March 8th 2009

What Is The Gospel?

“…believe in the gospel.”
(Mark 1:15 NKJ)

The word “gospel” comes from the Old English god-spell, which means “glad tidings” or “good news.” It is a translation of the Greek word euangelion, which means “good message”. This is also the source of our English word “evangelist.” Evangelists are people who give you the good news – the Godspell.

The Christian church did not invent these words. Euangelion was a term used in the classical Roman and Greek world to announce ‘good news’ of a victory in battle, or perhaps the birth of the son of an Emperor. It was the natural word for Christians to use to announce the ‘good news’ of a different Lord: Jesus Christ. You can imagine why it got the Christians in trouble – the Roman Empire did not take kindly to rivals to their power.

The gospel really is good news, even though it is sometimes presented with a variety of strategies that offer more despair than hope. It was a dark day for the “gospel” when some evangelists felt compelled to preach many of the heroic firefighters of 9-11 straight into hell.

But that wasn’t the kind of “gospel” the apostle Paul preached. He was bold to preach the gospel as good news for everyone. He wrote: “For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer.” (2 Corinthians 5:14?16 NIV). Paul is saying that all humanity is reconciled to and by God through Christ. Good news indeed!

Much of humanity is unaware of what God has done for us. Our job as “evangelists” is to give them the good news. We want all to know that God loves them, that God has forgiven them and reconciled them to himself through Jesus. “For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of His cross” (Colossians 1:19-20 NKJ).

God is out to save, not to condemn. He does not hate people – he loves them, and he wants every person to come to faith in Jesus, and he does not leave that to time and chance. “He’s got it all covered,” as the saying goes. And just because we don’t get to someone with the gospel before they die doesn’t mean God doesn’t have his own ways of drawing people to himself and embracing them with his love in Christ. God loves every person, and he does not let anyone slip through the cracks. God loves even the people who forever refuse his love and damn themselves in hell, who constantly slam the door of their life in God’s face. I love C.S. Lewis’s illustration that the door to hell is locked from the inside, not from the outside.

From God’s side, the door of love is always open; his love is everlasting. It is not too late for you, or anyone, to reach out and let God take your hand. He is for you; he wants you to experience the new life he has already made for you in Christ. You don’t have to improve first; he already loves you, in spite of your darkest sins. “Come to me,” Jesus says, “all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

Thank you, God, for the Good News of your deep love for all people who have ever lived, and that you have a plan of salvation through your son, Jesus Christ. Help us to share this Good News in a way that will encourage and help others to find rest in you.

Study by Joseph Tkach

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