What Is the Gospel?
by R.C. Sproul
There is no greater message to be heard than that which we call the Gospel. But as important as that is, it is often given to massive distortions or over simplifications. People think they’re preaching the Gospel to you when they tell you, ‘you can have a purpose to your life’, or that ‘you can have meaning to your life’, or that ‘you can have a personal relationship with Jesus.’ All of those things are true, and they’re all important, but they don’t get to the heart of the Gospel.
The Gospel is called the ‘good news’ because it addresses the most serious problem that you and I have as human beings, and that problem is simply this: God is holy and He is just, and I’m not. And at the end of my life, I’m going to stand before a just and holy God, and I’ll be judged. And I’ll be judged either on the basis of my own righteousness – or lack of it – or the righteousness of another. The good news of the Gospel is that Jesus lived a life of perfect righteousness, of perfect obedience to God, not for His own well being but for His people. He has done for me what I couldn’t possibly do for myself. But not only has He lived that life of perfect obedience, He offered Himself as a perfect sacrifice to satisfy the justice and the righteousness of God.
The great misconception in our day is this: that God isn’t concerned to protect His own integrity. He’s a kind of wishy-washy deity, who just waves a wand of forgiveness over everybody. No. For God to forgive you is a very costly matter. It cost the sacrifice of His own Son. So valuable was that sacrifice that God pronounced it valuable by raising Him from the dead – so that Christ died for us, He was raised for our justification. So the Gospel is something objective. It is the message of who Jesus is and what He did. And it also has a subjective dimension. How are the benefits of Jesus subjectively appropriated to us? How do I get it? The Bible makes it clear that we are justified not by our works, not by our efforts, not by our deeds, but by faith – and by faith alone. The only way you can receive the benefit of Christ’s life and death is by putting your trust in Him – and in Him alone. You do that, you’re declared just by God, you’re adopted into His family, you’re forgiven of all of your sins, and you have begun your pilgrimage for eternity.
What Is the Gospel?
“I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course…that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God” (v. 24).
- Acts 20:24
Since Jesus’ proclamation of the Gospel involved telling people that “the kingdom of God is at hand” (Mark 1:14–15), His commissioning of the disciples to preach the same message in Matthew 10:1–15 gives us a chance to consider the Gospel and the church’s spread of it in missions and evangelism. For a better understanding of Scripture’s instruction on these topics, we will look at the biblical data using Dr. R.C. Sproul’s teaching series Evangelism and Missions.
Today we will seek to define the Gospel, which is what evangelism is all about. Our English term gospel comes from the Greek word euangelion, which literally means “good news.” In the secular Greek culture of the first century, one who delivered euangelion might be speaking of the birth of a royal heir, a victory in battle, or news about an electoral victory. The New Testament reclaims the common use of this word and invests it with divine revelation, making the Christian Gospel the most important news anyone will ever hear.
As we have said, Jesus in Mark 1:14–15 teaches that the Gospel’s core message concerns God’s kingdom, that place where His saving reign is most powerfully evident among His people. The Old Testament eagerly anticipates the inbreaking of this kingdom. When the Israelites were exiled from the Holy Land and our Creator left the temple on Mount Zion, the people of God wondered if the divine glory would ever return (Ps. 137). Yahweh spoke to His nation through Isaiah, promising them that one day He would cleanse His people of their sin, restore them to their rightful place as lords over the world, and make His salvation known to the ends of the earth (52:1–12).
Isaiah also promised that this kingdom would only come through the vicarious death of the son of David, who would bear the wrath of God against the sins of His people (52:13–53:12). Therefore, the Gospel message not only proclaims the nature of the kingdom, it also declares that trusting in Christ’s life, death, and resurrection for sinners is the only way to enter God’s kingdom (John 14:6; Rom. 1:1–6). If the Gospel is about the kingdom, it is about Jesus, for without Him there is no escape from the Father’s just condemnation.
There have been many attempts in church history to change the meaning of the biblical Gospel. Some have tried to add works as a ground for justification. Others have eliminated the wrath of the Creator and our need to be holy in His sight, reducing the Gospel to its social implications alone. However, as the Gospel is from God Himself (Rom. 1:1), we are not free to change it. Meditate on Galatians 3 today that you might know and proclaim God’s Gospel.
Passages for Further Study
2 Timothy 2:8
What Is Evangelism?
“How are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!’” (v. 15).
- Romans 10:15
Now that we have defined the Gospel, we will begin looking at what it means to spread the good news of Jesus Christ. Evangelism is the term we use to refer to the preaching of the Gospel. It comes from the same Greek word for gospel (euangelion) and means, literally, “gospeling.” When we evangelize we are “gospeling” — we are spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Evangelism is one way in which we can fulfill Christ’s call to be His witnesses (Acts 1:8). In biblical categories, witnessing involves making visible what is otherwise invisible. The reality to which we bear witness is the invisible kingdom of God, and in witnessing we strive to make the Lord’s reign visibly manifest. Among the many ways we can bear witness to Jesus is through loving our fellow believers. We reveal to the world that we belong to our Savior when we love other Christians (John 13:34–35). Celebrating the Lord’s Supper proclaims visibly the Lord’s death until He comes again (1 Cor. 11:26). In preaching the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus in our evangelism, we are also helping to make visible the invisible reality of Christ.
The distinction between witnessing and evangelism is important because it is easy to think we are evangelizing when all we are doing is bearing witness to the Savior. Giving one’s testimony is a good thing, but it is not evangelism. Testifying to the work of God in our lives bears witness to what Christ has done for us; it does not by itself give the content of the Gospel. Living a righteous life manifests the work of the Holy Spirit, but we have not evangelized our neighbor if we have never shared the Gospel with him. No one is converted by our kindness or honesty; they are brought into the kingdom of heaven only through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ (Acts 16:25–34).
God has created us with different personalities and gifts, and some of us are more adept at the verbal proclamation of the Gospel than others. Nevertheless, declaring the message of salvation through Christ is the responsibility of us all, and we must seek opportunities to preach the Gospel. Only if we confess Him before men will He confess us before the Father (Matt. 10:32–33).
Declaring the Gospel is a job given to every Christian, but we can hardly preach the good news of Jesus Christ if we do not know any unbelievers. How many non-Christians do you know? If you do not have any contact with non-Christians, look for an opportunity to make contact with a neighbor, co-worker, or someone else. This week let us all share the Gospel with at least one person who does not know the Savior.
Passages for Further Study
1 Corinthians 9:16
1 Peter 1:13–25
另参：You are My Witnesses
by Julius J. Kim