“…That Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures.” 1 Corinthians 15:4
I was asked recently if I knew what the Gospel is. It seemed like an easy question, and maybe you think so too. It seems rather apparent the Gospel is all about Jesus dying on a cross and rising again to save us from sin and death. This is the Good News, right?
If you answered as I did, then you’re right, but you’re not completely right. Like everything in the Bible, there’s more to it than you might think.
Let’s peel back the pages of the Bible and explore what the Gospel fully is.
The Life of Jesus
We are correct when we say the Gospel is a story of Jesus’ life. But, it’s about more than just His life. The Gospel is also about His death and resurrection and what it means for us. In other words, it’s Jesus’ offer of salvation through His sacrificial work on the cross.
The Gospel and Good News naturally include salvation. Both Peter and Paul in the New Testament preached it as a standard theme every time they spoke. When they stood up before crowds of people, their message was always the same—Jesus’ death on the cross, His resurrection and ascension to heaven, and a call to repent.
Peter and Paul and many others made it their mission to teach the people that Jesus’ offer of salvation has reconciled us with the Father and now our old selves have been crucified with Jesus. We have become new creations because of Jesus’ atoning work on the cross.
The Gospel is a message about the kingdom of God and its vindication of our sin. It comes alive in the embodiment of Jesus and points to a kingdom and its King. It also calls people to come near to God and believe who Jesus really is—the Son of God.
A call to worship moves those who believe to swear allegiance to the King, which is exactly what God is seeking from us as we see in Deuteronomy 6:4-9. These verses are called the Schema. It is a call to loyalty and allegiance to God and is the Bible’s highest commandment.
“Hear, O Israel. The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.” Deuteronomy 6:5 NKJ
A New Commandment
Jesus took the greatest commandment and added on one more important item in a conversation with a Jewish scribe.
“Jesus said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it. You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” Matthew 22:35-39 NKJ
We see this encounter with the scribe again in Mark 12:29-334, but the ending is a bit more to the point of the Gospel message. After Jesus tells the scribe the greatest commandment is to love God and love others, watch how the scribe answers the Lord and how Jesus reacts:
“’Well said, Teacher. You have spoken the truth, for there is one God, and there is no other but He. And to love Him with all the heart, with all the understanding, with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself is more than all the whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.’
‘Now when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, He said to [the scribe], ‘You are not far from the kingdom of God.’”
The message of the Gospel boils down to a kingdom that offers salvation while desiring, if not expecting, allegiance and obedience to its King by keeping the greatest commandment—love God, love others.
A Divine Announcement
Isaiah 52 announces the kingdom of God, but later in the New Testament, there is another announcement of Jesus as the Son of God, the Christ, Messiah, and Lord (Matthew 3:17).
Jesus Himself declared that He is the fulfillment of the Law, that He is the promised Messiah. His apostles continued that message throughout their ministries, even until death. Peter made the same announcement shortly after Jesus’ ascension.
“Therefore, let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” Acts 2:36 NKJ
God’s own declaration that Jesus is the Messiah and Lord of all (Mark 1:11) proves that He is not some random guy taken from the streets. He is Israel’s king, God’s Son, and His perfect representation who now sits at the right hand of the Father’s throne in sovereign authority.
Old Testament Prophecy
Oftentimes, people don’t make a connection between the Old and New Testaments. But the Old Testament indeed prophesies the coming Christ.
One of the first mentions of Jesus coming in the Old Testament is in Deuteronomy 18:18: “I will raise up for them a Prophet like you from among their brethren and will put My words in His mouth.”
We see Jesus foretold again in Isaiah 53—a popular chapter in the Bible at Christmas time—and in Isaiah 61 where Jesus is speaking directly, in Micah 4:4, Psalm 8:6, and many other places. Perhaps the best example of prophecy is in Exodus 12 where the first Passover is described.
These verses tie into New Testament verses such as 1 Corinthians 15:27 (which connects to Psalm 8:6), Galatians 3:8, and Acts 13:32-33. The angels also declared the fulfillment of prophecy in Luke 24:26-27 and verse 44 immediately after Jesus was resurrected.
One great verse summing it all up is 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 where Paul writes:
“For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures.”
Paul’s words confirm all the prophecies written about Jesus in the Old Testament, and he invites the reader to check it out for himself because it’s all “according to the Scriptures.” Because of this connection, we can now teach the Easter story from both the Old and New Testaments, and even from the Torah.
A Call to Repentance
Repentance is a crucial part of the Gospel. John the Baptist made it a central element in his trail-blazing sermons and baptisms, and many responded to it as we see in Mark 1:5.
“Then all the land of Judea and those from Jerusalem went out to [John] and were all baptized by him in the Jordan River confessing their sins.”
Paul too made repentance a major point in his preaching, sometimes at great risk (Acts 20:21), as did Peter, James, and Stephen. It’s an essential component when we share the Gospel.
True repentance, which precedes salvation, occurs when someone changes his or her opinion of God and feels regret for their sin. It takes putting their full trust in God and consciously deciding to follow Jesus day-in and day-out.
Remember, the message of the Gospel that we talked about earlier is that God desires our loyalty and allegiance to Him. We can express our loyalty to God first by repentance and then by diligently changing our minds and behaviors to be more Christ-like.
Salvation is the Gospel’s ultimate goal and primary benefit for every believer. It ends our separation from God that began in the garden with Adam and Eve and begins a new relationship, one based on the atoning work of Jesus Christ and the continual presence of the Holy Spirit.
“In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the Gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise who is the guarantee of our inheritance.” Ephesians 1:13-14
Because of Jesus’ work on the cross, all of God’s hostility and wrath is gone, we have peace with Him, and we have deliverance from sin and death. More than that, we are eternally adopted into God’s family. These precious promises should compel us to agree with Paul in Romans 1:16-17:
“For I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek, for in it the righteousness of God is revealed faith to faith.”
A Call to Faith
Ultimately, the Gospel is about faith and our calling to it through a message of hope, redemption, renewal, and salvation as prophesied in the Old Testament and fulfilled in the Lord Jesus Christ. Then, our allegiance to the kingdom and its King is displayed through our words and actions (what the Bible calls fruit).
Dr. Mark Bird, a lecturer in theology at the Ridley Melbourne College of Mission and Ministry, defines the Gospel this way, and I whole-heartedly agree:
“The Gospel is the announcement that God’s kingdom has come in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, the Lord and Messiah, in fulfillment of Israel’s scriptures. The Gospel evokes faith, repentance, and discipleship; its accompanying effects include salvation and the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
Your Part of the Gospel Story
Now that you know what the Gospel is, how can you be a part of its story?
Jesus said to simply trust and believe that He is the promised Christ (Luke 4:17-21), that He died and rose again three days later, and that He is coming again one day to reclaim His people. There’s nothing more that must be done.
Your salvation doesn’t end there, though.
One of Jesus’ final commands were to go out and “preach the Gospel to every creature (Mark 16:15).” He also commands us to “make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19).”
If you’re truly not ashamed of the Gospel as Paul was, then your discipleship will be a natural attitude. Your new life with Jesus will be evident, and your loyalty to God and faithfulness to His kingdom will be a wonderful testament of your salvation and His great love.
If you’re already a believer, make it a renewed personal goal to reach others for Christ, to lead them to salvation. And, if you’re not yet a part of the Gospel story, the invitation is waiting for you. You will find a beautiful journey of grace, joy, freedom, true life, and definitely Good News.