What is the Gospel? By Jack Kettler
“Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.” (1Corinthians 15:1-4 ESV)
The Gospel is the good news that we have forgiveness of sins through Jesus. Specifically, the gospel is defined by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4: “Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.”
The gospel comes from God (Galatians 1:10-12), is the power of God for salvation (Romans 1:16), is a mystery (Ephesians 6:19), and is a source of hope (Colossians 1:23), faith (Acts 15:7), life (1Corinthians 4:15), and peace (Ephesians 6:15). *
The word gospel literally means “good news” and occurs 93 times in the Bible, exclusively in the New Testament. In Greek, it is the word euaggelion, from which we get our English words evangelist, evangel, and evangelical. The gospel is, broadly speaking, the whole of Scripture; more narrowly, the gospel is the good news concerning Christ and the way of salvation. **
Synonyms for Gospel:
Christian teaching, Christ's teaching, the life of Christ, the word of God, the good news, Christian doctrine, the New Testament, the writings of the evangelists
From Strong’s Lexicon:
Noun - Accusative Neuter Singular
Strong's Greek 2098: From the same as euaggelizo, a good message, i.e. the gospel.
Commentary selections on each verse from 1Corinthian 15:1-4:
Consider the excellent entry on 1Corinthians 15:1 from Barnes' Notes on the Bible:
“Moreover - But (δὲ de). In addition to what I have said or in that which I am now about to say, I make known the main and leading truth of the gospel. The particle δὲ de is “strictly adversative, but more frequently denotes transition and conversion, and serves to introduce something else, whether opposite to what precedes, or simply continuative or explanatory” - Robinson. Here it serves to introduce another topic that was not properly a continuation of what he had said, but which pertained to the same general subject, and which was deemed of great importance.
I declare unto you - (Γνωρίζω Gnōrizō). This word properly means to make known, to declare, to reveal Luke 2:15; Romans 9:22-23; then to tell, narrate, inform Ephesians 6:21; Colossians 4:7, Colossians 4:9; and also to put in mind of, to impress, to confirm; see the note at 1Corinthians 12:3. Here it does not mean that he was communicating to them any new truth, but he wished to remind them of it, to state the arguments for it, and to impress it deeply on their memories. There is an abruptness in our translation, which does not exist in the original. Bloomfield.
The gospel - See the note at Mark 1:1. The word here means the “glad announcement,” or the “good news” about the coming of the Messiah, his life, and sufferings, and death, and especially his resurrection. The main subject to which Paul refers in this chapter is the resurrection, but he includes in the word gospel. Here, the doctrine that he died for sins, and was buried, as well as the doctrine of his resurrection; see 1Corinthians 15:3-4.
Which I preached unto you - Paul founded the church at Corinth; Acts 18:1 ff. It was proper that he should remind them of what he had taught them at first; of the great elementary truths on which the church had been established, but from which their minds had been diverted by the other subjects that had been introduced as matters of debate and strife. It was fair to presume that they would regard with respect the doctrines, which the founder of their church had first proclaimed, if they were reminded of them; and Paul, therefore, calls their attention to the great and vital truths by which they had been converted, and by which the church had thus far prospered. It is well, often, to remind Christians of the truths, which were preached to them when they were converted, and which were instrumental in their conversion. When they have gone off from these doctrines, when they had given their minds to speculation and philosophy, it has a good effect to “remind” them that they were converted by the simple truths, that Christ died, and was buried, and rose again from the dead. The argument of Paul here is, that they owed all the piety and comfort, which they had to these doctrines; and that, therefore, they should still adhere to them as the foundation of all their hopes.
Which also ye have received - Which you embraced; which you all admitted as true; which were the means of your conversion. I would remind you, that, however that truth may now be denied by you, it was once received by you, and you professed to believe in the fact that Christ rose from the dead, and that the saints would rise.
And wherein ye stand - By which your church was founded, and by which all your piety and hope has been produced, and which is at the foundation of all your religion. You were built up by this, and by this only can you stand as a Christian church. This doctrine was vital and fundamental. This demonstrates that the doctrines that Christ died “for sins,” and rose from the dead, are fundamental truths of Christianity. They enter into its very nature; and without them there can be no true religion.” (1)
Matthew Poole's Commentary captures the apostle thought nicely from 1Corinthinas 15:2:
“By which also ye are saved; by the believing, receiving, of which doctrine, you are already in the way to salvation (as it is said, John 3:18: He that believeth on him is not condemned; and John 3:36: He hath everlasting life, and shall be eternally saved): but not unless ye persevere (for that is meant by keeping in memory the doctrine which I have preached unto you); and this you must do, or your believing will signify nothing, but be in vain to your souls.” (2)
The Pulpit Commentary summarizes 1Corinthians 15:3 well:
“Verse 3. - First of all; literally, among the first things; but this idiom means "first of all." It does not occur elsewhere in the New Testament, but is found in Genesis 33:2, 2Samuel 5:8 (LXX.). This testimony to the Resurrection is very remarkable, because:
1. It is the completest summary.
2. It refers to some incidents, which are not mentioned in the Gospels.
3. It declares that the death and resurrection of Christ were a subject of ancient prophecy.
4. It shows the force of the evidence on which the apostles relied and the number of living eye witnesses to whom they could appeal.
5. It is the earliest written testimony to the Resurrection; for it was penned within twenty-five years of the event itself.
6. It shows that the evidence for the Resurrection as a literal, historical, objective fact was sufficient to convince the powerful intellect of a hostile contemporary observer.
7. It probably embodies, and became the model for, a part of the earliest Creed of the Church. For our sins, literally, on behalf of. The passage is remarkable as the only one in which “on behalf of” is used with “sins” in St. Paul. In 1Corinthians 1:13 we are told that he died" on behalf of us" (Romans 5:8; see 2Corinthians 5:21; 1Peter 2:24). The expressions involve the image of Christ as a Sin Offering for the forgiveness of sins. According to the Scriptures. The chief passages alluded to are doubtless Isaiah 53:5, 8; Daniel 9:26; Psalm 22; Zechariah 12:10; together with such types as the offering of Isaac (Genesis 22.) and the Paschal lamb, etc. Our Lord had taught the apostles confidently to refer to the Messianic interpretation of the Old Testament prophecies (Luke 24:25, 46: Acts 8:35; Acts 17:3; Acts 26:22, 23; John 2:22; John 20:9; 1 Peter 1:11).” (3)
Contemplate Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible on 1Corinthians 15:4:
“And that he was buried,.... That is, according to the Scriptures; for as he died and rose again according to the Scriptures, he was buried according to them; which speak of his being in hell, in “sheol”, in the grave, and of his making his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, Psalm 16:10 and which had their accomplishment through Joseph of Arimathea, a rich man, who begged the body of Jesus, wrapped in linen, and laid it in his own new tomb. And besides these Scripture prophecies of his burial, Jonah's being three days and three nights in the whale's belly was a type of it, and according to which our Lord himself foretold it, Matthew 12:40. Now since this was prophesied of, and typified, and had its actual accomplishment, it was very proper for the apostle to take notice of it, both to confirm the certainty of Christ's death, and the truth of his resurrection, which his death and burial are mentioned, in order to lead on to, and next follows:
And that he rose again the third day according to the Scriptures: that he should rise again from the dead was very plainly hinted or expressed in several prophecies which speak of the rising of his dead body, of its not being left in the grave so long as to see corruption; and which therefore could not be in it more than three days; and of his lifting up his head after he had drank of the brook by the way; of his ascension to heaven, and session at the right hand of God, which suppose his resurrection, Isaiah 26:19. And that he should rise again the third day, is not only suggested in Hosea 6:2 but was prefigured by the deliverance of Isaac on the third day after Abraham had given him up for dead, from whence he received him, in a figure of Christ's resurrection; and by Jonah's deliverance out of the whale's belly, after he had been in it three days. The Jews take a particular notice of the third day as remarkable for many things they observe (e), as
“Of the third day Abraham lift up his eyes, Genesis 22:4 of the third day of the tribes, Genesis 42:18 of the third day of the spies, Joshua 2:16 of the third day of the giving of the law, Exodus 19:16 of the third day of Jonah, Jonah 1:17 of the third day of them that came out of the captivity, Ezra 8:15 of the third day of the resurrection of the dead, as it is written, Hosea 6:2 “after two days will he revive us, in the third day he will raise us up, and we shall live in his sight”.”
From which passage, it is clear, that they under stood the prophecy in Hosea of the resurrection of the dead; and it is observable, that among the remarkable third days they take notice of, are the two instances of Isaac's and Jonah's deliverances, which were Scripture types of Christ's resurrection. From which observations they establish this as a maxim (f), that
“God does not leave the righteous in distress more than three days.”'
That Christ did rise again from the dead, in pursuance of those prophecies and types, the apostle afterwards proves by an induction of particular instances of persons who were eyewitnesses of it.” (4)
What does a man need to do in light of the gospel message?
Paul declares the following concerning man's condition, “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one...that every mouth may be stopped, and the entire world may become guilty before God” Romans 3:10, 19. This is a sinner’s condition. This condition of sin must be acknowledged in humility. Paul goes on to say, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” Romans 6:23. All humanity has earned the wages of death. God in his mercy gives the gift of eternal life based upon the work of Christ. The only thing that humankind has earned and deserved is death. Eternal life comes as a gift. If the confession sin and the accepting the work of Christ on one’s behalf is real, this confession will agree that there was and is absolutely nothing in a man that caused God to give this gift. Jesus Christ gets all the glory and praise.
Gospel presentation for sinners:
The basics of the gospel message might be presented like this:
God is perfect and holy and He requires nothing less than His own perfection. But, we are not able to attain His holiness. He doesn't lie, cheat, or steal, but we do these things. Therefore, there's a judgment upon us because we have broken the Law of God, we have sinned by lying and cheating and stealing. This judgment is eternal damnation. However, God the Father loves us so much that He sent God the Son, Jesus, who died on the cross as a sacrifice to pay the penalty for our sins. He died on the cross and physically rose from the dead three days later. This proves that His sacrifice was acceptable to the Father. Therefore, if you want to receive what Jesus has done to remove the wrath of God the Father, then you must receive Him and His sacrifice by faith. Would you like to pray and ask Jesus to forgive your sins against God? * From CARM
The results of gospel conversion:
The converted sinner will attempt to do as the writer of Hebrews sets forth: “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2). The repentant sinner will look to Jesus by giving him the glory in all things. God is the one that gives the gift of faith. The sinner is saved by grace and even the faith is a gift. Ephesians 2:8 says, “And that not of yourselves.” What is not of yourselves? Faith! Did the sinner choose Christ and exercise faith on his own apart from God and His divine working? Who gets the glory? Christ or the sinner? Why does a sinner choose to believe? Ephesians 1:4, 5 supplies the answer: “According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will.” Was this salvation in the sinner’s hands to choose or reject? If this were the case, could not the sinner glory in himself? How can that be so? Because the sinner would have done something, others had not done. The following verse tells us that it is, “according to the good pleasure of his will.” “So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy” (Romans 9:16). Salvation is by Grace and not of works!
Hymns about Grace:
When I stand before the throne,
Dressed in beauty not my own,
When I see Thee as Thou art,
Love Thee With unsinning heart Robert Murray McCheyne
1 Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
let me hide myself in thee;
let the water and the blood,
from thy wounded side which flowed,
be of sin the double cure;
save from wrath and make me pure.
2 Not the labors of my hands
can fulfill thy law's demands;
could my zeal no respite know,
could my tears forever flow,
all for sin could not atone;
thou must save, and thou alone.
3 Nothing in my hand I bring,
simply to the cross I cling;
naked, come to thee for dress;
helpless, look to thee for grace;
foul, I to the fountain fly;
wash me, Savior, or I die.
4 While I draw this fleeting breath,
when mine eyes shall close in death,
when I soar to worlds unknown,
see thee on thy judgment throne,
Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
let me hide myself in thee. Augustus Toplady
Quotes on Grace:
“Even if we have thousands of acts of great virtue to our credit, our confidence in being heard must be based on God's mercy and His love for men. Even if we stand at the very summit of virtue, it is by mercy that we shall be saved.” - St. John Chrysostom
“The nature of the Divine goodness is not only to open to those who knock. But also to cause them to knock and ask.” – Augustine
“We ought always to beware of making the smallest claim for ourselves.” - John Calvin
“Grace alone makes the elect gracious; grace alone keeps them gracious; and the same grace alone will render them everlastingly glorious in the heaven of heavens.” - Augustus Toplady
“You may be quite certain that if you love God it is a fruit, not a root.” - C.H. Spurgeon
“We are not born again by repentance or faith or conversion: we repent and believe because we have been born again.” - John Murray
“As grace led me to faith in the first-place, so grace will keep me believing to the end. Faith, both in its origin and continuance, is a gift of grace.” - J.I. Packer
“Regeneration, however it is described, is a divine activity in us, in which we are not the actors but the recipients.” - Sinclair Ferguson
“Without the Holy Spirit there would be no new birth, no illumination, no understanding or affection for the gospel, and thus no faith -- in other words, no Christians.” - J.W. Hendryx
“To make human action the cause of divine blessing is to overturn the whole nature of salvation.” - Iain Murray
In closing, the Word of God:
“To God, only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen.” (Romans 16:27) and “heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:28, 29)
1. Albert Barnes, THE AGES DIGITAL LIBRARYCOMMENTARY, Barnes’ Notes on the Bible, 1Corinthians, Vol. 3 p. 2770.
2. Matthew Poole's Commentary on the Holy Bible, (Peabody, Massachusetts, Hendrickson Publishers, 1985) p. 592.
3. H. D. M. Spence and Joseph S. Exell, The Pulpit Commentary, 1Corinthians, Vol.19., (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Eerdmans Publishing Company reprint 1978), p. 484.
4. John Gill, Exposition of the Old and New Testaments, 1Corinthians, 9 Volumes, (Grace Works, Multi-Media Labs), 2011, p. 351-352.
Mr. Kettler has previously published articles in the Chalcedon Report and Contra Mundum. He and his wife Marea attend the Westminster, CO, RPCNA Church. Mr. Kettler is the author of the book defending the Reformed Faith against attacks, titled: The Religion That Started in a Hat. Available at: http://www.TheReligionThatStartedInAHat.com
* CARM Theological Dictionary https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/ctd/g/gospel.html https://carm.org/how-to-present-gospel-properly
** What is the gospel? At GOT Questions https://www.gotquestions.org/what-is-the-gospel.html