The Secret: The 6 Simple Steps to Understanding the Gospel

The Secret: The 6 Simple Steps to Understanding the Gospel

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We often hear the word gospel in Christianity—perhaps we call something “the gospel truth.” We might say, “Share the gospel,” or “I like gospel music,” or ask, “Which Gospel talks about the birth of Christ?” But what does the word gospel actually mean, and what is the gospel?

There’s a difference between the various words we use for gospel. Broadly, the word can mean the teachings of a religious instructor or something considered an infallible truth. For instance, there is an Islamic gospel. Gospel music is a particular music genre that arose out of the religious revivals of the 19th century and might also apply to Christian music that spreads the word of God. But for Christians, the word gospel means two things primarily: It can refer to one of the four Gospel accounts, theological literature written by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, that tell the story of Jesus’s life, ministry, and teachings.  It can also generally refer to the good news of Christ and our salvation found in scripture. Most of the time, when we use the word “gospel,” this last definition is what we mean: the good news of what God has done in Jesus.

Let’s take a look at what is the gospel in its full, beautiful, life-changing truth.

1. What Does the Word ‘Gospel’ Mean?

The New Testament is the second portion of the Bible that discusses the teachings and person of Jesus and events relating to the early church. It was written in Greek, as Greek was the common language of the Mediterranean region where the church started. The Greek word for “gospel” is typically euangelion or euangelizō, which translates to gospel, good news, and preaching or proclaiming this good news. It was a way for Jesus and his followers to refer generally to the most important hope of humanity: that Jesus, the son of God, is our pathway to eternity, for all who believe in him can have eternal life.

2. Why Is the Gospel Called ‘Good News?’

Jesus expressly told his disciples,

“This gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” – Matthew 24:14 ESV

After his death and resurrection, he commanded them,

“Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.” Mark 16:15

This good news is no secret but a triumphant truth Jesus wanted to spread worldwide. Instead, God’s plan for the end of the world does not come into being until the good news is shared throughout the world. Without the gospel—the salvation we have through our belief in Jesus—we have no chance of eternal life. We are separated from God because of our sins, and as Romans 6:23 explains, “For the wages of sin is death.” But, as that same Bible verse continues, “The free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Jesus told us he is “the way” and the truth and the life, that no one comes to God the Father except through him. It’s good news to us, who are lost without him that we now have this path to heaven and can escape the grave.

3. What Is the Core Message of the Gospel?

When Jesus began his ministry, the Bible tells us,

“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.’” – Mark 1:14-15

Before his ascension after the resurrection, Jesus summarized the gospel for his followers, telling them,

“Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.” Luke 24:46-48

In short, the gospel is about Jesus dying and rising again to forgive people’s sins. It is open and available to anyone who repents and believes that Jesus Christ is our savior.

The Apostle Paul, whose letters to the early church comprise most of the New Testament and explain many of the concepts rather clearly, reminds us what the gospel is at its core in his letter to the church in Corinth.

“Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.” 1 Corinthians 15:1-4

Again, it’s clear: the gospel is that Jesus Christ died for our sins and rose again. In dying for our sins, he sacrificed himself for us, fully paying the debt of the sins we commit against God our Father. Therefore, anyone who chooses to repent and believe in him is forgiven. As Jesus proclaimed in John 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.”

4. Why Is Believing in the Gospel So Important?

If you hear this and choose not to believe the gospel, then Jesus also makes the consequences clear: Unbelievers are condemned.

After clarifying the good news in John 3:16, he added in John 3:17-18, “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. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.”

The Greek word used here for “condemned” is krino, which means legally judged, decided upon, punished, or under judgment or decision. Another word could be “sentenced” or “doomed.” He elaborates elsewhere, noting,

“Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” – John 3:36

5. Where in the Bible Is the Gospel Explained?

Here are a few other verses that explain the gospel in slightly different ways:

  • “Because I live, you also will live.” – John 14:19
  • “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” – Romans 1:16
  • “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.” – Romans 5:10
  • “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” – Romans 8:1

“He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.” – 1 John 2:2 (NIV)

6. What Are We Supposed to do with This ‘Good News?’

As stated above, we should not keep the gospel to ourselves. Christianity is meant for all people—indeed, the whole world. Jesus commanded us to share the good news and make disciples to the ends of the earth, “baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20 ESV).

Sharing the gospel can be daunting. We may face persecution, lose friends and family, or even experience discrimination. But these potential challenges should not deter us from our mission. They should remind us of the sacrifices made by those who came before us. Jesus told us to share the good news. And to follow the Savior, we must do what he says.

Amen, and thanks be to God.

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