What is the Gospel?
The incomparable message of God’s restorative love
Many years ago, my wife and I were invited to dinner at the home of a prominent older woman. She knew governors and senators and had been friends with Albert Einstein. Along with our hostess, we dined with a doctoral candidate at Harvard and an elegant couple originally from Vienna, Austria.
After some introductions and small talk, the Viennese couple shared how they had met—not in Vienna, but here in the United States where he was a scientist and professor at Princeton University.
“So, how did you and Lorna meet?” they asked. I explained we were introduced at the international headquarters of the organization we both worked for, which then prompted them to ask the organization’s name.
“We work for The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry,” I replied. Their next question will forever be engraved in my mind. “Gospel? Gospel? What is gospel?”
“It means ‘good news,’” I said. “It’s the Good News of the Messiah of Israel.” The answer generated an entirely different conversation that lasted for hours and caused me to reflect on the power and universality of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
The word gospel appears throughout the New Testament. In the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, the gospel Jesus preached differed from the gospel message we declare today. Though both clearly qualify as “good news,” Jesus’ gospel of the coming Messianic Kingdom was meant specifically for the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—the Jewish people.
Only after the religious hierarchy officially rejected Jesus did His message change recipients and focus on His expectant death and resurrection. It is His death and resurrection that comprise the message the apostle Paul declared: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel [good news] of Christ [Messiah], for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek [Gentile]” (Rom. 1:16).
The gospel message is extremely powerful. The Greek word translated “power” is dunamis, the basis for Alfred Nobel’s naming his explosive dynamite.1 The gospel is the dynamite of God for salvation. “The gospel proclaims and produces salvation in everyone who believes it.”2
The gospel of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection is a powerful, strong, life-altering message. It has transformed the lives of untold millions for more than 2,000 years and altered the destinies of countless people for eternity.
John Newton (1725–1807), who wrote the beloved hymn “Amazing Grace,” so clearly understood the gospel’s transforming power that he declared at the age of 82, “My memory is nearly gone, but I remember two things: that I am a great sinner—and that Christ is a great Savior!”
The power of this marvelous message is also its source: Jesus. Paul conveyed this fact to the believers at the church in Corinth: “Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, . . .that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Cor. 15:1, 3–4). This is the Good News. Jesus died for our sins! “For He [the Father] made Him [the Son] who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5:21).
The reality is that everyone sins. We are born with a sin nature that is completely contrary to the holiness of God. The first time we do anything a holy God would not do, we sin and fall short of His righteousness (Rom. 3:23). Hence, we must educate our children in how to behave because they don’t come by it naturally. The Bible explains, “The LORD looks down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there are any who . . . seek God. They have all turned aside, . . . there is none who does good, no, not one” (Ps. 14:2–3).
The heart of the gospel message is love. God loves sinners but cannot tolerate sin.
Years ago, I met a man who genuinely did not believe he was a sinner. I asked him if he allowed all who knocked on his door entrance into his home, to which he emphatically replied, “No way! It’s my house, and I decide who can enter.”
I agreed. Then I explained that heaven is God’s home, and not everyone who wants to go there will be admitted. “Would you like to know how you can enter heaven, God’s house?” I asked.
“Sure,” he replied.
“You have to be as good as God.”
“Wow! Not too many are going then,” he said with a laugh.
“That’s why Jesus came,” I told him. “He came to deal with our sin and allow us to enter heaven if we put our faith in Him.”
Jesus was completely innocent of wrongdoing. He was perfect because He was God in the flesh. Yet He was put to death for us. The prophet Isaiah wrote, “He was led as a lamb to the slaughter” (Isa. 53:7). For that purpose He came to Earth then rose victorious over death.
Death is the result of humanity’s sin, our rebellion against God’s authority. Sin separates us from God, and the message of the gospel is one of restorative love. Jesus said, “‘If I am lifted up from the earth, [I] will draw all peoples to Myself.’ This He said, signifying by what death He would die” (Jn.12:32–33).
Life-Transforming and Universal
The gospel of salvation is also completely life-transforming. I knew a man many years ago who was extremely prejudiced toward anyone who was not like him. He cursed so often I wondered if he could speak a single sentence without profanity.
Despite his gruff behavior, we became great friends; and I spent many hours with him over the course of many years. Eventually, he asked Jesus to be his Savior, and everything about him changed. His prejudice disappeared, his profanity vanished, he had a peace and joy he never evidenced before, and he began telling everyone about Jesus. He was a completely new creation, as Scripture says: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Cor. 5:17).
Perhaps the best news of all is that this Good News is completely universal. It’s for everyone: every man, woman, and child across the face of the Earth. “There is no distinction between Jew and Greek [Gentile], for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. For ‘whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved’” (Rom. 10:12–13). He is rich in mercy, rich in grace, and rich in the power to redeem. We can never bankrupt God’s ability to save us.
What a blessing belongs to all who repent of their sins and surrender their lives to receive new life in Christ. Not only will God be their constant companion while they’re here on Earth, but He has made a place for them in heaven that no one will ever be able to take away.
- The American Heritage Dictionary, ahdictionary.com, s.v. “dynamite.”
- “New Defender’s Study Bible Notes,” Institute for Creation Research, icr.org (icr.org/bible/Romans/1/16).