Alexamenos Graffito   Palatine Hill, Rome, Early 3rd Century   "Alexamenos worships God."

Alexamenos Graffito

Palatine Hill, Rome, Early 3rd Century 

"Alexamenos worships God."

What Is the Gospel?

I. The Gospel Word

The English word "gospel" is rooted in a Greek word of the same etymological significance as the English, namely "good news," while the premier "good news" is the Christian message concerning salvation from sin and death in Jesus Christ. 

II. The Gospel Message 

The first and foremost historical record of Christianity became the canon of accepted books, namely the Greek New Testament, essentially concerning the Christian apostles and prophets while also harkening back to the historical "First Cause" of the church, Jesus the Christ, the one who taught and commissioned the apostles in ancient Israel. 

In that New Testament record, the second book opens with the words, "The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God," a book known as the Gospel of Mark. This book is essentially about what Jesus did and said, culminating in His death and resurrection, "for even the Son of Man ... [came] to give His life—a ransom for many" (10:45). Or as the apostle Peter tells the Roman soldier Cornelius and his household, God was "proclaiming the good news of peace through Jesus Christ" (Acts 10:36), which Peter expands upon in part as follows: 

"[Jesus] went about doing good and healing all who were under the tyranny of the Devil, because God was with Him. We ourselves are witnesses of everything He did in both the Judean country and in Jerusalem, yet they killed Him by hanging Him on a tree [or wooden cross]. God raised up this man on the third day ... He commanded us to preach ... that He is the One appointed by God to be the Judge of the living and the dead. All the prophets testify about Him that through His name everyone who believes in Him will receive forgiveness of sins” (vv. 37-40, 42-43).

Similarly early in the history of the church the apostle Paul writes to the church he founded at the city of Corinth in Greece (chapter 15) as follows of: 

"the gospel I proclaimed to you; you received it and have taken your stand on it. You are also saved by it, if you hold to the message I proclaimed to you—unless you believed for no purpose. For I passed on to you as most important what I also received:

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 Cephas [or Peter],
then to the Twelve.
Then He appeared to over 500 brothers at one time;
most of them are still alive,
but some have fallen asleep.
Then He appeared to James,
then to all the apostles.
Last of all, as to one abnormally born,
He also appeared to me."

That is, Paul claims that "the gospel preached by me ... came by a revelation from Jesus Christ" (Galatians 1:11, 12), a message by which Christian believers "are also saved" if they they take their stand on it and "hold on to the message" or in Peter's words, "everyone who believes in Him will receive forgiveness of sins.”

III. The Gospel Significance

The apostle Paul, who says Jesus set him apart for the gospel (Romans 1:1), wanted to preach the gospel to the church at Rome (v. 15). His epistle to the church in Rome greatly expands on why the gospel is needed and what the gospel and its significance is. To the churches in Galatia he writes "I have been crucified with Christ (Galatians 2:20), and to those in Rome: 

"... if we have been joined with Him in the likeness of His death, we will certainly also be in the likeness of His resurrection. For we know that our old self was crucified with Him in order that sin’s dominion over the body may be abolished, so that we may no longer be enslaved to sin, since a person who has died is freed from sin’s claims. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with Him, because we know that Christ, having been raised from the dead, will not die again" (Romans 6:5-9).

Or as Peter says in his first epistle, "[Jesus] Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, so that, having died to sins, we might live for righteousness" (1 Peter 2:24).

It is difficult in this connection not to recall Jesus' prophetic words of invitation: "“If anyone wants to be My follower, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me and the gospel will save it" (Mark 8:34-35).

Thus Jesus' death on a cross to bear sins and His resurrection not only effected salvation and the forgiveness of sins for those who believe but also formed a means and model for following Jesus: Die to self, die to self will and to self gratification and to pride, for Jesus' followers "old self was crucified with Him ... so that we may no longer be enslaved to sin," but also as Jesus "lives to God, so, you too consider yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus" (Romans 6:11). "As those who are alive from the dead, offer yourselves to God" (v. 13). Lose your life for Jesus and the gospel's sake that you may save your life in Jesus. Live for righteousness.

IV. Conclusion

What then is the gospel? In its primary significance, it is the good news of forgiveness of sins through Jesus the prophesied and resurrected Christ and it is the means by which the follower of Jesus lives for God.

And there is more to it. For more teaching on and encouragement to obey the gospel of Jesus as taught in the ancient Scriptures, the Bible, contact Pastor Mark Robertson and visit us at Heights Presbyterian Church.