What is the Gospel?
Before diving into a deep theological study of the Bible, before trying to understand what's is and is not acceptable in worship, before trying to understand how Christianity affects the lives of believers, we need to start with the basics. At the core of Christianity is the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
You may have heard of people preaching the Gospel or spreading the Gospel, but what
exactly is it? Is any message delivered from the pulpit on Sunday morning considered the Gospel? Is it the Gospel if it excites the crowd? Do you know it's the Gospel because someone shouted "Amen!" during the sermon?
Let's look at what the Gospel really is.
The word "gospel" was translated from a Greek word "euangelion" which simply means "good news." In our case, we are speaking of a particular piece of "good news," that is the "good news" of Jesus Christ.
Typically, the Gospel refers to the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. But we need more context to appreciate the goodness of this news.
1. Sin and Death
Back in the Garden of Eden, God established that death is the punishment for sin (Genesis 3). Through the sin of Adam and Eve, sin was spread to their descendants. In order to deal with their sins, and to provide some type of atonement, God instituted animal sacrifices. A person had to surrender the life of one of their livestock in exchange for their own lives.
Since the days of the Kingdom of Israel, the Jewish people were expecting a Messiah (Savior) to come. According to prophecy, the Messiah would be born of a virgin from the lineage of King David and He himself would be a king (Isaiah 9:7). The Messiah was also prophesied to be rejected and abandoned by His people as He endured pain and suffering on behalf of the people. And the Messiah, despite the people's rejection, would offer salvation to all (Isaiah 53).
3. Jesus' Life
Jesus' life was a fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies. Jesus, the only begotten Son of God, was born of a virgin (Mary) in Bethlehem of Judea. During His ministry on earth, Jesus performed miracles such as healing the sick, giving sight to the blind, strengthening the legs of the lame, and freeing people of evil spirits. He also preached the will of God. He told people how to live in peace with God and with each other. Jesus explained that He serves as the direct line between God and humanity and that following Him was the way to salvation. The scripture summarizes his life in Acts 10:38 by saying that He "went about doing good."
However, just as the prophecy indicated, some turned against Jesus because they saw Him as a threat to their way of life. They did not accept His claim to be the son of God and also rejected His teachings about the will of God. In fact, they hated Jesus so much that they went to the governing officials and accused Him of being a public nuisance and of seeking to overthrow the king.
4. Jesus' Death
Judas, one of Jesus' disciples, betrayed Jesus and turned Jesus in to His false accusers. The
rulers talked to Jesus and found no wrong doing, but, to satisfy the mob who wanted Jesus dead, they whipped Him as punishment for causing a public disturbance. The people were not satisfied and still called for His execution. The rulers relented and sentenced Jesus to death by crucifixion. So they nailed His hands and feet to the cross and raised the cross for Him to suffer and die shamefully in front of a crowd.
5. Jesus' Resurrection
Jesus allowed these things to happen to Him. Jesus lived a perfectly holy and righteous life in the sight of God. He broke no laws and committed no sin against God. Despite this, He was executed like a common criminal. God is just and righteous, so He could not allow Jesus'
execution to be the final word on His life. So, God raised Jesus from the dead and in exchange for His unjustified suffering, God allowed Jesus to have whatever He wanted. Jesus asked for us. He asked God to forgive us of our sins and allow Him to be our advocate. Jesus said that if we follow Him and obey His commands, that we will have peace with God both now and in the afterlife.
That is the basic context for the good news of Jesus Christ. The good news is that God loves us in spite of ourselves. Though we fall short of God's perfection and even sometimes willfully walk away from Him, God loved us enough to send Jesus to be the perfect sacrifice for the sins of the world. The only sacrifice left for us to make is our willful surrender to God. If we will turn away from sin and follow Jesus and obey His commands, our sins will be forgiven and we can spend our lives making a positive impact on this world and we will see God's face in peace in the after life.