What is the Gospel?

God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.                                                                  – John 3:16


What is the Gospel?

This month I’ve been encouraging everyone to read through the 4 Gospels, Mathew, Mark, Luke and John. You may not know that the word Gospel comes from the first sentence of Mark which says “The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” When we hear the word Gospel we often think of these four books that tell us about the life of Jesus but the word “Gospel” actually means good news. When we use the word Gospel we’re usually not referring to a list of books but to the message they teach. The Gospel is the good news about Jesus.

So what is the good news about Jesus? The Bible explains the good news to us in many places and many ways, but there is no better and more succinct summary of it than what Jesus says in John 3.

Many of us are familiar with John 3:16. You’ve probably seen it on billboards, at baseball games and on bumper stickers, and you may have heard it quoted many times. As familiar as it may be, though, we overlook what it’s actually saying.

First Jesus says that God loved the world. That in of itself is good news! The truth that God loves us is wonderful thing and we often think of that as the Gospel. But this is only part of the message. Jesus says God loves us and he tells us what that means. He says God loves us so much he gave Jesus for us.

Jesus makes it clear what exactly this means one verse earlier. In John 3:14-15 Jesus explains that “the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.” Son of Man was the way Jesus most often referred to himself and when he says he must be lifted up he’s talking about being lifted up on the cross, about his death. So Jesus says God loves us so much that he gave his Son’s life for us, sent Jesus to die for us.

Why would he do this? The answer is that we were perishing.

Jesus says God gave him so that we wouldn’t perish. This means that without Jesus we would perish! Because we have all foolishly gone our own ways and trusted in ourselves instead of God (this is called sin), we have stumbled into spiritual death. As Romans 6:23 explains, the wages of our sin is death.

Because God loves us he sent Jesus to die for our sins so that we wouldn’t face death and separation from God forever, but would receive the gift of eternal life with God. And the good news is that all we need to receive this gift of God is faith. All we need is to believe in, or a better translation, trust in Jesus. If we trust in his good news, in his sacrifice, we can have the gift of eternal life with our God, who is the source of all joy, peace and life.