Often we take for granted that everyone understands what we are talking about when we say something, when in fact, there are words or phrases that all do not understand the same. Such could be the case when we stress the importance of “obeying the gospel of Christ”. There is no doubt whatsoever that one must obey the gospel of Christ or that it is proper terminology to say so. The Bible clearly tells us that we must do so if we hope to have a home in heaven. Paul, writing to the church of the Thessalonians said, “And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ” (II Thess. 1:7-8). The great commission of the Lord to His apostles was to, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mark 16:15-16). So what is the gospel anyway?
First, note that the Greek word that is translated “gospel” means “good or joyful news, or glad tidings” So the questions then arises, what good news or glad tidings? The apostle Paul said that he preached the gospel to the Corinthians (I Cor. 15:1) and then went on to say that he preached that Christ died for our sins, was buried and rose again the third day (I Cor. 15:3-4). Indeed, the death, burial and resurrection is good news, when one realizes that salvation comes as a result of these acts. However, can there not be other “good news” involved as well? The answer to this is, most definitely. In fact, there must be more to the gospel than the death, burial and resurrection, for we are commanded to “obey” the gospel and the death, burial and resurrection are facts, not something that can be obeyed. It can be believed, but not obeyed. Yet, all the good news of the gospel is dependent upon that basic good news that Jesus died for the sins of man. The first four books of the New Testament are known as “the gospels” for their very purpose is to bring about belief in Jesus Christ as the Savior of the world (John 20:30-31). However, though it would be hard to find a copy of the New Testament in English that did not head these books as, “The Gospel of…”, the word gospel is not found in the headings in the original language. Therefore, the gospel is not just the first four books of the New Testament, nor is it just the account of the death, burial and resurrection of Christ.
Both John the Baptist and Jesus preached, “Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 3:2; 4:17). For Jews waiting for the coming promised kingdom, this was indeed good news. Later in the same chapter, Matthew said that Jesus went about, “teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom…” (Matt. 4:23). The good news of the kingdom is still good news. Not that it is at hand, but that Jesus did indeed establish His kingdom and reigns as King over it at this time (John 18:36; Col. 1:13; I Cor. 15:25). The really good news is that we can be citizens of the kingdom at the present time.
When the church at Jerusalem was scattered because of persecution, the disciples went every where preaching the word (Acts 8:4). On man specifically, Philip, went down to Samaria and preached Christ to them (Acts 8:5). What did he preach? The text says that “when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women” (Acts 8:12). Just those few words shows that the things that were preached included, the good news of the kingdom, the authority of Jesus Christ, which He had been given by God (Matt. 28:18) as king over the kingdom, and obedience to the command to be baptized.
So, what is the gospel? It is the body of teaching, including: facts to be believed, commands to be obeyed and promises to be received that came to man by way of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. God spoke to physical Israel by way of the old Law of Moses. But, for the Christian age it is through the body of teaching which came from His Son. The Hebrew writer said, “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son” (Heb. 1:1-2). On the mount of transfiguration, with Moses present to represent the old law and Elias present to represent the prophets and Jesus present with them, the Father spoke from heaven saying, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him” (Matt. 17:5). Jesus promised to and then sent the Holy Spirit upon His chosen apostles to guide them in all truth (John 14:26; 15:26; 16:12-13). This truth is now found in the pages of the book we call the New Testament (II Tim. 3:16-17). It is in fact the last will and testament of Jesus Christ (Heb. 9:15-17).
The gospel must be heard, believed and obeyed (Mark 16:15-6; II Thess. 1:7-9). We will be judged by it in the last day (John 12:48; Rom. 2:16).
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