Dozens of scriptures in the New Testament mention the term gospel, but most of them do not provide an explanation as to the meaning of the term. So, what is the gospel?
Strong’s Concordance explains the term gospel, as follows:
In the NT it denotes the “good tidings” of the kingdom of God and of salvation through Christ, to be received by faith, on the basis of His expiatory [atoning] death, His burial, resurrection, and ascension. . . .
But, does the Bible itself say what the gospel is? We will consider three Bible scriptures that provide some perspective in this regard. [Note: When we quote Scripture in this article, we use the wording in the New King James Version of the Bible, unless noted otherwise.]
Romans 1:1-5 states,
Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God which He promised before through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures, concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh, and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.
In reference to this scripture, Explore the Bible: Leader Guide (Spring 2020), which is a publication used by a number of Christian churches as a Bible study guide, says on page 13,
Paul identified his mission as the gospel of God. While we normally think of the gospel as the good news of Jesus, Paul also understood the gospel as belonging to the Father. It was God’s good news of salvation through Christ.
One reason for referring to the gospel of God involved its origin. God had promised beforehand that He would send the Messiah – His Anointed One. Before the incarnation of Jesus, God had given lost humanity the promise of a Savior. . . . Jesus fulfilled the Father’s promise to provide salvation for human beings.
God issued His promise through His prophets by means of the Holy Scriptures. The prophets spoke of God’s word verbally but also recorded His Word under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:21). The Scriptures included the Old Testament Law, Prophets, and Writings. The gospel did not begin with the four evangelists of the New Testament. Throughout the Old Testament, Messianic prophecies announced the coming of the Savior.
Ephesians 1:13-14a provides some additional perspective regarding the gospel. In this passage, Paul says,
In Him [Jesus Christ] you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance. . . .
This scripture passage emphasizes that when a person becomes a Christian, he (or she) receives the Holy Spirit, who is metaphorically like a seal of authenticity that indicates God’s ownership of that person. In other words, when a person trusts in Jesus Christ as their Savior, they receive (i.e., are indwelled by) the Holy Spirit as a guarantee that they have eternal salvation.
Romans 1:16 provides a more precise explanation of the gospel than either of the first two scriptures that we mentioned. Paul declares in this verse,
For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.
In reference to this scripture, the previously cited Leader Guide states on page 17,
The gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes. Notice the inclusiveness and exclusiveness of this statement. The word everyone opens the way to salvation to all people regardless of their backgrounds. The phrase everyone who believes limits salvation to persons who place their faith in Jesus Christ.
The gospel reveals the righteousness of God. God’s justice required judgment of sin. His mercy could not provide forgiveness without His justice being upheld. The gospel declares how Jesus Christ took our sin on Himself and paid sin’s penalty in our place.
With regard to the significance of the gospel, the aforementioned Leader Guide says on page 19, “The gospel does more than just provide salvation from sin; it transforms every area of life.” And, the Bible indicates that every aspect of that transformation is intended for the betterment of the those who have truly trusted in Jesus Christ as their Savior.
Those who trust in Jesus can look forward not only to enjoying eternal salvation after their mortal life has ended, but also to experiencing a more abundant (i.e., favorable) life while they are still living in this world (see John 10:9-10). However, this does not imply that a person who trusts will enjoy a trouble-free life. Instead, it implies that such a person will have a more meaningful life than they otherwise would experience,.
[To learn how to receive the benefits of eternal salvation that result from humbly responding to the message of the gospel, click on “What Must a Person Do to Be Assured of Eternal Salvation?”]