In simple terms ‘gospel’ means ‘good news’. When God’s Old Testament people Israel were in captivity in Babylon and God announced to them that he was going to release them and bring them back to their homeland, that was good news (Isa 40:9; 52:7; 61:1-2). When Jesus came to release people from the bondage of Satan and give them new life, that too was good news (Luke 4:16-19).

Based on facts

The gospel that Jesus Christ proclaimed was that the promises God gave to Old Testament Israel were now fulfilled in him. The promised kingdom of God had come, and salvation was available to all who would repent of their sins and trust in him for forgiveness (Mark 1:14-15; see KINGDOM OF GOD). Early Christian preachers, such as Peter, John, Stephen and Paul, preached the same message. But whereas Jesus’ preaching of the gospel was during the period leading up to his death and resurrection, the early Christians’ preaching followed his death and resurrection. They therefore laid great emphasis on Jesus’ life, death and resurrection as historical facts that no one could deny. Those facts were the basis of the gospel they preached (Acts 2:22-42; 3:12-26; 7:1-53; 13:17-41; 1 Cor 15:1-7). There is only one gospel (Gal 1:6-9). It is called the gospel of God, or the gospel of the grace of God, to emphasize that it originates in God and his grace (Acts 20:24; Rom 15:16; 1 Thess 2:2,8; 1 Tim 1:11). It is called the gospel of Christ, or the gospel of the glory of Christ, to emphasize that it comes only through Jesus Christ (Rom 15:19; 2 Cor 2:12; 4:4; 9:13). It is called the gospel of the kingdom, the gospel of salvation and the gospel of peace, to emphasize that those who believe it enter God’s kingdom and receive eternal salvation and peace (Matt 9:35; Eph 1:13; 6:15).

A message of life

Because the gospel is inseparably linked with the great truths of God’s saving work through Christ, ‘gospel’ has a meaning far wider than simply ‘news’. It refers to the whole message of salvation, and even to salvation itself (Mark 8:35; 10:29; Rom 1:1-4; 1:16-17; Eph 3:7; 1 Peter 1:25; see JUSTIFICATION; SALVATION). Through it the power of God works, bringing life to those who accept it, and destruction to those who reject it (Rom 1:16; 2 Cor 4:3; Heb 4:2). Sometimes the single word ‘gospel’ is used for the body of Christian truth, or even for the whole new way of life that comes through Jesus Christ (Rom 16:25; Phil 1:7,27). God entrusts the gospel to Christians so that they might preserve it and pass it on to others (Gal 2:7; 1 Thess 2:4; 1 Tim 1:11). Therefore, while it is God’s gospel, it becomes in a sense their gospel (Rom 2:16; 1 Thess 1:5; 2 Tim 2:8). Christians have a responsibility to spread this gospel worldwide, even though it may mean sacrificing personal desires and suffering personal hardships. They will carry out the task gladly when they appreciate what God’s love has done for them through Christ (Matt 24:14; Mark 16:15; 1 Cor 9:16,23; 2 Cor 5:14; Eph 6:19-20; 1 Thess 2:2; see EVANGELIST; MISSION).

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