The Gospel of Jesus Christ
The term "gospel" (euangelion) has the following simple meaning: "Originally denoted a reward for good tidings; later, the idea of reward dropped, and the word stood for the good news itself" (W. E. Vines, Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words). To establish the practical and full meaning of "gospel" we must study what the scriptures teach relative to the gospel. Walter Scott (Presbyterian Preacher during the "Restoration Movement") who was born October 31, 1796 in Scotland and was considered by some as one of the more analytical preachers of his day coined an expression regarding the gospel which continues to be used today. After diligent study of the gospel, Scott said the gospel consists of "facts to be believed, commands to be obeyed, and promises to be anticipated." I suggest Scott's analysis is essentially correct.
The gospel consists of facts to be believed. Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians set forth the idea of facts to be believed. The fundamental facts of the gospel are "Jesus died for our sins , he was buried, and that he rose again the third day, according to the scriptures" (I Cor. 15: 1-4). The gospel must be received and we must stand therein in order to be saved (vss. 1, 2). Water baptism is based on these essential facts of the gospel. The alien sinner becomes dead to sin (buried), is baptized into Jesus' death, and is raised from the dead (Rom. 6: 1-4). This is the meaning of "For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death " (vs. 5). This is also the liberating "form of doctrine" the Romans had received and obeyed (vss. 17, 18).
The gospel is made up of commands to be obeyed. There are commands regarding the obtaining of initial salvation and the ongoing maintaining of salvation. The non-Christian, for instance, is commanded to believe, repent, confess Christ's deity, and be baptized for the remission of sin (Jn. 8: 24, Acts 2: 38, Rom. 10: 9, 10, Acts 2: 38). The child of God is required to abstain from evil and abound in every good work (I Thes. 5: 22, Col. 1: 10). God's commandments must be obeyed and they are not grievous to those who love God (Heb. 5: 8, 9, I Jn. 5: 3).
The gospel also consists of promises to be anticipated. Every command has an associated and consequent promise whether the promise is explicit in nature or is inferred (implicit). There is the anticipation of salvation associated with belief, repentance, confession, and baptism (Acts 2: 38, 3: 19). "…be thou faithful unto death," Jesus promises the Christian, "and I will give thee a crown of life" (Rev. 2: 10)
The gospel and explanatory phrases. Another way to establish the full meaning of the gospel is to notice the explanatory phrases applied to the gospel. "The gospel of Christ" indicated the origin and connection of the gospel to Jesus (Mk. 1: 1, Rom. 1: 16). There is the "gospel of the kingdom," "gospel of the grace of God," and "the gospel of peace" (Matt. 4: 23, 9: 35; Tit. 3: 5, Acts 20: 24; Eph. 6: 15). The expression, "gospel of your salvation" indicates the presence and instrumentality of the gospel relative to the enjoyment of salvation (Eph. 1: 3).
The nature of Jesus' gospel. The Jerusalem gospel does not even resemble the common social gospel of fun and frolic of our day. Regarding what matters in the Kingdom Paul penned, "For the Kingdom of God is not meat and drink " (Rom. 14: 17). The gospel has transforming ability (I Cor. 1: 18-21, 2 Cor. 5: 17). The gospel is revealing and didactic (2 Tim. 1: 7-10). The First Century gospel is pure and we have the charge enjoined on us to maintain its purity (2 Cor. 4: 2, I Pet. 2: 2). In this vein, we are not to change the gospel in any way (Gal. 1: 6-9, Rev. 22: 18, 19). The gospel is also aggressive in its essential nature (Jude 3, 2 Tim. 4: 2).
The practical value of the gospel. As we have already seen, the gospel is God's power unto salvation (Rom. 1: 16). The gospel tells us how to live and condemns us when we sin (Gal. 2: 14). The gospel contains the remedy for guilt (forgiveness, Acts 2: 38, I Jn. 1: 7-10). The gospel teaches healthy self-examination (2 Cor. 13: 5). Furthermore, the gospel instructs us regarding how to avoid worry (Matt. 6: 34, 11, Phili. 4: 6).
Man's responsibility regarding the gospel. We are to believe the gospel, obey it, and be not ashamed of it (Rom. 10: 16, I Pet. 4: 17, Rom. 1: 16). We are to teach the gospel and guard against corruption (Phili. 2: 16, I Tim. 6: 20). Moreover, we must hold fast the gospel and live in such a way as it becomes the gospel (I Cor. 15: 1, 2, Phili. 1: 27, 21).
In conclusion, the typical abbreviated definition of the gospel (simply undemanding good news and all man has to do is have a passive faith, faith only) is flagrantly false. Those, even in the Lord's church, who are attempting to reduce the gospel to only promises to be unconditionally received, are presenting another gospel than the Jerusalem gospel (Gal. 1: 6-10). They are placating the selfish demands of the hearers who want a sacrifice and cost free religion! (See 2 Tim. 4: 1-5.) Indeed, the gospel contains the good news of a Savior who loved us and died for us and offers us salvation here and hope of heaven hereafter. However, the gospel also has attendant conditions and requirements. Perhaps this is why we read, "But they have not all obeyed the gospel " (Rom. 10: 16, see also 2 Thes. 1: 6-9). (To study related material click on, "The Parable of the Sower and Man's Responsibility.)