What Is The Gospel
by Doyle D. Dewberry
The crucifixion of Christ appeared to be the greatest miscarriage of justice the world has ever witnessed, but the purpose of it was that the sins of God's people were being punished in Him to the end that His people might be saved. This is the good news of the Gospel; He came to save His people from their sins (Matt 1:21). While it appeared He was dying at the wicked hands of men yet we are told He was delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God (Acts 2:23) He hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him (2 Cor 5:21)
What must we know of the Gospel? Only that which the scriptures teach us! While the Gospel was preached to Abraham, yet it is said to be a mystery withheld in the past but presently being revealed: (Rom 16:25-26)(Eph 6:19). The Gospel was promised by the prophets; Isaiah 53 is replete with the acknowledgement one was coming to put away the sin of God's people. It was announced by the forerunner, John the Baptist, and continued by the Lord Himself after His victory over Satan. The disciples began to preach it, and on the day of Pentecost, at the advent of the Holy Spirit, it was officially put into action at the great outpouring of His power. Paul, in Romans, picks up the gauntlet and tells us of its present day power, the power of God unto salvation (1:16), and calls it my Gospel. Thus it continues to this day, and will continue unto the coming of our Blessed Lord.
Oddly enough there is not much written by noted theologians concerning the true nature of the Gospel. It is mentioned mostly in passing and that by name only without much explanation. Very few within my library have anything to say of it by way of teaching what it means. There seems to be much preaching of it from the average pulpit (that I am more familiar with) which is usually no more than another gospel which is not the gospel (Gal 1:6). Perhaps it is not popular in its true form as it is more discriminating than most hearers like to hear. Our so-called "growth oriented" churches seek to be more man-pleasing to all rather than doing all things for the elect's sake as our apostle Paul. Such can result in much compromise in the preaching of another Gospel based on the works of human derived faith rather than that of said to be the gift of God (Eph 2:8,9) In the estimation of this poor pilgrim, this is not the good news of the Gospel. It is no more than a perversion of the Gospel of Christ (Gal 1:7), and man is warned of being accursed who preach otherwise (Gal 1:8).
Our Lord, before His ascension into heaven, commanded his disciples to go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature (Mark 16:15). Paul said the command had been fully carried out when he declared it had been preached to every creature under heaven (Col 1:23) and thus has been already fulfilled. Paul surely meant it had been preached to everyone who would not exclude himself from hearing it. And then it is still being proclaimed to a lesser degree today, and hopefully will be preached unto the end.
Herein we propose to explain: What is the Gospel? It is a message, a good message, a message of glad tidings, one bearing good news. It began with the preaching of the kingdom, that it was near, and the kingdom we see realized at the ascension of the resurrected Christ where He is seated on His throne at the right hand of the Father. The gospel speaks of how God's sinful people attain righteousness unto salvation which was accomplished on the cross by our Blessed Savior, but was raised from the dead for our justification. It is Jesus coming to save His people from their sins, which was promised to our father Abraham, and foretold by the prophets. It is to be proclaimed, and is the means for God calling out His elect people from the world.
(6) FOLD SCRIPTURAL EXPLANATION OF THE TRUE GOSPEL:
I - The Gospel is the Message of Good News:
The word itself (euaggeliov) is derived from a combination of "good" and "message". Some have used such to arrive at "good news" which it is. You will notice the form of the word for "angel" (aggelos) which is used of both earthly "messengers" of the church, Rev 2-3, and heavenly "messengers" of which "angel" is a transliteration. This combination word (eu-aggeliov is translated "Gospel" or as we should understand "a message of good news." This applies only to those for whom it is good news, for if any reject the Gospel it is certainly not good news to them, but a curse by which they will be judged (Rom 2:16). John Gill tells us the meaning of the literal word Gospel.
Our English word gospel is of Saxon derivation; in which language spel signifies speech; and so gospel is either good speech which carries in it the same idea with the Greek and Hebrew words; or God's speech, which he has spoken by his Son, by his prophets, and by his ministers; and is the voice of God the Son, the voice of Christ speaking in his ministers; and the voice of the Holy Ghost also (Body Of Divinity, p.373).
The Gospel then falls on the ear of the sinner as a message of good news if believed and obeyed. We now consider the first-time message preached in the New Testament concerning the Gospel.
II - The Gospel is the Good News of the Kingdom of Christ:
When the Lord Jesus was born in the manger, the angel of the Lord appeared unto shepherds abiding in the field, and the glory of the Lord shone all around them, causing them to be very frightened, and rightly so. Thus it was said unto them,
And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you GOOD TIDINGS (euaggelizomai) of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord (Luke 2:10-11)
The birth of our Lord Jesus Christ was certainly a message of good news by the angel of the Lord. The angel had previously spoken to Mary to inform her of her coming Son, and said of Him,He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him THE THRONE of his father David (Luke 1:32).
It was then preached by John the Baptist, who was a messenger sent to prepare the way of the Lord. He preached, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand (near) (Matt 3:2). Mark said it was the beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God (Mark 1:1). The same message was preached also by our Lord who said: Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand (near) (Matt 4:17). Some make much to do about the term kingdom of heaven though it is used interchangably with kingdom of God, for Mark uses kingdom of God for the same message which Jesus preached and written kingdom of heaven (Mark 1:15).
Now it must be admitted that Jesus foreknew all things. Some have sought to postpone the kingdom because they do not understand the nature of Christ's kingdom. They feel it is a carnal kingdom as the Jew expected, and when they do not see such, place it in a future dispensation after Christ's return. But the word of our Lord was: it is at hand (literally "near"). It would be the most deceitful thing one could say of our Lord's preaching if it were not so. Here is the "good news" of the kingdom (which one enters by the new birth) which the people are told is at hand if it were not at hand, and thus is not good news even to those who believe because it is postponed to an age in which they of the Church have no part. Such change demeans our God who is unchangable in His purpose for His people, and the people were given a false message.
But the "good news" of the kingdom was that it was near, and according to Peter in the book of Acts was fulfilled when our Lord ascended into heaven and was seated at the right hand of the Father which we are told is the kingdom promised to David fulfilled in Christ (Acts 2). The good news of the kingdom is that that kingdom is presently in force, and His people are being presently translated from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light. That is the good news; the Gospel of the kingdom, and Jesus is our King presently ruling on the earth from heaven by His Spirit. It is His will being done on earth as it is in heaven. The kingdom is not meat and drink as in a carnal earthly kingdom, but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost (Rom 14:17). As the writer of Hebrews proclaimed we are receiving (present tense) a kingdom which cannot be moved (12:28). And when this age ends, and our Lord returns we are told, Then cometh the end (it is not the beginning of the present reign with Jesus co-reigning with the Father as David, but the end) when he shall have delivered up the kingdom unto God, even the Father, when he shall have put down all rule and authority and power. For he must reign, (present tense) till he hath put all enemies under his feet (1 Cor 15:24-25). He is presently King of kings, and Lord of lords (Rev 17:14; 19:16). We shall next consider how the Gospel is enjoyed in salvation.
III - The Gospel is the Good News of a Declared Righteousness:
Paul, in the book of Romans, stated he was not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth, to the Jew first, also to the Greek (a Gentile) (Rom 1:16). As in Paul's day, so in ours, there was a stigma associated with the Gospel by the world. But let the world so mutter to themselves - the Gospel is the good news of salvation for poor lost sinners, and such require the great power of God to save. To those quickened from their spiritual deadness and inability, it is the "good news" of salvation. And how does it come down to man? By the grace of God He has declared all those who believe to be justified in His sight. For Paul adds: For therein is the righteousness of God revealed.. (v. 17) (See Rom 3:21-22). The good news is one does not stand before a holy, righteous God in his own righteousness (for he has none), but through faith he is declared to be justified by the imputation of the righteousness of Christ. If man was commanded to keep the law for salvation (which it was never given to do) would that be "good news"? for by the deeds of the law shall no flesh be justified in his sight (Rom 3:20). And why so? Because man is too weak in the flesh to fulfill the law for salvation! So an imputed or declared righteousness which is by faith is the only way man can be accepted in the Lord, and all was accomplished by the obedient life of our Lord in fulfilling the law, and His death and resurrection from the dead. Now that is good news for the sinner! We next show where the cross of our Savior is stated as the Gospel.
IV - The Gospel is the Good News of Christ's Death, Burial Resurrection:
The church at Corinth had many problems for which Paul wrote to instruct them more properly and help them overcome such problems. One of the worst of them was the fact that some of the brethren were denying the resurrection. After claiming the Gospel centered around the death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord, and that many prominent persons witnessed such, he asked the question: How say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? (1 Cor 15:12). If the resurrection is not so then Christ has not risen, and our faith is in vain. Paul and others, some even today, who faithfully proclaim the resurrection, are false witnesses. Worse than that, we would yet be in our sins (15:17). And what of those who have already died? Without the resurrection, there is no hope for them, because they have perished for all eternity, and the same would be true of all those (and us) who go on to die.
But, the good news of the Gospel is that Christ was raised, and as a result all those who trust Him are saved, and should they die before the Lord returns, they too will be raised along with all those who have already died. It is our hope, else if in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable (15:19). Paul had written earlier in this epistle that God had called him to preach the Gospel which is preaching the cross. He earlier said: For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness, but unto us who are saved it is the power of God (1:17-18). The good news of the Gospel is in the crucified Christ for sinners. It is the next item of good news to consider.
V - The Gospel is the Good News that Christ Jesus Came into the World to Save Sinners: 1 Tim. 1:11-16
Paul gloried in the glorious Gospel that God had entrusted to him, and had counted him faithful putting him into the ministry. He, as every other believer, knew of the blessed truth that, though he had been an enemy to God by his wicked works, God had mercy upon him. He knew, as we all know, that Jesus came into the world to save sinners of which he had been the chief. Someone has said, "The church is a tribe, and we are all chiefs - chief sinners.
There is no hope for one who does not see himself as a sinner before God, for we are told that Jesus, our Savior, came into the world to save sinners (1 Tim 1:15). The Lord Himself said that He came not to call the righteous, but sinners unto repentance (Matt 9:13). He came to seek and to save that which is lost. Not all are lost (in their own estimation), and they know not that they are poor, wretched, and condemned sinners before God, for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23). It is only the one who knows of his evil life of ungodly deeds that recognizes the good news of the Gospel wherein Christ died for the ungodly. And it appears that only the Spirit of God convinces a man of his sin as man is so corrupt of nature he cannot recognize his own corruption and sinfulness.
Ah, the blessedness when we are convinced we are sinners! It is the most valuable message one can receive, for when we know, we are not far from the kingdom. When we cannot look God in the face, but are so heavy laden that we cry out, Be merciful to me a sinner! The good news is evident when He does show mercy. It truly becomes the Gospel of peace (Eph 6:15)
What else is good news? To know that we finally persevere through the preservation of our God. Paul lauded the fellowship in the Gospel of the believers in Philippi, and said, Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it unto the day of Jesus Christ (Phil 1:5-6). Jude tells us we are sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ (v.1). This too is good news, as well as the fact that the Gospel is important to us with regard to our calling.
VI - The Gospel is the Means for God Calling out His Elect:
But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth: 14 Whereunto he called you by our Gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Thess 2:13-14).
How precious is that call! We think of Lazarus in the tomb, dead, lifeless, and corrupting. All Jesus had to say was Lazarus, come forth. But wait, how could Lazarus hear? the dead hear not! He did not say, "Lazarus, arise from the dead!" Have we forgotten the word that God quickens the dead? Remember, it is the Spirit that quickeneth, the flesh profiteth nothing! Hidden from eyes of all was the secret work of our Lord in making him alive who was dead. He could not come to Christ as we are told, Ye will not come unto me that ye might have life. We ask, how can one come if he has not life to begin with? Once we are made alive and thus have life, we can come! How we rejoice in that truth of our Lord, All that the Father giveth me shall come to me (John 6:37). And again, No man can come to me except the Father which hath sent me draw him (John 6:44). And again, No man can come unto me except it were given unto him of my Father (John 6:65). You that know the Lord, is it not good news to know that God has chosen you in Christ from before the foundation of the world? (Eph 1:4). Why men who claim to trust the Lord argue this point is beyond belief. You cannot read very many pages until you read this truth. Jesus said, You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you (John 15:16). That is good news for the child of God.
What is the aim of the proclaimer of this part of the Gospel? When there is preaching, there is a two-fold response from one's attendants. Some will be blessed with the doctrine; but not the duty, and vise versa:
Many will patiently listen to (the preaching of the Gospel to) its practical enforcements, who cannot endure its doctrinal statements - such as the sovereignty of God - his free election of his people - justification by the righteousness of Christ - the utter insufficiency of works as the ground of trust - the helplessness of man in the act of turning to God - and the indispensable need of heavenly influence to incline his heart. Many on the other hand gladly receive the more mysterious doctrines of the Gospel; while they revolt from its invitation, and stigmatize as legal, inculcations of the law as the rule of life, or of evangelical repentance and holiness. Now both these extremes proceed from the same principles proud determination to receive a part only of the counsel of God. Both need the same corrective - a full, well-proportioned, and connected display of truth - opposing the notions of self-sufficiency, without weakening the obligations to duty; enforcing these obligations, without entrenching upon the Sovereignty or the freeness of Divine grace; cutting down self-righteousness by the perfection of the work of Christ, and Antinomianism by the glory of His example. (Charles Bridges)
What is the Gospel?
1 - It is good news - not good advice, and falls on the ears of the children of God as such. This is saying that regeneration precedes response. It is not the flesh which can receive, but the born again man, who becomes spiritual by the indwelling Spirit. The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God for they are foolishness unto, neither can he know them for they are spiritual discerned. (1 Cor 2:14)
2 - It is the basis for God's judgment when one is said to either accuse or excuse one another, In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my Gospel (Rom 2:16)
3 - It is a proclaimed message to be obeyed: (Rom 10:15:16) (1 Pet 4:17) (2 Thess 1:8). The Gospel is not an option for man, but a command.
4 - It is hid to the lost by Satan's blinding: 2 Cor 4:3-4
If our Gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost, in whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them who believe not (2 Cor 4:3-4)
5 - It is a message which is not well received by religion: (John 16:2) When those blind sought healing - what was the good news? Receive thy sight! When the lame was healed - what was the good news? Take up thy bed and walk! When the dumb could not speak - what was the good news? Thou dumb spirit come out of him! When the leper sought to be healed - what was the good news? Be thou clean! When the publican prayed, God be merciful to me a sinner - what was the good news? This man went down to his house justified. When the woman taken in adultery was brought to Jesus, and her accusers sought to condemn her by stoning - what was the good news? Neither do I condemn thee. When the woman who was diseased with an issue of blood and touched His garment only - what was the good news? Be of good comfort, thy faith hath made thee whole. When the woman with a vexed daughter sought the Lord - what was the good news? Her daughter was made whole from that very hour. When the thief on the cross ask the dying Lord to remember him when He came into His kingdom - what was the good news? Today shalt thou be with in paradise. When one comes to the Lord who labors and is heavy laden - what is the good news? I will give you rest. When one given to Christ believes - what is the good news? Thou shalt be saved.
I wish the gospel were always called by its right name, Glad Tidings then we should know better what we are about. Now the offer of glad tidings is simply absurd; it is nonsense! Glad Tidings are not offered! Glad tidings are proclaimed, made known, published. How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith to Zion, thy God reigneth (Isa 52:7). This is the Gospel of the grace of God, the glad tidings of the grace of God, that salvation is all of grace; and this is the gospel to be preached to every creature (Thomas Boston).
Doyle Dewberry, formerly of Alameda, California, is a retired Pastor and author of Sovereign Grace Baptist Proclaimer, Setting Forth The Doctrines of Grace In Salvation. He can be reached by email at sovereigngrace at 5star-living.com.