By Wayne Camp
"And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature" Mk. 16:15.
My subject is set forth in the form of a question: "What is The Gospel?" There seems to be much confusion among Christians (and I use the word Christians loosely) as to what the gospel actually is. Those who hold to the "Christian" religion teach the gospel of works, bodily healing, the social gospel, etc. and still claim to preach the gospel. They really are perverting the gospel of Christ as were those who taught that circumcision is essential to salvation (Gal. 1:6-9).
These heretics bother me very much, but there is another idea that is being set forth in some preaching that also greatly alarms me. In a conference that I attended several years ago one speaker boldly proclaimed it. The speaker was strongly rebuking the preachers present for preaching the "five points" and not preaching the gospel. He strongly urged that we should leave "the five points" alone and "just preach the gospel." He even advocated that the virgin birth, the sinless life, and the death on the cross were not as important as the resurrection of Christ. He declared that the virgin birth is not part of the gospel. If one leaves the five points, as was advocated, to preach a gospel that does not include the sinfulness of man, God's gracious election unto salvation, the atonement that Christ made for the elect, the regenerating power and work of the Spirit, and the preservation and perseverance of the saved, he has an extremely watered down gospel that will save none, I fear.
The question before us is: "What Is The Gospel?" In this message we will seek a Biblical answer to this question. We will examine the definition of the gospel, the names by which the gospel is called, the explanation given of the gospel, and some declarations concerning the gospel. We will also answer some questions about the gospel.
THE DEFINITION OF THE GOSPEL
The first task that we face in this study is to find the definition of the gospel. Of what do the Scriptures speak when they refer to the gospel? Are there other gospels than the gospel of salvation set forth in the Scriptures?
The Greek word that is translated gospel in the Bible is EUAGGELION (euaggelion). It means "good news" or "glad tidings." The Hebrew counterpart has the same basic meaning.
Our English word "gospel" comes from a combination of "god" which means "good" and "spell" which means "talk." The gospel is "godspell" or "good talk." In the Scriptures it is the message concerning the salvation of the people of Christ as it has been accomplished by the blessed Trinity.
When Isaiah wrote of the ministry of John the Baptist (Isa. 40:3) he set him forth as declaring, "0 Jerusalem, that bringest good tidings, lift up thy voice with strength; lift it up, be not afraid; say unto the cities of Judah, Behold your God!" (Isa 40:9).
As he wrote of those who proclaim the gospel Isaiah said: "How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth!" (52:7). It appears that God reigning was a part of the good tidings Isaiah had in mind, or rather, God had in mind when he inspired Isaiah to write this. God reigning refers to Divine sovereignty. Is it unreasonable to suggest that, according to Isaiah, the gospel would include the sovereignty of God"Thy God reigneth!"? Paul quoted Isaiah in his letter to the Romans saying. "As it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things! (Rom. 10:15).
Dr. John Gill says that the gospel "is called the gospel of salvation . . . because it gives an account of Christ, the author of salvation; of his appointments to it; of his mission, and coming into the world, to effect it; and of his actual performance of it; of his being the able, willing, and only Saviour; and of the salvation itself, as great and glorious, perfect and complete, spirited and everlasting; and because it describes also the persons that share in it, sinners, sensible sinners, and who believe in Christ; and who, according to the declaration of it, shall certainly be saved, and because it is not only the means of revealing, but of applying salvation; for it is to them that believe the power of God unto salvation. It is called the gospel of the grace of God because the several doctrines of it are doctrines of grace, or which exhibit blessings as flowing from the grace of God; as election, redemption, pardon, justification, adoption, and eternal life; and particularly, that salvation, from first to last, is all of grace, and not of works, Eph. 2:8. It is called the gospel of peace . . . because it relates the steps taken in council and covenant; to form the scheme of man's peace with God; to lay the foundation of it; and to bring it about; hence called the council of peace, and the covenant of peace, Zech. 6:13; Isa. 54:10. And also relates the actual making of it; by whom, and by what means; by Christ, who is our peace; by the chastisement of our peace being laid upon him; by the shedding of the blood on the cross; and by his suffering death. It is called the gospel of the kingdom, because it treats both of the kingdom of grace here, showing wherein it lies; and of the kingdom of glory hereafter, pointing out the proper meetness for it, regeneration by the Spirit of God; and the right and title to it, the righteousness of the Son of God; and that itself, as the Father's free gift to his people, flowing from his good will and pleasure" (Body of Divinity, P. 373).
As is seen in Dr. Gill's definition of the gospel, it involves much more than three simple factsthat Christ died, that he was buried, and that he arose againwhich are so often set forth as the fullness and substance of the gospel. This error is based on an over-simplification of Paul's declaration in I Cor. 15:1-4. It is my purpose in this message to establish the fact that the gospel is the good news of all that pertains to Christ, his life, death, burial, resurrection, his finished work on earth, his present ministry of advocate and intercessor, and future ministry and works such as coming again and changing our vile bodies and fashioning them like unto his glorious body.
THE NAMES OF THE GOSPEL
One of the best ways that I have found in this study to come to a knowledge of the gospel in its fullness is to examine the names by which it is called. It is not by chance or accident that the gospel is called by various names. When the Holy Spirit inspired a writer to refer to the "gospel of Christ," the "gospel of grace," the "gospel of peace," and so on, there was a purpose and significance to that. God did not just use those expressions or names to fill space!
THE GOSPEL OF THE KINGDOM
From the earliest period in New Testament times the gospel is called the gospel of the kingdom. "Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom" (Mat. 4:23). Mark records this, "Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying the time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent ye, and believe the gospel". Mk. 1: 14-15).
Surely no one will argue that the gospel of the kingdom of God is a different gospel to the one which Paul preached. Did not he pronounce a terrible anathema upon any that dared preach any other gospel? "But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed" (Gal. 1:8). In the event any think that Paul had made a slip of the pen he repeats his declaration.
"As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed" (Gal. 1:9). Paul clearly held, by Divine inspiration, that there is one gospel, no more! Any other gospel is a satanically inspired gospel.
What then is the inference of the name the gospel of the kingdom of God? It infers that there is a reign of grace. Divine grace reigns and has a kingdom over which it reigns. It is good news and glad tidings to the convicted sinner that is doomed by the law when we declare to him that grace reigns. "For if by one man's offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ . . . so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord" Rom 5:17, 21). When Jesus came and began his ministry he "was not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel" (Matt. 15:24; 10:6). The religious leaders of Israel did not preach pure grace, but did "bind heavy burdens, and grievous to be born and lay them upon men's shoulders," while they themselves would "not move them with one of their fingers" (Matt. 23:4). In their preaching of works they were shutting up the kingdom of heaven and Jesus declared "Ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer them that are entering to go in" (Matt. 23:13).
Jesus came to his lost sheep in the house of Israel as they struggled with these burdens and announced: "The Kingdom of God' is at hand." He preached "the gospel of the kingdom of God."
He was saying to them: "Grace reigns! I, who am full of grace and truth (Jn. 1:14), walk in your midst. My Father's throne is a throne of grace (Heb. 4:16). Throw off this yoke of bondage and take my yoke upon you for I am meek and lowly and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light" (Matt. 11:28-30). Grace reigns in God's kingdom for his throne is a throne of grace and his kingdom is a kingdom of grace. "Repent ye and believe the gospel, the good news of the kingdom where sovereign grace reigns."
THE GOSPEL OF CHRIST
Paul declared, "I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth" Rom. 1:16). The gospel of Christ signifies that everything about Christ is good news. Everything he has accomplished and will yet do is good news. One will begin to get a little grasp of the full import and extent of the gospel of Christ when he realizes that the entire book of Mark is divinely designated as the "gospel of Christ." The very first sentence which the Holy Spirit inspired Mark to write was: "The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God" (Mk. 1:1).
THE BIRTH OF CHRIST GOOD NEWS
Sometimes one hears a brother declare that the birth of Christ is not a part of the gospel. Yet, in the announcement of his birth, Joseph was instructed: "And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins" (Matt. 1:21). He was Jesus the Saviour when he was born! That is good news! That is gospel truth!
Shortly after he was conceived in Mary's womb through the miraculous power of the Holy Ghost, Mary traveled into the hill country of Judea to see her cousin Elizabeth who carried John the Baptist in her womb at that time. When she came into the house of Zacharias and saluted Elizabeth and Elizabeth "heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost: and she spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy" (Luke 1:39-45).
That Christ had been conceived in the womb of Mary was good news; it was a part of the gospel. It was such good news that John the Baptist leaped for joy and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost. Let us not exclude such good news about Christ from the gospel of Christ.
THE HORN OF SALVATION
Before Christ was ever born he was declared to be the horn of salvation and the redeemer of his people. "Zacharias was filled with the Holy Ghost, and prophesied, saying, Blessed be the God of Israel; for he hath visited and redeemed his people, and hath raised up an horn of salvation for us in the house of David; as he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets, which have been since the world began . . . and thou, child (John), shalt be called the prophet of the Highest: for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways; to give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of sins, through the tender mercies of our God; whereby the dayspring from on high hath visited us, to give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace" Lu. 1:67-79). I seriously doubt that anyone could convince Zacharias that the birth of Christ is not good news and gospel truth!
GOOD TIDINGS! GREAT JOY!
One of the clearest declarations of gospel truth to be found is in the angelic announcement of the birth of Jesus. When the angel of the Lord appeared to those lonely, fearful shepherds as they guarded their flocks on that glorious night of Christ's birth, "The angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings 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. (Lu. 2:10-11).
The angel's message was a gospel message. It was "good tidings of great joy!" It was gospel truth!
That holy child born in that Bethlehem stable was just as fully the Saviour when he was born as he was when he died, was buried, and rose again! That virgin-born son lying in the manger was just as qualified to be called Jesus Christ the Lord on the night of his birth as he was on the morning after his resurrection.
Look at the angelic declaration again: "Unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord." Is that not good news? Is not that gospel truth? He employs the very same word that is elsewhere translated "gospel" when he calls this announcement "good tidings." It is good news! It is good news of the Saviour's birth!
"MINE EYES HAVE SEEN THY SALVATION"
When Jesus was eight days old he was circumcised and officially named (as was Jewish custom). "His name was called JESUS, which was so named of the angel before he was conceived in the womb" (Lu. 2:21). Shortly afterwards he was brought to the temple. Simeon, a saved man who believed the gospel as it had been set forth in the Old Testament, had been assured by the Holy Spirit that he would not die until he had seen the Lord's Christ. On the day that Jesus was brought by his mother to the temple, the Holy Spirit led Simeon into the temple also.
When Simeon came into the temple and saw Jesus he took him up in his arms and blessed God, and said, "Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace according to thy word: For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel" (Lu. 2:21-35).
To Simeon, the Babe held in his arms was as much the Saviour as he would be when held on the cross by the nails driven by the Roman soldiers. The birth of the Lord's Christ was good news and gospel truth which Simeon had long before believed.
REDEMPTION IN JERUSALEM
An eighty-four year old believer in Christ and his gospel was also in the temple on that day. She too recognized that the Saviour had been born and was in the temple. She gave thanks to the Lord also that the redeemer had been born. She proclaimed the news to other saved Jews "that looked for redemption in Jerusalem" (Lu. 2:38). It was good news to her and to those to whom she spoke of him.
Before passing from this aspect of the gospel I would declare to our readers that I detest the Pagan holiday Saturnalia which has been pawned off on much of the "Christian" world as the mass of Christ and the time of his birth. On the other hand I fear that in our zeal to reveal the truth about this pagan holiday wearing a Christian mask, we just may have relegated the good news of Christ's wondrous birth to a place of unimportance. Have we, in our effort to destroy a pagan practice among Christians, committed the even more serious error of eliminating the glorious gospel truth, the good tidings of the birth of the Saviour, from our gospel message?
THE SINLESS LIFE OF CHRIST GOOD NEWS
Is the sinless life of Jesus Christ to have a place in our gospel message? If it doesn't then our gospel is not complete. It was the holy, sinless life of Jesus Christ that qualified him to be our Saviour. "For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens; who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people's" (Heb. 7:26-27). The cleansing power of the blood of Christ lies in the fact that he, "through the eternal Spirit offered himself WITHOUT SPOT to God" (Heb. 9:14).
When we read the gospel according to Isaiah we read of the sinlessness of Christ. "He had done no violence, neither was any deceit found in his mouth" (Isa. 53:9), was the message. Again he recorded, "By his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquity" (Isa. 53:11).
Paul preached the good news of the sinlessness of Christ that made it possible for sinners to have his righteousness imputed to their account. "For he hath made him to be, sin for us who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him" (II Cor. 5:21). It is certainly good news and gospel truth that Christ was sinless.
The sinlessness of Christ, the fact that he is a "lamb without spot or blemish" was included in the gospel as preached by the apostle Peter. The death on the cross, the burial in the grave, and the resurrection from the dead would be to no avail if he were not "the just dying for the unjust" and the sinless bearing the sins of the sinful.
THE MIRACULOUS WORKS OF CHRIST GOOD NEWS
Before objecting to the miraculous works of Christ being declared a part of the gospel of Christ, the reader is encouraged to consider a few Biblical facts about Christ's miracles. They served many purposes but all were designed to set forth the fact that he was the Christ and the Saviour of sinners. John 20:31 But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.
The very first miracle of Jesus "manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him" (Jn. 2:11). Peter declared, Acts 2:22 Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know.
The healing of a "certain man" at the pool Bethesda was designed, among other things, to set forth the sovereignty of Christ in the bestowal of his favors. Though there was "a great multitude of impotent folk, of blind, halt, and withered" (Jn. 5:1-9), Jesus, as far as the record is concerned, healed that one man only out of all that were in need of healing. He ask no other, "Wilt thou be made whole?" When the Jews sought to kill Jesus for healing this man on the Sabbath, Jesus, among other things, set forth his sovereignty in these words, "For as the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them; even so the Son quickeneth whom he will" (Jn. 5:21).
The raising of Lazarus from the dead was designed to teach a very great lesson about Christ. He would show that he had the keys of death and the grave. He declared "I am the resurrection and the life" (Jn. 11:25-26).
The miracles of Christ were designed to cause men to believe on him and be saved. "And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name" (Jn. 20:30-31).
It is interesting that the preaching of the gospel has the same purpose as the recording of Christ's miracles hadinstrumentally producing the faith that results in salvation. Faith is a gift of God imparted in regeneration but is never produced without the instrument of the word of God. "How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe on him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach except they be sent? As it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring good tidings of good things! So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Rom. 10:14-17). Does this not strongly indicate that the miracles of Jesus have an important place in the gospel that we preach?
DEATH OF CHRIST GOOD NEWS
Certainly, none will deny that the death of Christ is included and should occupy a very important place in our gospel preaching. It is good news that Christ died for our sins. Every aspect of the death of Christ must be considered an important part of our evangelistic proclamations.
It is good news and gospel truth that the death of Christ was no after-thought with God. One learned Baptist preacher whom I know once prayed in my presence, "Lord, we thank you that about two thousand years ago you decided to send your Son into the world to die for our sins." I have good tidings of great joy for you, Dear Reader. Christ's death was not decided upon only a mere 2,000 years ago. If you can, cast your mental tents back into the eternal ages when there were no seas or mountains, when there was no earth or planets, when as yet none of the great constellations had been spoken into existence. Come back to a time when there existed only three co-eternal, co-equal, co-existent Persons who compose the Triune Godhead. As they counsel with and among themselves it is ordained, determined and predestined that Christ, the second Person of the Godhead will come to die for the sins of a yet uncreated people. "We speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory: which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it they would not have crucified the Lord of glory" (I Cor. 2:7-8). 1 Peter 1:18-20 Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; 19 But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: 20 Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you.
When we preach the good news of the death of Christ we should declare the good news that it transpired precisely as predetermined and predestined before the foundation of the world. There were no slip-ups, changes, or substitutions. There were no foul-ups, bleeps, or bloopers. They tried to kill him ahead of the Divine schedule "but no man laid hand on him because his hour was not yet come" (Jn. 7:30). At Nazareth they tried to kill him in a different manner but could not. They "thrust him out of the city, and led him to the brow of the hill whereon their city was built, that they might cast him down headlong. But he passing through the midst of them went his way" (Lu. 4:29-30).
Every minute detail of the death of Christ was predestined in eternity. When all was fulfilled as planned and purposed, the church at Jerusalem could truthfully pray, "For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, for to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done" (Acts 4:27-28).
The good news of the substitutionary death of Christ was very much the subject of the prophets. "To him give all the prophets witness," (Acts 10:43). Of all the prophets, Isaiah probably gives the most detailed description and exposition of the death of Christ (See Isa. 53:1-12). But, remember that all the prophets gave witness to the coming of Christ and his great work of redemption.
DIED FOR A SPECIFIC PEOPLE
The Bible does not leave us to wonder about the objects of Christ's atoning death. "He shall save his people from their sins," the angel had declared (Mat. 1:21). "Thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him," declared Jesus in his high priestly prayer (Jn. 17:2). As he unfolded the gospel of his atoning death Jesus declared, "I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep." Again he said, "I lay down my life for the sheep" (Jn. 10:11, 15).
Though they are his sheep they are without strength, helpless and ungodly in their natural state (Rom. 5:6). It is good news that God commendeth his love toward us, his sheep, and while we were yet sinners "Christ died for or us."
THE BURIAL AND RESURRECTION GOOD NEWS
I have been in the tomb that many believe to be the tomb in which Jesus was buried. On one occasion (the first of three) a couple of superstitious people (preachers at that) in the group enthusiastically remarked: "Oh, can't you just feel his presence in here." Without thinking I said to them: "He is not here, he is risen. Why seek ye the living among the dead?" (Lu. 24:4-6).
I do not know if that was truly the tomb of Jesus but I do know that wherever that tomb is his body will not be found there. Praise the Lord, the tomb is now empty! Let us herald the good news to sinners everywhere.
INTERCESSORY WORK OF CHRIST GOOD NEWS
Another glorious and blessed aspect of gospel truth is the fact of the intercessory work of Christ. It is good news that "we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous" (I Jn. 2:1). It is wonderful news that Christ "is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us" (Rom. 8:34). It is good news and good tidings that "he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them" (Heb. 7:26).
SECOND COMING GOOD NEWS
In this day of perilous times there is hope. We can trumpet forth the good news that Jesus is coming again. "If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself" (Jn. 14:3). "Ye are saved by hope," and the hope of every child of God is "that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ" (Rom. 8:25; Titus 2:13).
Before proceeding to our next thought (which will have to wait for the next issue) I must pose this question: "Is there anything about Christ that could be shown to not be a part of and essential to the gospel of Christ?"
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Last updated on Friday, March 04, 2011