What is the gospel?
The word gospel means good news. Based on that simple definition, there are lots of gospels. The birth of a new baby is gospel to those who’ve been expecting it. A student finishing his degree with a 4.0-grade average is gospel. In the days of the Roman Empire, messengers would proclaim the gospel to the citizens when a battle was won, or a new emperor came to power. A gospel should encourage and strengthen the one who hears it because it is good news for those who listen. Therefore, when Christians share the gospel of Jesus Christ, it is the good news concerning Jesus.
Why is Jesus good news? To answer that, we must zoom out and see the big story.
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. – Genesis 1:1
God is our Creator. He created eve
rything, seen and unseen. He made the heavens, the spiritual beings who reside there, and the earth and the physical beings who inhabit it. Because He is our Creator, we are accountable to Him. He created Adam and Eve, placed them in a garden, and gave them jobs to keep the garden and be fruitful and multiply. He gave them only one prohibition. Don’t eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.
Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” – Genesis 3:1
Among the spiritual beings, one became proud and chose to rebel. This rebel, Satan, then tempted Adam and Eve to sin against God and eat fruit from the forbidden tree. They disobeyed, destroyed their relationship with God, and brought sin and death into God’s creation. This is the Fall because Adam and Eve fell from their created purpose and out of fellowship with God. And because of their fall, all of humanity is born lost sinners.
Satan’s rebellion and subsequent successful actions to draw Adam and Eve into his rebellion began a spiritual war against our Creator God. But the LORD had a plan. Though sin had brought death into His creation and created separation between Himself and humanity, God would work to redeem us.
For the sake of time, let’s fast forward.
God called a man named Abraham to Himself and used him, through his son, Isaac, to birth a nation – Israel – through whom God would send His only Son, Jesus Christ, to complete His redeeming work.
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. – John 3:16-17
Jesus came to save sinners. How does He save us?
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Romans 6:23
Sin brings a wage of death. Someone must pay that wage. Jesus came to pay for our sins. He, God the Son, was crucified and died on our behalf so that God the Father could forgive our sins. And when the Father forgives our sins, we receive eternal life.
But that is not the end of the story. Jesus was without sin, yet He died a sinner’s death.
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. – 2 Corinthians 5:21
Because Jesus didn’t deserve death, God the Father raised Him from the grave. He arose, showed Himself to His disciples, and then ascended back to Heaven, where He intercedes for us and waits to return.
Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. – Romans 8:34
Here is the essential gospel of Jesus. God created man. Man fell into sin. God sent Jesus to redeem man from sin by dying on the cross and resurrecting from death. Man repents of his sin, believes in Jesus, and is restored to a right relationship with the God who created him.
[because], if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. – Romans 10:9-10
Never let anyone tell you that you must get right or do good work before you come to the LORD. That’s nonsense. If you repent of your sins and believe the gospel of Jesus Christ, you will be saved. No prerequisite work required.
Repent and believe. Any “gospel” that adds to or takes away from this is a false gospel.