What is the Gospel?

The word ‘gospel’ means ‘good news’. We know who is the subject of the good news — Jesus Christ. For a non-Christian, who knows nothing about Jesus, further explanation is needed. It is a fatal mistake to presume that non-Christians know a lot already about Christianity and Jesus. They normally don’t and this is why the full gospel must be proclaimed. The full gospel takes nothing for granted, and presumes that non-Christians know nothing about Jesus.

The gospel then explains who Jesus is and why He is so significant. Above all else the gospel seeks to bring non-Christians into a place where they fully understand who Jesus is and why they need Him. It is not enough to just explain who Jesus is. Most tracts only go this far. Most tracts don’t explain the ‘why’ of the gospel. The ‘why’ factor is so very important. eg:

  • Why am I a sinner and separated from God? (Because God is holy)
  • Why can’t God just let me into heaven? (Because we are not holy)
  • Why must I be judged? (Because we have broken God’s laws and He is just)
  • Why must I make Him Lord? (Because as the Creator of all things, He is worthy)

The gospel is not any random Christian message, like ‘Come to church’, ‘God is awesome’, ‘ God loves you’ and other Christian phrases like that. They are just Christian phrases but they are not ‘the gospel’. Even our ‘testimony’ may not be the gospel. When Jesus said ‘go into all the world and preach the gospel’, He was talking about a very specific message intended to be spoken. This message has ingredients, just like a cake mix has ingredients. In other words, the gospel is defined by its content.  In the book of Acts the Disciples went from city to city preaching the Gospel or “The Word”. Each message was different, tailored for the people listening, but contains the same ingredients. Scholars who have studied what the Gospel is have summarised the ingredients in different ways. But if you were to find the common thread from each of their summaries, you would find these same five ingredients coming through.

  • Sin
  • Righteousness
  • Judgment
  • Jesus as Saviour
  • Jesus as Lord

The first three ingredients are detailed in John 16:8. When presented together they explain the problem. We have sinned, we need His righteousness in order to have a relationship with God and to live with Him in Heaven, one day there will come a judgement, we are accountable for our actions.  The solution to our problem is the fourth ingredient, Jesus as Saviour. His sacrificial death on the cross paid the punishment for our sins. The fifth essential ingredient of the gospel is an explanation of Jesus as Lord, which covers repenting from sin and turning to God — surrendering our lives to Him as Lord. ‘The Gospel in 7’ that we use to share the gospel explains all five ingredients. Jesus as Lord is explained in detail as well through 7 key attitudes and the genuineness test in the Follow Up booklet, ‘The Passion of the Christ and You’.

The gospel can be explained to non-Christians by asking and answering a series of questions, which are imbedded in the presentation.

  • If Jesus is good news, what is the bad news? (The bad news is that because God is holy and we are all sinners, we are separated from God)
  • If the bad news is sin and separation, how does Jesus solve the problem? (By giving us His righteousness. He is the Saviour)
  • If I choose to ignore the bad news (sin) and the Good News (Jesus), what are the consequences for me? (Judgement: heaven and hell)
  • What must I do to be saved? (Repent and make Jesus Lord)

For Christians, the subject of our announcement is Jesus. His death on the cross, and the salvation He offers, is the Good News. This being so, we are compelled to announce the bad news (the Law and sin), for Good News is only given relevance and significance in the context of bad news. And if in our announcement we talk about the Law and sin, we cannot avoid talking about judgement and our final destiny — heaven and hell. And if we talk about judgement we must talk about the cross and Jesus as Saviour and Jesus as Lord.  This message we are to announce, which combines these various elements, is called ‘the gospel’. ¹

The Gospel is the message of salvation. It covers:

  1. Why we need to be saved
  2. How Jesus can save us
  3. What we need to do to be saved

This is an easy way to remember what to cover.  Why we need to be saved covers the ingredients sin, righteousness and judgement, how Jesus can save us is Jesus as Saviour and What we need to do is Jesus as Lord.  If you miss out number 1, why would people want to hear about Jesus?  You can become just an annoying Christian trying to push ‘Jesus’ onto everyone.  They need to understand the ‘why’.  If you miss out number two, well this is the heart of the Gospel and the solution to our problem.  And if you miss out number 3, then how can people know how to respond?  You may leave them thinking ‘Great, Jesus has died for my sins, everything is ok.  I don’t need to do anything’.  I think you can see just how important it is to communicate all three of these.

As Christians, the Gospel is our most powerful message. It always has been and always will be. God uses this message to powerfully effect the salvation of lost people. As Reinhard Bonnke puts it:

“God’s power lines draw current from Calvary, from the resurrection and the throne: ‘The Gospel of Christ …is the power of God…’ wrote Paul. He proved it. The world in his day could not have been worse: cruel, corrupt, and cynical. Yet the gospel changed it. The gospel can do it again.” ²

The gospel message, then, is far from just information about Jesus. Because it is empowered by God, and ordained by Him to save people, He works through it to bring revelation³ It is this revelationary power which non-church people desperately need to hear. Billy Graham puts it like this:

“I have found that there is supernatural power in this message that cannot be rationally explained. The gospel has it’s own communicative power. When we preach Christ crucified, there is power — dynamite — in it. This is the gospel I have declared on every continent and before every conceivable group”4

Establishing relationships with non-church people is powerful, as are meeting their needs, answering their questions and praying and fasting for them. Yet none of these activities are given the same power status in the New Testament as the gospel. (eg. Paul did not say ‘establishing friendships/prayer/meeting needs/ answering their questions/fasting etc with non-church people is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes’). Uniquely and unashamedly, the gospel is singled out in the New Testament as the supreme instrument (certainly not the only instrument) for the salvation of lost souls.

[1] ‘The gospel’, as alluded to in Mark 16: 15 is a specific message, intended to be spoken, with five specific ingredients: sin, righteousness, judgement, Jesus as Saviour, Jesus as Lord. In our experience, only a minute number of people in the average church are capable of proclaiming a loving, accurate, gracious, complete uncompromising gospel without training. For most of us, articulating this message to non-believers is a new skill and takes training. Typically, most of us in the church do not know how to start a conversation with a non-church person, even if they were our friend or family. And once we have started, we are usually very unsure about what to say. The few who are sure about what to say usually have great trouble putting all the components of the gospel together in a way which brings clear understanding to the non-church person. Train To Proclaim helps Christians and churches through quality training, tools and training, to equip people to lovingly present the full Gospel message. Contact us today to discuss how we can help your church.

[2] Reinhard Bonnke. Evangelism by Fire. Igniting your Passion for the Lost. Kingsway Publication. 1996. p89

[3] See Acts 16:14. This is great example of how powerful the gospel is to bring revelation and ‘open peoples hearts’ to receiving the truth about Jesus.

[4] Billy Graham. The Work of an Evangelist. International conference for itinerant evangelists. Amsterdam. World Wide Publications 1984.p95.