The Greek word translated “gospel” in the New Testament means “good news”, and in the context of the Bible the gospel is the “good news” about Jesus Christ. But what exactly was and is that good news, and what does it mean for us?
In answer to the second question first, read what Jesus said:
“I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life” (John 5:24).
The Bible speaks of a love-gift from God. That gift is forgiveness of all our sin, and eternal life with our Creator. The only requirement is that we accept God’s son, and attempt, through him, to live God’s way instead of our own.
Contrary to the common view on the street, as promoted by Hollywood and by certain authors, the gospel, the scriptures and the essential Christian doctrines were not all invented hundreds of years after the time of Christ’s life on earth. Lee Stroebel, with an MA in Law from Yale University, and a former award-winning investigative journalist for the Chicago Tribune, in his book “The Case for Christ” interviewed a number of believing scholars such as Cambridge educated Sir Norman Anderson. Anderson was a Professor at Harvard, and lectured at Princeton. He was also the Dean of the Faculty of Law at the University of London. Anderson said that Paul’s letter to the Corinthians can be confidently dated to around 55 AD (1).
Dr. Gary R Habermas, a New Testament historian, received his Ph D from Michigan State University and his DD from Emmanuel College, Oxford. In his book “The Historical Jesus”, Habermas discusses the creed quoted below as found in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, and writes:
“That this confession is an early Christian, pre-Pauline creed is recognized by virtually all critical scholars across a wide theological spectrum” (2).
Here, then, is Paul’s first century definition of the gospel of Jesus Christ, which he had given his life to, despite all opposition and threats, having once been a persecutor of Christians:
“Now brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. 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, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time….Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also…” (1 Corinthians 15: 1 – 8).
So the gospel of Jesus Christ-the good news we can accept or reject-is this:
1 Christ died for our sins, as prophesied in Old Testament Scriptures (we can be forgiven for all our sin because of Christ’s death on the cross);
2 He was buried;
3 He was raised from the dead on the third day;
4 He appeared alive to his disciples after his resurrection.
5 He has promised peace in this world and eternal life to all who trust in him.
1 Lee Strobel “The Case For Christ” (Pub. By Zondervan, © 1998) p. 230.
2 Gary R Habermas “The Historical Jesus: Ancient Evidence for the Life of Christ” (College Press Publishing Company, Joplin, Missouri, © 1996 Gary Habermas) p 153.