The essence of the Gospel

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The word ‘gospel’ comes from the Greek word evangelion and simply means ‘good news’. The NIV sometimes translates the Greek as good news, as in Matthew 4:23, and at other times as gospel, as in Matthew 24:14.

In the New Testament evangelion is linked in to the words kingdom, grace and salvation, but often it is directly connected with Jesus Christ himself. For instance, the Gospel of Mark starts with the words ‘the beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God’. Jesus is the embodiment of the Kingdom of God and the good news of the coming of this kingdom on earth is all about him. I don’t think that many would quibble with the fact that the Gospel is about Jesus, but differences in opinion start to arise when we attempt to unpack the elements of the good news about Jesus.

In Ephesians 1:13 Paul writes about the ‘gospel of your salvation’ and it is here, concerning salvation, that we find marked differences within the theology and practice of different Christians and groups. Calvinists will say that only some people have been selected by God to be ‘saved’ which might be good news for the elect and very bad news for everybody else. Others claim that everyone has been saved through what Jesus has accomplished and that the good news is that people simply need to realise this and enjoy their status. Some groups claim that salvation must be earned in some way, and yet others believe that salvation isn’t necessary at all.

Differences in application evidence differences in theology. Some evangelists focus their efforts on encouraging people to ‘accept Christ into your heart’, but what does this really mean? Others strive to obtain commitments to Christ, and yet others see their mandate as helping people to pray ‘the sinners prayer’. On the other side of the continuum are those who insist that the biblical mandate is to make disciples and that disciples are those who do a lot more than simply pray a little prayer.

What do you believe to be the essence of the Gospel? In my next post I will describe one approach to presenting the Gospel and then ask you to evaluate it.

Other posts in this series:

The Gospel and the response

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