What is the Gospel?

By Christopher Hunt

April 17, 2024

What is the gospel? When someone talks about the gospel, they’re most often talking about the gospel of salvation or the gospel of Jesus Christ. The word gospel means good news and refers to the good news of God’s forgiveness of our sins through the death of Jesus Christ on the cross and his resurrection from the dead. The apostle Paul summed it up this way: “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). Jesus, himself, proclaimed this good news:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him (John 3:16-17, emphasis added).

If there can be any better news than being saved from an eternity separated from God, it is this: when we believe, we enter a restored relationship with God right now. The Holy Spirit makes his home within us, drawing us into life with Jesus Christ now and forever more (1 Corinthians 3:16, Colossians 1:27).

Why do we need the gospel?

In the beginning of the Bible, the first two humans, Adam and Eve, after being tempted by the devil, chose to disobey God by doing the one thing he had told them not to do (Genesis 3:1-7). That sin broke their relationship with their Creator; it meant that they could no longer enter God’s perfect presence—sin cannot come near the absolute goodness of God. It also meant that when they died, their souls would not go to God, but would be kept away from him. That’s what hell is: eternal separation from God. Sadly, their sin not only set them apart from God, but it made all the people who would come after them sinful as well. Paul put the problem this way:

There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:10-12, 23).

But in his love for Adam and Eve and all humanity that would follow, God didn’t let the story end there. The juice of the forbidden fruit was still sticky on their chins when God declared that he would make a way for his people to be restored to him. Cursing the serpent (the devil), God said, “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel” (Genesis 3:15, emphasis added). Here begins the great theme of the Old Testament of the Bible: God sets apart the people of Israel and from them he raises up a Savior, or Messiah, for the whole world (Isaiah 9:6-7, 53:5-6).

The gospel revealed through Jesus Christ

The first four books of the New Testament (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, known collectively as the gospels) make the irrefutable case that this Savior appeared in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. A slew of Old Testament prophecies described the character and mission of the Messiah (for example, Isaiah 53) along with the signs of his coming, like the ones in Isaiah 7:14. The Christmas story revealed that Jesus was born of the virgin Mary and conceived by the Holy Spirit and that he would save his people from their sins (Matthew 1:20-21). The gospels go on to proclaim at length that Jesus is the Son of God (John 1:14) and the Messiah (John 4:25-26, Luke 4:16-20).

Jesus shared the gospel as he taught the people, healed those who were sick or had disabilities, and even raised others from the dead. On one such occasion, he said, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die” (John 11:25-26). He also made it clear that the only way to have eternal life was to believe in him: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). Jesus also affirmed that the gospel was better news than anyone could imagine: Not only would those who believe have everlasting life, but they would also immediately enter a restored relationship with God the Father through Jesus Christ. Jesus promised the Holy Spirit would live in those who believed, advocate for them, and “teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you” (John 14:26).

Jesus went to the cross to pay the price for our sins: “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). He did it because God loves us: “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

Receiving and believing the gospel

Only God knows who will hear Christ’s gospel of salvation and believe (Ephesians 1:4-6). Even the ability to believe is a gift from God given through the Holy Spirit, who enables us to hear and believe the gospel (1 Corinthians 2:14-16). As Christ’s disciples we’re called to share his good news with everyone, trusting the Holy Spirit to do the work of helping someone believe. In his letter to the Romans, Paul talks about what it means to believe:

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame” (Romans 10:9-11).

This is the good news, this is the gospel. In trusting Christ as Savior for the forgiveness of our sins, we receive eternal life from God and we also receive the Holy Spirit for eternal life with God, effective immediately. There are no magic words to say, no one specific prayer to pray, and no particular rituals to perform (although many later affirm their new faith by being baptized) to accept Christ as your Savior. It starts by believing that God loves and accepts you, no matter who you are or what you’ve done. Then by admitting that you, like every other human being, are a sinner and regret your sins. Finally, by receiving God’s forgiveness and grace, commit to putting your sins behind you and live your life in gratitude to God.

To feel some doubt is normal. God invites us to bring our doubts to him. Jesus promises us that he does not leave us alone in the hardships of this life (John 16:33) but promises to always be with us: “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).

Would you like to accept Jesus Christ as your Savior? Visit “How to Become a Christian.”

If you would like to explore more about the gospel, check out these resources from Today and our sister programs at ReFrame Ministries.

Studying the Apostles’ Creed is a great way to learn more about the gospel and what Christians believe:

Jesus Saves is a series of 30 daily devotions about all that Jesus did to save us from our sin and give us eternal life.

Say Yes to Being the Bride of Christ is an article from Family Fire and likens receiving the gospel to being a bride stepping into a new loving relationship.

“God’s Big Story!” is a fun Bible study from Kids Corner that provides an overview of the Bible and unpacks the theme of God’s love for his people through his Son Jesus.

About the author — Christopher Hunt

Chris loves to see God transform lives through the gospel. Prior to joining ReFrame, he served with the global ministry of Awana. Chris also served for 16 years in the U.S. Navy and Navy Reserve. He studied history at Alma College and has earned a Master's degree at Northern Illinois University. He blogs frequently for Today and all of our ReFrame Ministries sister programs. He and his wife have five children and serve as leaders in their church.

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