What Does “Gospel” Really Mean?

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What Does Gospel Really MeanWe often describe God’s gracious offer of Salvation as “good news”, and while this makes sense, given the magnitude of God’s gift to us, there are actually good etymological reasons for describing Salvation in this way. The word “Gospel” is derived from an Anglo-Saxon word, “godspel”, or “good story” and was substituted for the original Greek word “euaggelion” which first signified “a present given to one who brought good tidings”, or “a sacrifice offered in thanksgiving for such good tidings having come”. In later Greek uses, it was employed for the good tidings themselves. That’s exactly what God is offering us with the Gospel; “good news” about what he did for us through Jesus Christ:

The Gospel is All About What God Did For Us
God wants us to rejoice over the good news of what Jesus did for us on the cross. Although our sin deserves death, Jesus paid the price and even defeated death so we too can live forever with God:

1 Corinthians 15:1-4
Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures

The Gospel is All About Grace
Paul devoted his life to sharing what he believed to be very “good news”. He thought it was good news because he understood God was giving us a free gift only He could offer: the gift of Salvation, given freely as an act of grace (unmerited favor):

Acts 20:24
However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me-the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.

The Gospel is All About God’s Work and Righteousness, Not Our Own
God wants us to know it is absolutely pointless to think we could ever contribute to our salvation in even the smallest way with our own efforts (or good works). The Gospel is good news because it demonstrates God will do what it takes to apply His righteousness to us if we will only place our faith in Jesus. It is faith alone, “from first to last,” that saves us:

Romans 1:16-17
I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”

A “Works” Gospel is No Gospel At All
Finally, God wants us to understand it’s our nature to slowly drift from the good news of grace and slip back into thinking our own good works are actually saving us. But a “works based” Salvation is not good news; we offend God when we try to act like our righteousness is anything compared to His. It is hopeless to depend on our own goodness when trying to reach a perfect God. We are simply never going to be “good” enough.

Galatians 1:6-9
I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel- which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!

God wants us see his gift of grace for what it really is. God’s grace is “good news” because it solves a foundational problem all of us have as human beings. We are fallen. We are rebellious. We are far less than perfect. Beings like us simply cannot enter into a perfect realm without God’s complete and total work in our lives. Our faith alone saves us, and that’s good news, because any belief system which argues you can contribute to your own salvation is offensive to God, who is the only source of salvation. God doesn’t want to merely contribute here. He wants to do it all, because He knows how incapable we truly are in this area. His gift of grace is truly “good news”. That’s why it’s called the “Gospel”.

J. Warner Wallace is a Cold-Case Detective, Christian Case Maker, Senior Fellow at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview, and the author of Cold-Case Christianity, Cold-Case Christianity for Kids, God’s Crime Scene, God’s Crime Scene for Kids, and Forensic Faith.

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