. Matthew,” or those of Mark, Luke, and John.
Paul defines the “gospel” as the good news of God’s kingdom by referring specifically to Christ’s death and resurrection. In this narrower sense, the good news of the gospel is salvation and eternal life through faith in Christ, and it is most commonly what Christians mean when referring to the “gospel” and sharing the good news of Jesus.
But what exactly is the content of the gospel message of Jesus?
Paul reminds the Corinthians of the core message of the gospel that he delivered to them, in which they also believed.
1 Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures… (1 Corinthians 15:1-4 / ESV)
Here in its most compact form, we find the content of the “gospel” message. Over the next few posts, we’ll look closely at it.
Authored by Dr. David F. Ingrassia, Stewarding Pastor of Charlotte Awake