What is the gospel?

The gospel lies at the heart of the Christian faith. Yet when you ask Christians what exactly it is, we find so many different answers like:

“Being like Jesus.”

“Performing signs and wonders.”

“Healing people.”

“Living a blessed, healthy and wealthy life.”

“Helping the poor.”

“Telling people that God loves them.”

Some of these things may be good things in themselves, yet none of them are the gospel. Every single one of these things are things that we have to do.

The Greek word used for “gospel” means “good news”. In the Bible this good news is always proclaimed – it is never performed. This is an important distinction. The gospel is called “good news” simply because it is something that God has already done. If it were something for us to do, well frankly that wouldn’t be good news – it would instead be a chore or an effort – bad news!

First Corinthians 15:3-5 nicely sums up for us exactly what the gospel is:

“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, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve…”

Simply put, therefore, the gospel is what God has already done for us in Christ Jesus. Jesus came to earth as man, lived the obedient life that we couldn’t live and received the just punishment for our sins that we should have received – death on a cross.

Why is this good news for us? Our default setting is to always try and do things in order to get right with God, whether it be trying to be a good and moral person, helping the poor, or performing various spiritual techniques – whatever they may be. The reality is that any of our own attempts to get right with God will always fall short because we are fundamentally sinful and unable to truly please God on our own.

This is precisely why the gospel is good news. God came down to us in Christ and did everything necessary for us to be right with him. We play absolutely no part in our salvation – Jesus did it all through his death on the cross and his resurrection. He forgave our sins, made us right before God, restored us in relationship to our Father, sealed us with his Holy Spirit and guaranteed us eternal life in him. That’s great news! And this free gift of grace is available to those of us who receive it by faith in Jesus Christ!

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