Theology Matters: What is the Gospel?
The Gospel is the account of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ in whom were fulfilled the hopes and dreams of the Old Testament. The word Gospel is the translation of the Greek noun euangelion “Good News”, and the verb euangelizo, meaning “to bring or announce Good News”. In our Christian culture the word Gospel has developed significantly until the point of be associated with the person Jesus.
The Gospel is the story of Jesus: his birth, life, passion, crucifixion, resurrection and ascension. The Gospel is certainly the “Good News” that Jesus offered to every person, it is “Good News” because it is a gift from God, the gift of His son to the world. Through Jesus, God provides a way of salvation for all men and women of all ages.
The early Christians had not written Gospels such as ours and their faith was based upon the preaching and teaching testimony of others who knew directly or indirectly the Lord Jesus in his earthly life. As in the case of the Twelve, whose testimony was based upon a personal knowledge of our Lord. Others had an indirectly, but equally vivid personal experience, of His risen life, such as the case in the Apostle Paul.
It was only after these special eye-witnesses had begun to disappear, and in order to avoid false teachings about Jesus that it seem necessary to set down their testimony in a written form, later called Gospel; which tell in consecutive form the story of Jesus which the apostolic teachers told only in a broken and fragmentary way. In writing their Gospels the authors concentrate their attention primarily in some major events of the life of Jesus. Especially His death and resurrection which demonstrate that the power of God was working in and through Him.
Each Gospel differs from the others but all of them have the common story of Jesus. Each one of the Gospels tells the story from his own characteristic point of view but they were editors rather than authors. Each version of the Gospel receives and organizes the material of testimony and presents it from their own perspective. Their purpose was not to write a biography in the modern sense of the word or to share accurate historical information. The purpose of the Gospel is to facilitate the encounter of the reader with the person of Jesus.
The Gospel is written to show who and what kind of person Jesus was, and to arouse in the readers a response of faith and love. The Gospel is the “Good News” because it puts the reader in front of the Savior and touches his/her life. “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.” John 20:30-31
The Gospel was written in spirit of faith to ignite the reader’s faith in the person of Jesus, in His words, actions and teachings; and ultimately to reveal the Presence of God through Jesus, as Messiah and Son of God. The Gospel offers abundant, new life in Jesus name to those who read it in the same spirit in which the writers wrote it.
The Apostle Paul, one of this privileged indirectly witness of Jesus, understood and summarizes the Gospel in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 “For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures.”
In our liturgy during Holy Communion we proclaim the message of the Gospel. When we celebrate the faith of the Church:
“.. The memorial thy Son hath commanded us to make; having in remembrance his blessed passion and precious death, his mighty resurrection and glorious ascension; rendering unto thee most hearty thanks for the innumerable benefits procured unto us by the same.” Rite One, BCP 335
“We celebrate the memorial of our redemption, O Father, in this sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving. Recalling his death, resurrection, and ascension, we offer you these gifts.” Rite Two, BCP 363
This is the essence of the Gospel: Death, burial, resurrection and appearances of the resurrected Christ. The message of the Gospel is a faith confession in two parts: (1) Christ died for our sins and (2) He was raised on the third day. The Gospel is certainly the “Good News” of God in Jesus all the time for all the people.
The Rev. Fabian Villalobos is rector of Christ Church, Dallas