BY CHARLES WOODRUFF
“For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!”(1 Corinthians 9:16)
Perhaps you can almost immediately answer this question. You might even reply “doesn’t everyone know what the gospel is?” I am afraid it is not as simple as that. There are many who will say when telling you something they really want you to believe “That’s the gospel truth”. Sometimes they will tell you that, knowing that what they are saying isn’t true. The awful truth, which ought to grip every real Christian, is that most people have no real idea what the gospel is, even in the majority of our churches. How can I say that? Because they don’t live like it! I know that I am asking a lot of questions lately. I am endeavoring, in this writing, to not only ask questions, but to give answers. This is a day when we really need answers. You see, the question I am asking is most important.
WHAT IS THE GOSPEL?
Actually the Greek word for gospel is euaggelion (good news, good tidings) (1), and is related to the word for preach, most always concerning the good news of Christ. The most common Greek word for preach, or announce, is euangelizo (2). There is another similar Greek word euangelistes (evangelist) which is a preacher, or a good news bearer (3). So preach, gospel, and evangelist are all related words in Greek, and in English. They have to do with the good news of Christ’s sacrifice for sinners. As to the origin of the English word gospel, it is originally an Old English word gōd-spell, i.e., “God's spell” or “word of God”. According to others, it is “good spell”, as those that were converted were said to be under a spell (4). So we may say, with a little play on English and Greek words, that the gospel is the evangel which evangelicals and all evangelists must evangelize.
To preach anything else other than the good news of Jesus Christ, as so many are doing today, is not true Bible preaching. The true gospel is simple, yet profound. We who are converted can say “It is good news.” It is the best news! That is why the first four books of the New Testament are all called Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John). They are a record of the good news. They are a record of Jesus Christ who is the personification of the gospel. He is the good news! In other words there is a sense that Christ is the gospel, and the gospel is Christ. The gospel of Mark, the one that most scholars consider the first written gospel record (57-62 A.D.), begins with this verse; “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God” (Mark 1:1)
This gospel must be preached in power. Yes, it is the power of God unto salvation “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek” (Romans 1:16). The Greek word for power here is dunamis. We get our word dynamite from this word. It takes this power to save a sinner. It is the same power that created the universe; the same power that raised Lazarus from the tomb; the same power that raised Christ from the dead. The gospel is dynamite, preacher. Be careful how you handle it! First the Holy Spirit must quicken, or awaken, or make alive, the dead sinner so this power can work on him to the believing of the gospel (See Ephesians 2:1; 5; John 3:3)
It is true that the apostles (all of them), were following Christ’s final marching orders from Mark 16:15. “And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” They were commanded to do so, and so are we in successive ages. Also, in Matthew 28:19, 20 Jesus said “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” One proof that it still applies to all believers today, as well as to the apostles then, is the next to last clause. I here quote Matthew 28:20 in Young’s Literal Translation for more clarity. “Teaching them to observe all, whatever I did command you, and lo, I am with you all the days--till the full end of the age” (emphasis mine, cw). So the commands given to preach the gospel were for us all. Of course, ministers are to “feed the sheep” (those people who are already Christians), as well as preach to sinners (John 21:15-17; Acts 20:28; 1 Peter 5:2).
There are several different emphases of the gospel, but there is only one gospel. Some prominent Bible teachers have a different take on that. C. I. Scofield taught that the gospel of the kingdom preached by Christ, and the everlasting gospel preached by angels in Revelation were different gospels than Paul and Peter preached. E.W. Bullinger taught that Paul’s gospel when he said my gospel was a different gospel altogether. He had just about every variation in wording as a different gospel altogether. I do not hesitate to say that this is “Ultra –Dispensationalism”. We are not given warrant in scripture to say these variants are different gospels. Rather we are warned by the apostle Paul in Galatians that there is not another gospel. He even pronounces a curse on anyone (even an angel) who would preach another gospel. So we had best be extremely careful, brothers and sisters, just what we buy into. Here are the words of Paul:
“I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.”
“As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed. For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ. But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ” (Galatians 1:6-12).
Let’s look at the verses a little. The first New Testament mention of the gospel is probably Mark 1:1, as already stated. But, it is found (but not totally clarified) in the Old Testament, especially Isaiah. “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth!” (Isaiah 52:7) Again in Isaiah: “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn” (Isaiah 61:1, 2)
The words “good tidings” in both these verses are the same as “gospel”. It is the Hebrew word basar. In the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament) the word euaggelion is here used. These verses are prophetic verses. Our Lord quoted much of this statement in Isaiah when He announced the beginning of His ministry, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.” (Luke 4:18, 19)
The most concise biblical definition of gospel is perhaps 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 “Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures” So we can see here that the gospel is not only Christ, but in its full scope is the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Every aspect of God’s eternal purpose involves the gospel of Jesus Christ. This brings us to another important question.
WHY IS THE GOSPEL?
Have you ever considered this question? Most believe the gospel has been given only to save souls. That is certainly one of the reasons. God has designed to save His elect through the preaching of the gospel. The same thing we spoke of earlier in this message where the apostle Paul states “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek” (Romans 1:16).
Paul, John, Peter, James and the rest of the apostles were preaching to sinners, and urging them to be saved. Not only them, but all God-called preachers since that time have that objective. But, well taught Christians know that they cannot save a soul. Only God can! He must awaken the dead sinner enabling him/her to even hear the gospel! “But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;” (Ephesians 2:4-5) As Jonah cried out in the Old Testament, when he was in the belly of the great fish, with no escape “Salvation is of the LORD.” (Jonah 2:9b) Salvation is important, but is only one of the reasons for the gospel.
Some seem to believe that the gospel was given to build the church. Well, in a sense it was. Perhaps not in the way you thought. God did not give the gospel to build a well-oiled machine that functions with live entertainment, and fun and games. Nor did He build a church to be a statistical success so that every week professions of faith are made, which often have no reality. Definitely not so some self-styled soul winner can brag about how many he has won to the Lord. You need to remember, I have said before that God doesn’t need our help, but we surely need His! Here is what Jesus said to Simon Peter regarding His church: “When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets. He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:13-18)
Building Christ’s church is very important, and one of the reasons for the gospel, but it is not the main “why”. What is? I believe the answer is found in Philippians 2:5-11 “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” The ultimate design of the gospel is to exalt Christ, and bring glory to the Father. This was God’s main design in all creation; for His own glory! He deserves it!
The Westminster Catechism has it right in the very first question: Q 1. What is the chief end of man? A. The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. 1 Corinthians 6:20; 10:31; and “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.”(Revelation 4:11)
(1) G2098 Strong’s on gospel, good news; εὐαγγέλιον; euaggelion (yoo-ang-ghel'-ee-on) from the same as G2097; a good message, that is, the gospel: - gospel.
(2) G2097 Strong’s on preach, announce; εὐαγγελίζω; euaggelizō (yoo-ang-ghel-id'-zo) from G2095 and G32; to announce good news (“evangelize”) especially the gospel: - declare, bring (declare, show) glad (good) tidings, preach (the gospel).
(3) G2099 Strong’s on evangelist, preacher; εὐαγγελιστής; euaggelistēs (yoo-ang-ghel-is- tace') From G2097; a preacher of the gospel: - evangelist.
(4) Origin of GOSPEL (English word) Middle English, from Old English gōdspel (translation of Late Latin evangelium), from gōd good + spell tale - first known use: before 12th century- Merriam Webster’s Dictionary.
(To be continued next week, d.v…)
Published by Charles Woodruff- email: firstname.lastname@example.org