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In Christianity, the gospel (Greek: εὐαγγέλιον euangélion; Old English: gospel), also known as the Good News is the message of Jesus, the Christ or Messiah — God's ruler promised by the Scriptures — specifically, the coming Kingdom of God, his death on the cross and resurrection to restore people's relationship with God, the descent of the Holy Spirit on believers as the helper, the resulting promise and hope of being saved for any who believe and follow Jesus.
The Christian message of good news is described in the four gospels. It relates to the saving acts of God due to the work of Jesus on the cross and resurrection from the dead which bring reconciliation ("atonement") between people and God.
The context of the Gospel is the imperfection of man in contrast to the perfection of God. The Christian Testament as a whole shows this contrast, by showing that in the beginning God created all things perfect, but that sin was introduced into man's now imperfect nature, as a natural consequence of humanity's rebellion against God, disobeying a clearly stated command of God. The context of the Gospel also, crucially, includes the final destiny of man. This part of the context is necessary and urgent, because the Bible explains, there will be a Judgement day, and, in the words of Jesus, the standard which will be required of every person is to "Be perfect" (Matthew 5:48). The Law of God requires judgement and punishment of unrightousness, and the Bible clearly states that no-one is righteous. Because a holy, perfect and just God cannot deny his own nature by simply ignoring or excusing the sins of people who have rebelled against his holy law, all people are in a desperate situation. Having shown man's problem, the Christian Testament goes on to explain the solution: the Good News.
This Good News is that there is one way (John 14:6) by which people from all nations may be restored to relationship with God: if they choose to stop living life their own way and turn to Jesus in repentance and faith. A key theme of the Christian good news is that God offers a new life and forgiveness through Jesus. Jesus' teaching of the good news also relates to the coming of the Kingdom of God (Mark 1:14-15, see also second coming).
Christian Theology attempts to describe the Good News of salvation in Jesus Christ not as a new concept, but one that has been foretold throughout the Old Testament and was prophetically preached even at the time of the Fall of Man as contained in Genesis 3:14-15. It is called Proto-Evangelion or Proto-Gospel.1
Good News is the English translation of the Koine Greek εὐαγγέλιον euangélion (εὖ eû "good" + ἄγγελος ángelos "messenger" + -ιον -ion diminutive suffix). The Greek term was Latinized as evangelium in the Vulgate, and translated into Latin as bona annuntiatio.
In Old English, it was translated as gōdspel (gōd "good" + spel "news"). The Old English term was retained as gospel in Middle English Bible translations and hence remains in use also in Modern English. The written accounts of the life and teaching of Jesus are also generally known as "Gospels".2
The good news can be summarized in many ways, reflecting various emphases. Cambridge New Testament scholar C.H. Dodd (1964 ) has summarized the Christian good news as taught by the apostle Peter in the Book of Acts (see Kerygma; Acts 2:14-41; Acts 3:11-4:4; Acts 10:34-43):
- The Age of Fulfillment has dawned, the "latter days" foretold by the prophets. Acts 3:18-26
- This has taken place through the birth, life, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Acts 2:22-31
- By virtue of the resurrection, Jesus has been exalted at the right hand of God as Messianic head of the new Israel. Acts 2:32-36
- The Holy Spirit in the church is the sign of Christ's present power and glory. Acts 10:44-48
- The Messianic Age will reach its consummation in the return of Christ. Acts 3:20-21
- An appeal is made for repentance with the offer of forgiveness, the Holy Spirit, and salvation. Acts 2:37-41
Generally speaking, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, or the message of salvation, justification, and sanctification, is explained by the apostle Paul in his epistle to the Romans, especially in chapters 3 to 8.
Christian writers and teachers often present the Good News set within the context of the storyline of the whole Bible. This discipline, of understanding the Christian message in terms of Biblical salvation history, is known as Biblical Theology. This attempts to posit a connection between Old Testament and the Christian teachings of the good news about the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.
For example, the Roman Catholic Church promotes the teaching of the good news in the context of biblical salvation history as a "fundamental part of the content" of its instruction, (General Directory for Catechesis 1997, paragraph108). There are numerous exponents of the Biblical Theology approach to understanding the Good News. Some Christian teachers and Biblical theologians who have published descriptions of the Bible authors' message in terms of salvation history include Köstenberger and O'Brien (2001), who have published a biblical theology of mission; and Goldsworthy (1991), who writes from an evangelical Christian perspective. Many Bible scholars and Christian groups have placed similar descriptions on the internet (such as 'Biblical Theology' in Bakers Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology). Because the good news is multifaceted, there is a degree of variation in perspective between such descriptions. However, the main focus is generally the same: the Bible storyline tells of God working throughout history to save a people for himself, and these saving acts are completed through the person and work of Jesus. A brief summary of the teachings of the Bible writers, might read as follows:
The Book of John states that " In the beginning, the Word was already there. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. All things were made through him. Nothing that has been made was made without him." (John 1.1-3; see also Logos, Ex nihilo, Genesis creation narrative). The Book of Genesis describes humanity, male and female, as created to be rulers of God's created world (Genesis 1, ). Humanity was given a perfect place in which to live in perfect relationship with God, dependent upon God for all his needs (Genesis 2).
Mankind, however, disobeyed God's instructions. This resulted in the breaking of mankind's fellowship with God, leading to spiritual death (Genesis 3, see also Fall of Man) and spiritual and social depravity (Genesis 4-11).
Genesis describes how God scattered mankind over the face of the earth, forming the different nations and ethnic groups (Genesis 11). Beginning with the prophet and patriarch Abram (Abraham), God chose specific people to live in obedience and fellowship with him, and blessed them, their land, and their descendants. This was so that the different peoples of the world would receive God's blessing (Genesis 12:1-3; Catholic Encyclopedia: Abraham).
The Old Testament writers describe how through the prophets, God revealed that he would send a person who would fulfil the role of prophet (Deuteronomy 18:14-22), priest (Psalm 110:1-4), and king (Psalm 2), in restoring humanity to fellowship with God (see Threefold Office; Catholic Encyclopedia: Salvation). This person would be called the Messiah (the Hebrew term referring to these roles: literally, "anointed one"), "God's son" (Psalm 2:7), and even "mighty God" (Isaiah 9:6). The prophet Isaiah described a servant-like figure, who would suffer because of the offences of mankind against God. This punishment would satisfy God's anger and finally bring peace between God and humanity. After this, he would be brought back to life and be raised to a high position (Isaiah 53:9-14)(See also Messiah; Catholic Encyclopedia: Messias).
The author of Luke in the New Testament describes an angel announcing the forthcoming birth of a child who would be called Yeshua (or "Jesus"), the Son of the Most High God (Luke 1:30-36). The writers of the four New Testament Gospels describe Jesus performing signs and wonders in the power of God's Spirit. During his life in Palestine, Jesus called people to follow him as disciples. He taught them about the character of God's kingdom: that it was a kingdom characterized by humility, gentleness and peace (Matthew 5:1-10; see also Catholic Encyclopedia: Kingdom of God).
The New Testament gospels record the disciple Peter stating that Jesus was "the Messiah, the Son of the living God," (Matthew 16:13-17). Jesus claimed that he would suffer at the hands of the religious leaders and be killed; but would return to life on the third day of these events (Matthew 16:21). He was put to death by being nailed to a cross, and was buried in a tomb cut into rock (Matthew 27).
The Gospel writers describe Jesus returning to life from the dead. On the morning after the day of rest (Sabbath), some of the women who followed Jesus went to the tomb, but found it empty (Luke 24:1-8). They announced to the other disciples that they had seen Jesus, having returned to life from death (John 20:10-18; see also Catholic Encyclopedia: Resurrection of Jesus Christ). Jesus told his followers that as he had been given all authority from God, he was now commanding them, "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you," (Matthew 28:18-20; see also Great Commission).
The Book of Acts describes how Jesus' disciples took this message to peoples of many nations in the Ancient Near East. They taught that Jesus' return to life showed that he was in fact the Messiah (Acts 2:14-41); the way that people are forgiven (Acts 13:36-39); and the one God has chosen to judge the world (Acts 17:29-31). They taught that in response, people should turn from their old ways of life, and be baptised in the name of Jesus, receiving forgiveness and God's gift of his Holy Spirit (Acts 2:36-39). In the same way that Jesus was brought back to life, all who believe and accept the opportunity to join his people will also be raised to everlasting life in God's kingdom (1 Corinthians 15:1-24). Even in nations to whom God did not originally send the message, people are now able to believe in Jesus and join his people (Acts 11:1-18; Acts 15:7-9). The disciples also maintained that it is not necessary for Gentiles to be brought under the Judaic Law of Moses (via circumcision) in order to accept and follow Jesus (Acts 15:10-21, Catholic Encyclopedia: Judaizers see also Council of Jerusalem).
The Bible closes with images in the Book of Revelation of the future destiny of humanity: a great crowd of people, from all nations, tribes, people and languages, stands worshipping before the throne of Jesus (Revelation 7:9-17). They are made clean and holy through the death of Jesus. There is a new created order, described as a great city, where God lives among his people, and there is no more crying, tears or pain (Revelation 21:1-4).3
The good news is described in many different ways in the Bible. Each one reflects different emphases, and describes part or all of the Biblical narrative. Christian teaching of the good news — including the preaching of the Apostles in the Book of Acts — generally focuses upon the resurrection of Jesus and its implications. Sometimes in the Bible, the good news is described in other terms, but it still describes God's saving acts. For example, the Apostle Paul taught that the good news was announced to the patriarch Abraham in the words, "All nations will be blessed through you." (Galatians 3:6-9; c.f. Genesis 12:1-3).
In the twentieth century, Pentecostal theology and the charismatic movement became widespread. These movements emphasize that the good news teaches the coming of the Kingdom of God, which also includes outworkings of God's Holy Spirit (such as healings, miracles, and speaking in other tongues). The charismatic movement exists within all major branches of Christianity: Orthodox, Catholic, Protestant, and Independent.
Another western school of thought is prosperity theology, which teaches that the good news promises not only salvation, but also material and financial success.
In liberal Christianity, the Bible is sometimes regarded as spiritual myth or allegory. The Christian good news is often interpreted in terms of God's love for mankind, or in terms of specific parts of the Bible such as the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) and Jesus' other teachings. The doctrine of original sin (a theory advanced primarily by Augustine) is less emphasised.
Liberation theology, articulated in the teachings of Latin American Catholic theologians Leonardo Boff and Gustavo Gutiérrez, emphasizes that Jesus came not only to save humanity, but also to liberate the poor and oppressed. A similar movement among the Latin American evangelical movement is Integral Mission, where the church is seen as an agent for positively transforming the wider world, in response to the good news.6 See also black liberation theology.
The good news about Jesus, His atoning death on the cross and resurrection from the dead, had a central place in the growth of Christianity. The Apostle Paul taught that if Jesus was not raised to life from the dead, then the preaching of Paul and the other apostles is useless and they are false witnesses (1 Corinthians 15:14-15; Resurrection). In the early centuries after the time of Jesus, the good news spread from Judea to parts of Africa, Asia and Europe.
The Christian missions movement understands the Christian good news to be a message for all peoples, of all nations, tribes, cultures and languages. This movement teaches that it is through the good news of Jesus that the nations of humanity are restored to relationship with God; and that the destiny of the nations is related to this process. Missiology professor Howard A. Snyder writes, "God has chosen to place the [worldwide] Church with Christ at the very center of His plan to reconcile the world to himself (Ephesians 1:20-23),".7
Another perspective is described in the writings of the Apostle Paul: is that it is through the good news of Jesus' death and resurrection, and the resulting worship of people from all nations, that evil is defeated on a cosmic scale. Reflecting on the third chapter of Paul's letter to the Ephesians , Howard A. Snyder writes,
"God's plan for the [worldwide] church extends to the fullest extent of the cosmos. By God's 'manifold wisdom' the [worldwide] Church displays an early fullness of what Christ will accomplish at the conclusion of all the ages. The spectacle is to reach beyond the range of humanity, even to the angelic realms. The [worldwide] church is to be God's display of Christ's reconciling love,".8
- Biblical theology
- Book of Revelation
- Council of Jerusalem
- Fall of Man
- Gospel of Jesus in Islam
- Resurrection of Jesus
- Threefold Office
- Ministry of Jesus
- The Proto-Gospel, by R. C. Sproul.
- Evangelism is the spreading of the evangelium, i.e. Christian proselytization, see also the Great Commission. Evangelicalism is a 20th century branch of Protestantism that emphasizes the reception of the "good news" by the individual (see also Low church), in contrast to the traditional and historical emphasis on the communal aspect of the Church's guardianship of the authentic Gospel (see also High church) as crucial to the salvation of the faithful (Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus).
- The section in italics above is simply a brief summary of the teachings of the Bible writers: it is not a quotation from a secondary source.
- Tappert, T.G., Selected Writings of Martin Luther, Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2007, p.325
- See Augsburg Confession, Article 7, Of the Church
- Padilla 2004, p. 20
- Snyder 1999, p. 139
- Snyder 1999, p. 138
- Dodd, C. H. 1964 The Apostolic Preaching and its Developments Harper and Row.
- General Directory for Catechesis 1997, Congregation for the Clergy
- Goldsworthy, G, 1991, According to Plan: The Unfolding Revelation of God in the Bible Sydney: Lancer Press.
- Johnstone, P, 2001, Operation World, Carlisle, UK: Paternoster Lifestyle.
- Köstenberger, A and P. O'Brien, 2001, Salvation to the Ends of the Earth: A Biblical Theology of Mission New Studies in Biblical Theology 11, Leicester: Apollos.
- Padilla, R, 2004, 'An Ecclesiology for Integral Mission,' in The Local Church, Agent of Transformation: An Ecclesiology for Integral Mission, T. Yamamori and C. R. Padilla, eds, Buenos Aires: Kairos Ediciones.
- Snyder, H. A., 1999, 'The Church in God's Plan,' in Perspectives on the World Christian Movement, 3rd edn, Pasedena, California: William Carey Library.
- Jepsen, Bent Kim, 2009 The Origin of Good News
- 'Biblical Theology' in Bakers Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology - online version
- The Simplicity of the Gospel - A Biblical outline for the foundation of the Good News
- Catholic Encyclopedia: Judaizers - Concerning the cultural implications of the Good News
- Catholic Encyclopedia: Salvation
- American Right To Life: Know the Gospel - Presentation of and links to Gospel sites
- The Gospel - Online booklet explaining the Gospel
- Lordship salvation - Reformed Christian Gospel presentation emphasizing Lordship Salvation
- "What Is The Gospel?" - compares the accuracy of the Gospel used by many in evangelism today, with the Gospel preached by the Apostle Peter (to the Jews) and the Apostle Paul (to the Gentiles).