What is the gospel?

I tend to think of “the gospel” as “what you need to believe to be saved”. If you don’t have to believe it to be saved, then while it may be true, it isn’t part of the gospel.

Now I’m wondering, is that what the gospel means in Scripture? A book I’ve been reading sent me back to the New Testament for another look.

It’s certainly good news that in Jesus we are offered forgiveness of sins. But there are other things about Jesus that are good news too. Does the New Testament use “gospel” to mean all the good news about Jesus, or does it mean very specifically the offer of personal salvation through His death for us and nothing else?

The question reminds me of the charismatic churches that talk about being “full gospel”. What they mean, I think, is that Jesus doesn’t just offer forgiveness, he offers healing and prosperity and so on. I don’t share their views about guaranteed healing and prosperity for believers, but set that aside for the moment and notice that when they call healing and prosperity part of the gospel, they aren’t implying that you must believe in that healing before you can be saved. They’re just saying that the good news doesn’t end with forgiveness. Not only can you find pardon for all your sins, you can find other blessings as well.

When Jesus walked on earth, there was a lot of good news about him. He healed and cast out demons. He taught with authority and insight. He said the kingdom of God was near. He demonstrated the compassionate heart of God.

Since his resurrection and ascension, there are more things that are good news. He has been made both Lord and Christ, and has been given all authority in heaven and on earth. He is the reality that all the Old Testament rituals were pointing to. All of God’s goodness is summed up in him. He has called us to follow Him. He is our perfect example.

Of course none of these other blessings does us any good until we’ve received forgiveness in his name, but is it accurate to call them part of the gospel anyway?

If this is what the gospel means in Scripture, does that affect what we should think of when we talk about “sharing the gospel”?

Let me know what you think.

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