We use the word “gospel” in many ways today.
When we want to say that something is treated as absolute, we might say, “She acts like her way is gospel.” Or, some use it to refer to certain things God might require of us: “There is a gospel of justice.”
But, how does the Bible use it?
The word simply means “good news.” Neither of the contemporary uses I mentioned above fit this biblical usage.
So, what is this news that is so good and how does the Bible speak of it?
Amongst the many explanations the Bible gives is this:
Paul says to the Corinthian church, “Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve [disciples]” (1 Cor. 15:1-5, TNIV).
The good news is that Jesus, the Christ (or Messiah), died for our sins and rose again. Nothing is more important than this. The reason it is such good news is that you and I have rebelled against God and stand rightly under judgment.
Think through your thoughts from the last sixty minutes. What got you excited? What made you mad? What irritated you? What gave you pleasure? How many of those thoughts had to do with something you wanted? Whether material or non-material. A new camera? The latest iPad?
But God requires that we love him with our entire being. How are you doing with this requirement?
God also requires that we love others as we love ourselves. How are you doing with this one?
These two requirements are what Jesus called the greatest two commandments (Matthew 22:36). But, if you know your own heart, you’ll know that you have never lived up to these requirements. And here’s the hard news: we never can… at least not on our own.
That’s where Jesus comes in. He did what we could not. God required a perfect sacrifice, a perfect substitute. How will you ever repay God for the offense of your sin? You can’t. But Jesus came to earth to pay it for you. It was the ultimate substitution and he did it entirely of his own grace.
God redeems sinners like you and me freely. We can’t earn it. We can’t boast. I am one poor begger telling other poor beggers where there is food. And what food!