When we’re hoping to understand what a word means, a dictionary is often a great place to start. But certain words require us to do more than simply read and memorize a definition. We shouldn’t be surprised, then, that when we read the dictionary definition of the word Gospel—“the message concerning Christ, the Kingdom of God, and salvation”—we’re left with more questions.
Who is this Christ? Where is His Kingdom? What is salvation? A quick search on the internet tells us Gospel comes from a Greek word that means “good news”—but what exactly is this good news?
Seeing a word used in context can often help us put the pieces together. To understand what the Gospel is (and is not), we first need to turn to the opening pages of the Bible.
“In the beginning, God created …” (See Genesis 1–2.) He created light and darkness, earth and sky, fish and birds, man and woman. He created everything, and He did so out of nothing. God looked at all of these things and saw that they were good. There was beauty, peace, and what seemed like perfection for Adam and Eve. But then they made a choice that brought about a great divide.
In Genesis 3, something called sin entered the world. Adam and Eve were tempted by the serpent and chose to disobey God’s command. This act began a cycle that continues to this day. Adam’s fallen, sinful nature has been passed along from one generation to the next. The good has been tainted. Sin abounds. And the Bible tells us that there is a great cost for our disobedience: death (Romans 6:23).
So what can be done to bridge this divide, to fix what’s clearly broken?
When we look around, we certainly see many great things in the world. Day after day, though, we are left yearning for something more. Good news seems to be outweighed by the bad. The joy of life is often drowned out by the guarantee of death.
But when we look closer at Romans 6:23, we see that sin and death do not have the final say: “The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” We have a hope, and His Name is Jesus. Even though death entered the world because of Adam’s sin, we can find everlasting comfort because of the work that was accomplished by Jesus Christ (Romans 5:17).
God came to Earth in the person of His Son, Jesus (John 1:14), who did what we could never do by living a life of perfect obedience to God the Father (Philippians. 2:8; Romans 5:19). And although He was crucified on a cross for our sins and was buried, He rose from the grave and ascended to Heaven (1 Corinthians 15:3–4; Acts 1:9–11).
God paid the price to rescue us from our sin. He graciously made a way for us to have new life, eternal life. John 3:16–17 says, “God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”
When we read these truths in the Bible, we can’t stop at intellectual assent, for the belief we read of in John 3:16 involves a choice. Saving faith requires trusting God and committing one’s life to Him alone. Has that struck you? Are you ready to make that choice? If so, there are a few simple steps you can take in response.
We first have to acknowledge that there’s something to admit—that you and I have sinned against God and could never make up for our wrongdoing. Second, we must believe that Jesus has taken on the penalty for our sins and conquered death once and for all. Finally, having placed our faith in God and committed our lives to Him, we should then consider the implications of that decision. The rest of our days will then be spent turning toward God and away from sin by the help of His Spirit. This is a transformation that touches every facet of life.
The good that was once known is gone. The bad now lingers and toils in vain. The new has come, offering us redemption. Yet, still we await something better than we can fathom …
Imagine a world with no more tears, death, pain or mourning. That’s exactly what God has promised. It will be nothing less than perfection. Adam and Eve once experienced the goodness of life in God’s presence. So, too, will all who place their faith in the Lord Jesus, for the dwelling place of God once again will be with man (Revelation 21:1–4). For now, though, we wait patiently, eagerly anticipating eternal life with Christ as we joyfully obey His commands.
So, what is the Gospel? It’s the good news that even though mankind rebelled against a holy, loving God, He still chose to send His only Son to bear our sins on the cross so that by trusting in Him, we might turn from our sinful ways and enjoy eternal life in His presence. It’s God’s free gift to us, offered out of His abundant love. Have you accepted it? ©2023 Truth for Life.
All Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version.
This article is adapted from an article originally published at blog.truthforlife.org/what-is-the-gospel. Used by permission.
Alistair Begg is the senior pastor at Parkside Church near Cleveland, Ohio. He has written several books and is heard daily on the radio program and podcast Truth For Life.