What is the Gospel?
"For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit, (1 Peter 3:18)."
John is a garbage truck driver in a large suburban city. During the winter, his garbage truck doubles as a snow plow, and after every snowfall, John drives around the city to remove snow from the roads. Since John's employer added snow removal to John's garbage collection duties, John's company pays him overtime wages. Naturally, John welcomes the extra money. With extra pay in mind, unlike many people who dread the forecast of snow, snowfall to John is good news. Most school children agree with John that snow is good news but for different reasons. After all, it usually means outdoor fun and the likelihood that the school officials cancel classes. As expected, parents, however, may not be so happy. Thus, it can be said, snow is only good news to some, not all.
The Greek word translated as Gospel means good news or glad tidings. In Luke 2:10, the angels said unto the shepherds, "Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people." Unlike snowfall which is good news for some people, the Gospel - here referring to the birth of Christ - is good news for all individuals. In contrast, Christ's second return cannot be the gospel, because it is only good news to those who believe - and expect it - not those who do not believe. Why is this so? Why is the birth of Christ good news to all, while His second advent is not? Does the Bible shed any light on this? Ellen White says that "The Bible is its own expositor. Scripture is to be compared with scripture. The student should learn to view the word as a whole, and to see the relation of its parts" (Ed.190). In that light, let us go to Scripture to see how the Gospel is defined.
First, we should note that the Apostle Mark introduces his book as the Gospel of Christ; while (Apostle) Paul declares in the first few verses of Romans chapter one that "… the gospel of Christ: … is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek" (Vs. 16). No less than approximately a dozen times, Apostle Paul relates the Gospel with God or Christ. Therefore, according to these texts, we can ascertain that the Gospel refers to Christ. Paul is not saying here that salvation is only for believers, but that it is only effective to believers. So, it is the power of God that saves. And, this power of God refers to Jesus and his birth. In 1 Corinthians 1:17, 18 Paul goes a step further. Let us read,
For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect. For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.
This text associates the preaching of the Gospel with the preaching of the cross, on which Christ died. Furthermore, it equates them by calling them both: the power of God. Therefore, the Gospel, which refers to Jesus and His birth (which is the power of God unto salvation), is also the preaching of the cross. So, now, we incorporate in this definition of the Gospel the death of Christ on the Cross. Why is the cross so important? We read in Philippians 2:8 concerning Christ,
And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.
The Jews considered The death of the cross as hanging from a tree, of which Paul says in Gal 3:13, Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree:
Christ's death was the final death: complete annihilation. But, it is through this death that we were reconciled to God. We read in Romans 5:10,
For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.
Notice in this verse, that Christ's life is now part of the equation, as opposed to only His birth and death. The Gospel refers to Jesus. It entails His incarnation, birth, life, and death. And, in it is the power of God to save every man. Christ did this for the whole world. We read in 1 John 2:2; and 4:14,
And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world. And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world.
What about the resurrection? Paul addresses that also in 1 Corinthians 5:12 -14. Let us read,
Now if Christ is preached that he hath been raised from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, neither hath Christ been raised: and if Christ hath not been raised, then is our preaching vain, your faith also is vain.
The resurrection of Christ gives the Gospel certainty and makes the Gospel effectual. It guarantees our freedom from Sin. And, how exactly are we implicated? We read in Romans 6:3-5,
Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection:
Christ took us - the whole world - unto Himself and lived a life of perfect obedience. Consequently, His life of perfect obedience is ours. His victory is ours. What our Saviour would like for us to do, is, to receive His gift wholeheartedly. In summation, this is the good news to all people: salvation for all men 'in Christ'.