The Gospel and Me
The word “gospel” means “good news.” It was originally godspel in Old English and was thought to mean “sayings that are good” or “God’s sayings,” one or the other. Either definition fits perfectly the word from which the English “gospel” is translated. In the Greek it is euangelion, “good news.”
The gospel is the single most important piece of news in the history of mankind. It contains not only the fact that God has provided for man’s salvation, but the means necessary to make that salvation possible. It denotes the grace of God (Jn. 3:16), then tells how man’s partaking of that grace through his obedience to the dictates of the gospel (Rom. 1:16) can bring about the salvation of his soul.
For many years, preachers of the gospel have divided the gospel into three distinct areas: facts to be believed; commands to be obeyed; and promises to be received. While this definition may appear to be somewhat simplistic, it is actually very accurate. Let’s look at it for a minute.
Facts to be believed. The gospel message introduces one to Jesus Christ. It begins with the creation by God and ends with the salvation by God. Everything in the Old Testament points, in some way or the other to Jesus’ coming, His provisions for man’s salvation in the New Testament. The facts of His birth, life, and teachings are comprised in the so-called “gospel accounts,” Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. The facts to be believed concern not only his life and teachings, but, more importantly, His death, burial, and resurrection. Before any salvation is possible for a man, he must believe sincerely the facts of the gospel message.
Commands to be obeyed. God’s salvation is—and always has been—conditional. While Christ died for all men’s sins (again, Jn. 3:16), all men must meet the conditions He has stipulated in order to obtain that salvation. “Except ye believe that I am He, ye shall die in your sins” is a condition which must be met before there is salvation in the gospel. But that’s not the end of the matter: repentance, confession, and baptism or also commanded by Christ and are necessary conditions for salvation from sin (see Lk. 13:3; Rom. 10: 10-17; Matt. 28:18-20; Mk. 16:15-16; Acts 22:16; Rom. 6:3-5). Even after achieving what Jesus refers to as being “born again” (Jn. 3:3-5), there must be an effort to grow into the kind of person He has described as fit for His salvation. Peter says, “but grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 18); and he warns, furthermore, that diligence be taken to make sure of the salvation, for, says he, “the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about seeking whom he may devour (1 Pet. 5:8). And so the commands for initial salvation must be met and then care taken so that one does not lose that which Jesus has made possible.
Promises to be received. The promises in the gospel are certainly good news. First, there is the assurance that forgiveness of sins and salvation. Next, there is the assurance of being begotten to a “living hope,” to “an inheritance that is incorruptible and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven…” (1 Pet. 1:3-5). The promise of our eternal redemption is further enhanced by the assurance of the resurrected body, the final act of God’s redemption. This corruptible body will put on incorruptibility and then “death will be swallowed up in victory” (1 Cor. 15: 54). Truly “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1).
How wonderful is that gospel. How phenomenal the facts we believe, how effective the commands to be obeyed, and how marvelous the promises to be received. How dare man tamper with it or change it in any way!