What is the Gospel?
From Jerusalem to the Nations: Proclaiming Good News
Related sermon: What is the Gospel?
In his 1st century letter to the Romans, the writer, a renowned Torah-trained scholar, began with these words: "Paul, a servant of Yeshua HaMashiach, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God..."
The gospel of God. It is the focus of Paul's letter to the Romans. Clearly, it is also the center of Paul's personal identity and calling. And, he contends, it should be for us as well.
But what is it? What is this gospel of God? We know it is "good news." Still, what exactly is this news, news so compelling that virtually all who first taught it chose to die for it?
Nowhere in the Bible is "the gospel of God" defined in a single sentence. It is never presented as formula. Even so, when we study the whole counsel of God's Word, we can know the gospel, rediscover it, and renew our own essential identity with this mind-boggling, world-changing news.
The essence of the message is beautifully expressed with words that for many of us have become far too familiar:
Okay. Great quote. It helps us begin to understand. But taken in isolation, the substance and nature of the gospel remains ...blurry. We see a shape. But what is it, exactly?
Like a camera lens bringing its subject into focus, the first six verses of Romans, Chapter 1, provide remarkable clarity to the question, What is the gospel of God?
1. The Gospel is not just a New Testament message;
it is also revealed in the Hebrew Scriptures
According to Paul, the gospel is something that God "promised before through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures."
Throughout Romans Paul, Jewish believer and Torah scholar, makes it crystal clear that he hasn't cut off himself off from his Jewish roots or joined some new pagan sect. Quite the opposite. He sees the gospel as the central message throughout all the Hebrew Scriptures.
This should come as no surprise. Long before the New Testament, Yeshua made it clear: "Salvation is from the Jews." The gospel that He preached came directly from the Hebrew, Jewish Scriptures.
Do you remember what he taught two men while walking by their side on a sad and dusty 7 mile walk to the village of Emmaus?
Why then was there a need for a New Testament version of the gospel? One answer:
The gospel of the Hebrew Scriptures is anticipation; the gospel of the New Testament is attainment. The good news of the Hebrew Scriptures proclaims, "the Savior is coming;" the good news of the New Testament proclaims; "the Savior has arrived."
Brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.
For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve."
2. The Gospel is a Person
In the first sentence of his letter to believers in Rome, Paul makes a direct connection between the gospel of God and a Person. He writes, the "gospel of God... promised before through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures, concerning His Son, Yeshua HaMashiach Adonai -- Jesus the Messiah, our Lord."
The gospel is not some abstract, philosophical concept. It is a Person. It is Yeshua. Yes, Yeshua Himself. He is not simply the messenger of good news. He is the good news! His very name, Yeshua, means "the Lord is salvation."
If Yeshua himself is the gospel we should expect to find a direct connection between him and the Hebrew Scriptures. Indeed we do. Continuing the first sentence of his letter, Paul describes Yeshua, "as to his human nature, a descendant of David..."
According to the prophet Isaiah, the Messiah had to be a direct descendant of David. Any "messiah" who could not prove that lineage was a hoax—a false Messiah. Yeshua is no hoax. Born before Hebrew genealogical records were lost to history, Yeshua's direct descendance from David was never contested.
Is it enough therefore that Yeshua was a fully human descendant of David? No, it is not enough. He must be something more.
The prophet John, introduced Yeshua as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!
We know that only God can forgive sin. Salvation from sin takes more than a son of David. It requires the Son of God.
Do you remember when, before healing him, Yeshua told the paralytic, "Son, your sins are forgiven you." That declaration immediately triggered outrage in hearts of Torah scholars sitting in the room. “Who can forgive sins but God alone? This man speaks blasphemy!”
Well, their question was right. Either Yeshua is God in the flesh or he is a wicked teacher and immoral to the core.
The gospel declares that Yeshua himself is both 100% human and 100% deity at the same time. Yeshua was, and is, the son of David and Son of God.
And while it is true he died, Yeshua did not remain among the dead. He was resurrected. Today, right now, He is fully alive and on the loose.
Yeshua's resurrection is an indispensable part of the gospel message. In another letter, Paul makes it clear that this is so. He bluntly writes, "if Messiah has not been raised, our preaching is useless and... your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. But, he continues, "Messiah has indeed been raised from the dead!"
3. The Gospel is so compelling, it must be shared, taught, preached
It is as if he does not take a breath, when in his second sentence to the congregation in Rome, Paul immediately asserts, "Through Yeshua and for His name's sake, we [all of us] received grace (and [for my part] apostleship) to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith."
Paul was so thrilled with the truth of the gospel that he found it hard to do anything else. In one place he writes, "I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!"
Should we not be compelled as well? How can we possibly keep such amazing news to ourselves?
Someone has said, "too many Christians are stuffing themselves with gospel blessings while millions have never had a taste." He then went on to say, "The gospel is not a secret to be hoarded but a story to be heralded ." Amen!
4. The Gospel demands a response
The first proper response to the gospel is "obedience of faith." That is why Paul's second sentence includes the gospel message and an admonition to respond with "the obedience that comes from faith."
It is a false teaching that says, "‘just believe’ and you will be saved; you can make Yeshua Lord of your life at a later time.”
Genuine faith is more than mental assent to a set of Biblical or theological truths. The very essence of faith includes obedience.
Someone has said, "Faith is the gift of God. So is the air, but you have to breathe it. So is bread, but you have to eat it. So is water, but you have to drink it." In the same way real faith means making a commitment to live for Yeshua not merely to believe He is Lord, but to make Him Lord.
I am reminded of the story about a well-to-do believer who paid a top dollar for a particular slave. When the two met for the first time, the wealthy man said, "It is true, I bought you, but I did it only to free you from the terrible bondage you have known." Then he handed the other man some papers that guaranteed freedom.
The slave looked at him in sheer amazement. "I am truly free? I am my own? I may go where I wish?"
"Yes," said the believer, "that is why I purchased you."
Overwhelmed, the slave fell to his knees and replied, "Then my greatest joy and freedom will be to stay and serve you for the rest of my life."
This is what belonging to Yeshua is all about. It is a love relationship between an eternally grateful slave and his Master Redeemer. This is "the gospel of God."