The word gospel has its origins in the Old English word ‘god spell,’ which means ‘good news.’ We usually hear the word ‘gospel’ used in religious circles where its meaning can range from truth to blatant error. One way to recognize the true gospel is this: if what you hear isn’t good news, then it isn’t the real gospel of Jesus Christ.
If you hear a gospel that says salvation is Jesus plus confessing all your sins right before you die, that is not good news. What if you forget one? Not good news.
If you hear a gospel that says salvation is Jesus plus keeping certain days and feasts, that isn’t good news. What if you don’t keep the day or feast in the right way, like what if you push the elevator button on Shabbat? Not good news.
What if you hear a gospel that says salvation is by denomination or by being an American? This is really not good news. In fact, if the gospel you hear has anything to do with your own works, your are in deep…well, just let’s just say, you are in dangerous water.
The gospel according to the Bible is Jesus plus nothing. This is really good news! The true gospel is that He did it all for us. By becoming sin for us, He took the penalty that we deserved. In its place, we inherit His righteousness and His life. We can do nothing to add to what He did for us. All that is needed is to admit that I am a sinner, accept His sacrifice on my behalf and follow Him. That’s it.
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
Of course, we hear good news, that is the gospel, used in other settings. For example, we just received the gospel that Walter’s guitar landed safely from Israel to Ontario Airport and should be home by now. As a fellow musician, I can imagine how heart sick I would feel if the airport lost my instrument. That would be really bad news! So the guitar once was lost, but now is found. That is the gospel!
Amazing grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind and now I see!