The two-word phrase “the gospel,” is derived from the Greek word “euangelion.” Though not a commonly used phrase today, on occasion one hears its use within Western English speaking society as a metaphor that attributes the quality of truth to a particular set of assertions. While the roots of the phrase pre-exist its use in the New Testament, the quality that it denotes when it is used to qualify a grouping of ideas is derived from its use in the Bible.
Within Christianity, the phrase has been used to describe various view points as to what Christians should be doing to improve their surroundings and in so doing, working to steadily usher in the Kingdom of God on earth. However, theologically this is an incorrect premise. 2 Peter 3:10 tells the reader that the earth is destined for complete renewal, so no amount of effort on man’s part will hinder what is in store for the earth on the Day of the Lord. Other Christians take the perspective that the gospel is about loving one’s neighbour, commonly referred to as “the social gospel.” The responsibility for Christians to love their neighbour is foundational; it is one of the two core commands pronounced by Jesus, yet it is a command for the right conduct of those who have become children of God, and while it is good news for those who are in need of social assistance, for those who are concerned for the environment; for social equality; for social justice, etc.; it is not the good news of The Gospel.
As communicated in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4, which is the clearest, concise and most precise explanation, The Gospel is simply:
- Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures;
- Christ was buried;
- Christ was raised to life on the third day according to the Scriptures.
Romans 10:9 communicates that if a person declares with their mouth that Jesus is Lord and believes in their heart that God raised him from the dead, that they will be saved. While The Gospel is simple and it can be stated in a few short phrases, man’s comprehension and subsequent response to it requires the supernatural intervention of God’s Holy Spirit, who grants the gift of faith to a person, enabling them to act in accordance with Romans 10:9.
When I was 13 years old, I recognized my need for Jesus and I responded to an offer to confess and repent of my sin, declaring Jesus as my Lord, believing in His death and resurrection as the sole means by which I am forgiven. Yet, it was not until I was 26 years old and at the end of myself, that I surrendered my life to Jesus. Today, 33 years later, my awareness of my need of Jesus and my gratefulness for the salvation that I have received continues to increase. Without Jesus, I am lost: spiritually, emotionally, and psychologically. With Jesus I have hope: hope for today and for tomorrow; hope for my family and for those whom God has allowed me to have influence with; and I have hope for eternity.
I have heard it said that the Church is the hope of the world, and while the phrase sounds good, I am not sure of its theological soundness. My understanding is that The Gospel is the hope of the world, and the Church has been assigned the task of communicating it to the world. The Church is the chosen tool of God with which He communicates His message of hope and He has given it clear, concise and precise orders – “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” God has not given this directive to anyone else, so the hope that the world needs will come only from the church. As such the church must be focused on communicating The Gospel. Though there are many “good” activities that the church could be involved in, if the communication of The Gospel is not its primary intent, if The Gospel does not permeate everything that the Church does, then it is abdicating its primary purpose and the world is lost.