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"The study of God's word, for the purpose of discovering God's will, is the discipline which has formed the greatest characters." - James W. Alexander
BIBLE LESSONS QUICK LIST
- The Canon of the Old Testament
- The Canon of the New Testament
- Modern Bible Translations
- Paul's Apostleship and Authority
- Interpreting/Understanding the Bible
- Jesus: Eternal and Divine Son of God
- Jesus: Born, but Not Begotten
- God's Amazing Grace
- What is the Gospel?
- The Passion of the Christ
- A Study of Baptism
- Assurance of Salvation
- Origins of Christian Worship
- A History of Church Divisions
- Introduction to Denominations
- Examining Catholic Doctrines
- False Doctrines of the Early Church
- Three Days and Three Nights
- Predestination and Calvinism
- The Holy Spirit: Our Help and Strength
- What is Speaking in Tongues?
- The Grace of Giving
- The Day Christ Comes Again
- Works and Rewards
- Introduction to the Book of Revelation
- The Divorce Debate
- Genesis, Creation, Dinosaurs, etc.
- Abortion, Stem Cell Research, etc.
What is the Gospel?
Written by Bob Williams
1 Peter 1:23 says, "[F]or you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God." What is the 'word of God' to which Peter is referring? Is Peter referring to the entire collected canon of NT Scripture? Keep in mind that this letter was written perhaps 30 years before all the remaining books of the NT would be written and long before they would be collected and agreed upon as the accepted canon of Scripture. It seems more likely that Peter is referring specifically to the basic message which had been preached from the very beginning, long before all the books were written and collected, that which Scripture itself calls the gospel.
This is what is stated in v25: [KJV] "And this is the word which by the gospel is [or "was"] preached unto you." Peter says that we're born again by the power of the gospel! This is consistent with Romans 10:17, which says, "So faith comes from hearing, and hearing from the word of Christ." So what is this word of Christ? Is this referring to the entire collected writings of the NT? Look back at v15: "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring glad tidings of good things!" (Note: the KJV follows the Received Text which "Bring glad tidings" is the same Greek word for preaching the gospel!) Paul, like Peter, is being specific. It is not just preaching in general; it is the preaching and hearing of the gospel that brings about saving faith. And, as we find in Romans 1:16, Paul said that the gospel "is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes."
This leads us then to ask, "What is the gospel?" What was being preached when they preached the gospel? Some would say that the gospel is comprised of every teaching and doctrinal issue mentioned in Scripture. But when Peter says that we're born again by the word of God, the gospel that was preached, is he saying that it takes everything taught from Matthew 1 to Revelation 22 to accomplish that? Is that what Paul meant when he said that the gospel was the power for salvation? Or did they both have something more limited and specific in mind?
The word gospel is from two related Greek words: the noun euangelion (Strong #2098) and the verb euaggelizo (Strong #2097). (By the way, from these two Greek words we get our English words like evangelize and evangelism and evangelist). The noun form is usually rendered as "gospel" or "glad tidings" (which is the literal meaning) and is found 77 times in NT. The verb form is usually rendered as "preaching the gospel" and is found an additional 61 times. That's 138 times altogether throughout NT Scripture; obviously we would learn something about the definition of the word gospel (and all that is entailed or intended by that word) by looking at some of the verses where these two Greek words are found.
Preaching the Gospel Before Christ's Death
Beginning in the book of Luke we read about the preaching that was being done over and over in the days of Jesus:
Numerous passages show that the primary emphasis of the preaching during this time was on the coming kingdom:
All these examples show preaching that was leading up to the crucifixion of Christ and the establishment of His kingdom, the church. The disciples at this time were apparently not preaching the entire gospel message, but their focus was upon the coming kingdom.
Preaching the Gospel After Christ's Death
Christ's death on the cross brought about the establishment of His kingdom and the new covenant of grace; thereafter the gospel would be preached in its true fullness. Preaching the gospel now included several additional concepts and themes:
Consider the preaching of the apostles in the book of Acts:
From the book of Romans:
From 1 and 2 Corinthians:
From other NT letters:
Defining the Gospel
What then should we conclude from these many references to the gospel in Scripture? What words stand out throughout these verses that ought to be included in the Biblical definition of the gospel? What was the extent of the good news and glad tidings being preached? According to these passages, gospel preaching included these themes:
It would thus seem reasonable to give this definition: The gospel is the good news that Jesus is the Christ (anointed Messiah), the Son of God, that He died on the cross, was buried, and rose again, and that, by the grace of God, we can be born again, added to His kingdom and saved by believing in Jesus and obeying the command to repent and be baptized.
In short, the gospel is the good news that we can be saved through Jesus! That is the main focus and extent of the glad tidings.
In other words, the gospel is focused on those specific themes and requirements that bring us into a saved relationship with the Lord. And therefore it ought then be recognized that there is a difference between the gospel that brings us into that saved relationship and the various teachings that were/are aimed at those already in that saved relationship with the Lord.
Both are important, but they are two different things. Remember what it says in Matthew 28:19-20: "Go therefore and make disciples of [or teach] all the nations, baptizing them in that name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, [then] teaching them [further] to observe all that I commanded you." The gospel was preached and people became Christians; other teaching on other issues came after conversion!
Copyright © 1998-2015. Bible Lessons Worldwide Ministry. Bob Williams. Columbus, Georgia. Permission is granted to any teacher or preacher to use these lessons to the glory of God. Thanks to generous soul-loving partners, there is never a charge for anything offered by this ministry.
Bob Williams is the pulpit minister for the Rose Hill Church of Christ in Columbus, Georgia. He is an alumnus of York College in York, NE (1977-1979), Freed-Hardeman University in Henderson, TN (1982-1985), and Harding University Graduate School of Religion in Memphis, TN (1986-1990). Since its inception in 1998, thousands of people throughout the world visit BibleLessons.com every month, and Bob is privileged to conduct in-depth Bible studies with a great many of them.