The word gospel comes to us from the Greek language, and like several other transliterated words, it has been dropped into bibles from that language and into the others without an explanation. It means good news. And it may be useful to apply the translation of the word for modern English readers so that we don’t miss the point.
When anyone tells us they have some good news we are usually receptive, often elated and fully attentive. As the Apostles spoke of the “good news of Jesus Christ” they employed a phrase that was understood by their audiences; and those people paid attention. There had never been good news on this scale previously. So the Word of God has been received by untold thousands with great joy. Nothing mysterious was going on. It is the good news of Jesus Christ that saves souls from eternal condemnation and it came with signs and miracles to prove it.
Some folks have boiled that down to “Jesus loves you,” or “he wants you to be a success,” leaving out some of the most important facts. But while the first phrase is true, it is not primarily about feelings.
The New Testament states that John came teaching and preaching “the gospel of the kingdom,” (Matthew 4:23, 9:35; Mark 1:14, etc. etc.). Paul later called it “the gospel of the grace of God,” (Acts 20:24), and within a short time, also “the gospel of God”(Romans 1:1), and “the gospel of his Son” (Romans 1:9).
That short list of references informs us that the good news of the Kingdom, is the same as the good news of the grace (or favor) of God, which is the same as the good news of God, or of God’s Son. There are a number of other associations too, with all of them leading in the same direction. God had given us something remarkable and unlike anything ever offered to mankind: reconciliation to God and eternal life. It is the good news.
And because of the unique gift and who conceived it, all of the heralds delivered and taught the same things: whether the Holy Father, Christ, the Apostles or the Disciples of Christ. It’s all good news from God and the Messiah. Salvation is available to anyone who will hear and respond to it. It may or may not have anything to do with some other kind of success in our lives; but it surely does have to do with being successful in the salvation of our souls.
It’s a safe bet that the men who delivered the good news of Christ never strayed off of the mark or from the message given to them. They were single minded in what they did and taught. And that also implies that there is no avenue for additions to this good news. Changes came later and from those who were not witnesses to the events or recipients of those first lessons: those who did not get it, believe it or some who sought to elevate themselves as if the message somehow had something to do with them or had come from them. But all of the bearers of the Good News, from John the Immerser, Jesus, the Son of God, Peter, Paul, James and John, and the rest of the Apostles and all of the other disciples — every one of them recorded and delivered the same message to the crowds or during lessons, exactly as charged. That is what was recorded. Paul later wrote that some were substituting pieces from the Law of Moses into or demanding that other things be observed as part of the good news. But he clearly said to those Christians:
6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7 not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.
10 For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.
Paul also wrote to the assembly in Rome that he was “not ashamed of the gospel of Christ for it is the power of God to salvation for all who would believe…” (Romans 1:16).
Peter wrote quoting the Old Testament:
10 For “Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; 11 let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it. 12 For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”
(1 Peter 3:10-12).
The gospel or good news of the Kingdom of God is the instruction form given by God and Christ for our salvation; and when followed and exercised by believers as taught in God’s Word, they will gain entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven and eventually to promised everlasting life. And it is exact in what is required to be known as a Christian. Peter covered the particulars very briefly in his teaching recorded in Acts two.
The response required due to understanding and believing the good news was –
37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” 40 And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” 41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.
It hasn’t changed to this day. Part of the good news is that whoever hears the word of God and the good news of Christ and does what Jesus taught will be approved by God and will gain entrance into the Kingdom –
23 and to the assemblyof the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24 and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.
You have to be twisted to change or to pervert what was given and what was recorded. It is the greatest offer ever given – freedom and life with God. And it did not come from any of us — It is the good news of Jesus Christ.
One question remains. What did all of these instruct us to do to gain entrance into the Kingdom of heaven and to gain salvation?
You know that if someone wishes to become an engineer, there are things that must be done. It seems first, they must have instruction in electrical theory, physics or mechanics, along with principals of mathematics and construction. Today that means they must attend the university and follow the prescribed program to be in a position where secondly, at the appropriate time they can test for an engineer-in-training and in time to be listed as a professional engineer in whatever domain they have studied and chosen. All such domains require training sometimes by apprenticeship or through a specified curriculum of study and courses.
Entering the Kingdom and becoming a Christian is much the same though perhaps not as laborious. People can respond to the good news upon hearing just the outline of it and then by doing what Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2), said to do. The jailer in Philippi said, “Sirs what must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30). He asked the most important question. And he was told what he must do. He was taught what it meant to believe in God and Christ and the promises that are made. It also included changing what he did. They told him…
“Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” 32 And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. 33 And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family. 34 Then he brought them up into his house and set food before them. And he rejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed in God.”
In short form, the good news is that we must listen to the good news: the word of God. We must believe that Jesus is “the author and finisher of salvation” and that we must repent and be immersed in water for the remission of our sins; and then we must set our lives in order to be under Christ’s control and also seek to share with others the Good News.