Most evangelicals have "The Gospel" pretty well defined. 1 Cor 15 says,
1 Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, 2 by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, (NASB'95)And in Gal 1 the same apostle Paul says,
6 I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; 7 which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! 9 As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed! (NASB'95)So, the prescription in 1 Cor 15 says what it is, and in Galatians it says it can't be anything else, right? Isn't that simple?
During a quarter century in the evangelical church system there were a few things that vexed me, though. If this is the only gospel by which men can be saved, then how was Abraham "saved"? According to Gen 15, cited in Rom 4:3
2 Abram said, "O Lord God, what will You give me, since I am childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?" 3 And Abram said, "Since You have given no offspring to me, one born in my house is my heir." 4 Then behold, the word of the Lord came to him, saying, "This man will not be your heir; but one who will come forth from your own body, he shall be your heir." 5 And He took him outside and said, "Now look toward the heavens, and count the stars, if you are able to count them." And He said to him, "So shall your descendants be." 6 Then he believed in the Lord; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness. (NASB'95)Gospel? What gospel? Abraham believed God that he would have descendants in his old age. Is that "The gospel of Abraham"? What then is it doing being cited in the book of Romans by the apostle Paul, where it says,
1 What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, has found? 2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 3 For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” 4 Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due. 5 But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness, 6 just as David also speaks of the blessing on the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works: 7 “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds have been forgiven, and whose sins have been covered. 8 “Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will not take into account.”Then, listen to Jesus in Matt 24,
"14 This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come." (NASB'95)Jesus certainly had not been publicly preaching his own substitutionary death, burial, and resurrection. Is the gospel of the apostle Paul different than the gospel of Jesus?
Okay, I can just hear some of you evangelicals saying, "That was before the cross." After all, Jesus said in Luke 24,
45 Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and He said to them, "Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, 47 and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem." (NASB'95)But now we have the "gospel" of the kingdom, and the "gospel" of repentance for forgiveness of sins. Which is it?
But wait! At the end of the age, according to Rev 14,
6 And I saw another angel flying in midheaven, having an eternal gospel to preach to those who live on the earth, and to every nation and tribe and tongue and people; 7 and he said with a loud voice, "Fear God, and give Him glory, because the hour of His judgment has come; worship Him who made the heaven and the earth and sea and springs of waters." (NASB'95)Clearly, this is after the cross, since it is the end of the present age. What happened to the gospel of Jesus' payment for sins, and his death, burial, and resurrection? Now do we believe the gospel of the apostle Paul, or the gospel of the angel?
Let me muddy the waters a little bit more. Do you remember how I just quoted 1 Cor 15?
1 Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, 2 by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, (NASB'95)Did you notice that the above quote ended with a comma? Why do you evangelicals stop there? Who told you to stop there? Let's finish the statement:
5 and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve. 6 After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; 7 then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; 8 and last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me also. (NASB'95)So now, shouldn't the rest of the statement be included, that "The Gospel" includes that he appeared to Peter, the twelve, five hundred others, all at one time, and so on? If it's a manifesto and prescription that one is to communicate exactly, then you've got part of a prescription, part of a formula. Who gave you the right to remove part of it in your gospel tracts?
Are we still missing anything essential? Let's not forget about the woman who poured an expensive alabaster vase of myrrh on Jesus to anoint him in advance of his burial. Jesus said,
Truly I am saying to you, wheresoever this gospel may be proclaimed in the whole world, it shall be spoken also, which she does, into a memorial of her. (Matt 26:13, also Mark 14:9)Do evangelicals include the account of this woman whenever and wherever they proclaim the gospel? I have never heard them do that. I certainly don't remember ever having done so myself. But, oh, her account is included in two of the Gospels. And we call each of those four books, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, "Gospels," don't we? In fact, the Gospel of Mark starts out with
The origin of the gospel of Jesus Christ, Son of God, as it has been written in the prophets... (Mark 1:1-2)Now, what's "The Gospel"?
Once again, the problem is a matter of modern word definitions. "The Gospel" with a capital T and a capital G has become a loaded religious term of contemporary evangelicalism, to the point that this is all that matters and nothing else matters, such that the only goal is to get people to understand the payment for sins, and death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, so that they can then recite The Sinner's Prayer, "get saved," and then the evangelist can move on to the next potential convert who has not yet recited The Sinner's Prayer and gotten "saved."
Let's back up and see what the word "gospel" means in the original language, and then the solution to this whole dilemma will be evident.
First, the English word "gospel" is actually from an archaic, Old English word, "gōd"+"spel", which just meant "good news." It is translated from the Greek word in the New Testament scriptures, "ευ-αγγελ__" with some inflection at the end of the word, which is transliterated, Greek character to Roman character, sound for sound, "ev-angel," from which we get evangel, evangelize, evangelist, evangelism, and so on, adding our English inflections to the end of that root word.
The Greek "ευ" part just means good or well, and the "αγγελ__" part means message. So, as literally as you can translate from the Greek, it just means "well-message."
And that's it. Any time you have a "well-message," or "good news," you would use that word. In fact, that word was used in the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament, the Septuagint, in various instances, just having to do with various kinds of "good news," and in various secular classical Greek literature as well. The word isn't a Christian invention.
Here are examples from the Greek Septuagint (abbreviated "LXX"). For convenience, I will also quote mostly from the NASB'95, which translates from the Hebrew Masoretic text into English:
καὶ ἀποστρέφουσιν αὐτὸν καὶ ἐξέδυσαν τὰ σκεύη αὐτοῦ καὶ ἀποστέλλουσιν αὐτὰ εἰς γῆν ἀλλοφύλων κύκλῳ εὐαγγελίζοντες τοῖς εἰδώλοις αὐτῶν καὶ τῷ λαῷ αὐτῶν (1 Sam 31:9, LXX)Here are the dictionary entries in the LSJ, which is a secular classical Greek lexicon:
They cut off his head and stripped off his weapons, and sent them throughout the land of the Philistines, to carry the good news to the house of their idols and to the people. (1 Sam 31:9, NASB'95)
μὴ ἀναγγείλητε ἐν Γεθ καὶ μὴ εὐαγγελίσησθε ἐν ταῖς ἐξόδοις Ἀσκαλῶνος, μήποτε εὐφρανθῶσιν θυγατέρες ἀλλοφύλων, μήποτε ἀγαλλιάσωνται θυγατέρες τῶν ἀπεριτμήτων (2 Sam 1:20, LXX)
“Tell it not in Gath, proclaim it not in the streets of Ashkelon, or the daughters of the Philistines will rejoice, the daughters of the uncircumcised will exult." (2 Sam 1:20, NASB'95)
ὅτι ὁ ἀπαγγείλας μοι ὅτι τέθνηκεν Σαουλ — καὶ αὐτὸς ἦν ὡς εὐαγγελιζόμενος ἐνώπιόν μου — καὶ κατέσχον αὐτὸν καὶ ἀπέκτεινα ἐν Σεκελακ, ᾧ ἔδει με δοῦναι εὐαγγέλια (2 Sam 4:10, LXX)
when one told me, saying, ‘Behold, Saul is dead,’ and thought he was bringing good news, I seized him and killed him in Ziklag, which was the reward I gave him for his news. (2 Sam 4:10, NASB'95)
Καὶ Αχιμαας υἱὸς Σαδωκ εἶπεν Δράμω δὴ καὶ εὐαγγελιῶ τῷ βασιλεῖ ὅτι ἔκρινεν αὐτῷ κύριος ἐκ χειρὸς τῶν ἐχθρῶν αὐτοῦ. καὶ εἶπεν αὐτῷ Ιωαβ Οὐκ ἀνὴρ εὐαγγελίας σὺ ἐν τῇ ἡμέρᾳ ταύτῃ καὶ εὐαγγελιῇ ἐν ἡμέρᾳ ἄλλῃ, ἐν δὲ τῇ ἡμέρᾳ ταύτῃ οὐκ εὐαγγελιῇ, οὗ εἵνεκεν ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ βασιλέως ἀπέθανεν. καὶ εἶπεν Ιωαβ τῷ Χουσι Βαδίσας ἀνάγγειλον τῷ βασιλεῖ ὅσα εἶδες· καὶ προσεκύνησεν Χουσι τῷ Ιωαβ καὶ ἐξῆλθεν. καὶ προσέθετο ἔτι Αχιμαας υἱὸς Σαδωκ καὶ εἶπεν πρὸς Ιωαβ Καὶ ἔστω ὅτι δράμω καί γε ἐγὼ ὀπίσω τοῦ Χουσι. καὶ εἶπεν Ιωαβ Ἵνα τί τοῦτο τρέχεις, υἱέ μου; δεῦρο, οὐκ ἔστιν σοι εὐαγγελία εἰς ὠφέλειαν πορευομένῳ. (2 Sam 18:19-22, LXX)
Then Ahimaaz the son of Zadok said, “Please let me run and bring the king news that the Lord has freed him from the hand of his enemies.” But Joab said to him, “You are not the man to carry news this day, but you shall carry news another day; however, you shall carry no news today because the king’s son is dead.” Then Joab said to the Cushite, “Go, tell the king what you have seen.” So the Cushite bowed to Joab and ran. Now Ahimaaz the son of Zadok said once more to Joab, “But whatever happens, please let me also run after the Cushite.” And Joab said, “Why would you run, my son, since you will have no reward for going? [LXX, literally, 'it is not being to you good news into gain, to going' -GDW]” (2 Sam 18:19-22, NASB'95)
καὶ ἀνεβόησεν ὁ σκοπὸς καὶ ἀπήγγειλεν τῷ βασιλεῖ. καὶ εἶπεν ὁ βασιλεύς Εἰ μόνος ἐστίν, εὐαγγελία ἐν τῷ στόματι αὐτοῦ. καὶ ἐπορεύετο πορευόμενος καὶ ἐγγίζων. καὶ εἶδεν ὁ σκοπὸς ἄνδρα ἕτερον τρέχοντα, καὶ ἐβόησεν ὁ σκοπὸς πρὸς τῇ πύλῃ καὶ εἶπεν Ἰδοὺ ἀνὴρ ἕτερος τρέχων μόνος. καὶ εἶπεν ὁ βασιλεύς Καί γε οὗτος εὐαγγελιζόμενος. καὶ εἶπεν ὁ σκοπός Ἐγὼ ὁρῶ τὸν δρόμον τοῦ πρώτου ὡς δρόμον Αχιμαας υἱοῦ Σαδωκ. καὶ εἶπεν ὁ βασιλεύς Ἀνὴρ ἀγαθὸς οὗτος καί γε εἰς εὐαγγελίαν ἀγαθὴν ἐλεύσεται. (2 Sam 18:25-27, LXX)
The watchman called and told the king. And the king said, “If he is by himself there is good news in his mouth.” And he came nearer and nearer. Then the watchman saw another man running; and the watchman called to the gatekeeper and said, “Behold, another man running by himself.” And the king said, “This one also is bringing good news.” The watchman said, “I think the running of the first one is like the running of Ahimaaz the son of Zadok.” And the king said, “This is a good man and comes with good news.” (2 Sam 18:25-27, NASB'95)
καὶ ἰδοὺ ὁ Χουσι παρεγένετο καὶ εἶπεν τῷ βασιλεῖ Εὐαγγελισθήτω ὁ κύριός μου ὁ βασιλεύς, ὅτι ἔκρινέν σοι κύριος σήμερον ἐκ χειρὸς πάντων τῶν ἐπεγειρομένων ἐπὶ σέ. (2 Sam 18:31, LXX)
Behold, the Cushite arrived, and the Cushite said, “Let my lord the king receive good news, for the Lord has freed you this day from the hand of all those who rose up against you.” (2 Sam 18:31, NASB'95)
ἔτι αὐτοῦ λαλοῦντος καὶ ἰδοὺ Ιωναθαν υἱὸς Αβιαθαρ τοῦ ἱερέως ἦλθεν, καὶ εἶπεν Αδωνιας Εἴσελθε, ὅτι ἀνὴρ δυνάμεως εἶ σύ, καὶ ἀγαθὰ εὐαγγέλισαι. (1 Kings 1:42, LXX)
While he was still speaking, behold, Jonathan the son of Abiathar the priest came. Then Adonijah said, “Come in, for you are a valiant man and bring good news.” (1 Kings 1:42, NASB'95)
καὶ εἶπεν ἀνὴρ πρὸς τὸν πλησίον αὐτοῦ Οὐχ οὕτως ἡμεῖς ποιοῦμεν· ἡ ἡμέρα αὕτη ἡμέρα εὐαγγελίας ἐστίν, καὶ ἡμεῖς σιωπῶμεν καὶ μένομεν ἕως φωτὸς τοῦ πρωὶ καὶ εὑρήσομεν ἀνομίαν· καὶ νῦν δεῦρο καὶ εἰσέλθωμεν καὶ ἀναγγείλωμεν εἰς τὸν οἶκον τοῦ βασιλέως. (2 Kings 7:9, LXX)
Then they said to one another, “We are not doing right. This day is a day of good news, but we are keeping silent; if we wait until morning light, punishment will overtake us. Now therefore come, let us go and tell the king’s household.” (2 Kings 7:9, NASB'95)
καὶ ἐξέδυσαν αὐτὸν καὶ ἔλαβον τὴν κεφαλὴν αὐτοῦ καὶ τὰ σκεύη αὐτοῦ καὶ ἀπέστειλαν εἰς γῆν ἀλλοφύλων κύκλῳ τοῦ εὐαγγελίσασθαι τοῖς εἰδώλοις αὐτῶν καὶ τῷ λαῷ (1 Cron 10:9, LXX)
So they stripped him and took his head and his armor and sent messengers around the land of the Philistines to carry the good news to their idols and to the people. (1 Chron 10:9, NASB'95)
εὐηγγελισάμην δικαιοσύνην ἐν ἐκκλησίᾳ μεγάλῃ ἰδοὺ τὰ χείλη μου οὐ μὴ κωλύσω κύριε, σὺ ἔγνως. (Psalm 39:10, LXX)
I have proclaimed glad tidings of righteousness in the great congregation; behold, I will not restrain my lips, O Lord, You know. (Psalm 40:9, NASB'95)
κύριος δώσει ῥῆμα τοῖς εὐαγγελιζομένοις δυνάμει πολλῇ, (Psalm 67:12, LXX)
The Lord gives the command; the women who proclaim the good tidings are a great host: (Psalm 68:11, NASB'95)
ᾄσατε τῷ κυρίῳ, εὐλογήσατε τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ, εὐαγγελίζεσθε ἡμέραν ἐξ ἡμέρας τὸ σωτήριον αὐτοῦ (Psalm 95:2, LXX)
Sing to the Lord, bless His name; proclaim good tidings of His salvation from day to day. (Psalm 96:2, NASB'95)
Σαλπίσατε ἐν Σιων ἐν σάλπιγγι σημασίας ἁγίων, κηρύξατε ἐν Ιερουσαλημ φωνὴν εὐαγγελιζομένου ὅτι ἠλέησεν ὁ θεὸς Ισραηλ ἐν τῇ ἐπισκοπῇ αὐτῶν. (Psalms of Solomon, LXX)
Sound the trumpet in Zion, in holy trumpet signal, proclaim in Jerusalem [the] sound of good-newsing, because the God mercifies Israel in his visitation. (Psalms of Solomon, translation mine)
καὶ ἔσται πᾶς, ὃς ἂν ἐπικαλέσηται τὸ ὄνομα κυρίου, σωθήσεται· ὅτι ἐν τῷ ὄρει Σιων καὶ ἐν Ιερουσαλημ ἔσται ἀνασῳζόμενος, καθότι εἶπεν κύριος, καὶ εὐαγγελιζόμενοι, οὓς κύριος προσκέκληται. (Joel 3:5, LXX)
And it will be all whoever may call upon the name of the Lord will be saved, for in the mountain of Zion and in Jerusalem there will be restoring, as says the Lord, and good news being proclaimed, whom the lord has summoned. (Joel 2:32, translation mine)
Ἰδοὺ ἐπὶ τὰ ὄρη οἱ πόδες εὐαγγελιζομένου καὶ ἀπαγγέλλοντος εἰρήνην· ἑόρταζε, Ιουδα, τὰς ἑορτάς σου, ἀπόδος τὰς εὐχάς σου, διότι οὐ μὴ προσθήσωσιν ἔτι τοῦ διελθεῖν διὰ σοῦ εἰς παλαίωσιν Συντετέλεσται, ἐξῆρται. (Nahum 2:1, LXX)
Behold, on the mountains the feet of him who brings good news, who announces peace! Celebrate your feasts, O Judah; pay your vows. For never again will the wicked one pass through you; he is cut off completely. (Nahum 1:15, NASB'95)
ἐπʼ ὄρος ὑψηλὸν ἀνάβηθι, ὁ εὐαγγελιζόμενος Σιων· ὕψωσον τῇ ἰσχύι τὴν φωνήν σου, ὁ εὐαγγελιζόμενος Ιερουσαλημ· ὑψώσατε, μὴ φοβεῖσθε· εἰπὸν ταῖς πόλεσιν Ιουδα Ἰδοὺ ὁ θεὸς ὑμῶν. (Isa 40:9, LXX)
Get yourself up on a high mountain, O Zion, bearer of good news, lift up your voice mightily, O Jerusalem, bearer of good news; lift it up, do not fear. Say to the cities of Judah, “Here is your God!” (Isa 40:9, NASB'95)
ὡς ὥρα ἐπὶ τῶν ὀρέων, ὡς πόδες εὐαγγελιζομένου ἀκοὴν εἰρήνης, ὡς εὐαγγελιζόμενος ἀγαθά, ὅτι ἀκουστὴν ποιήσω τὴν σωτηρίαν σου λέγων Σιων Βασιλεύσει σου ὁ θεός (Isa 52:7, LXX)
How lovely on the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who announces peace and brings good news of happiness, who announces salvation, and says to Zion, “Your God reigns!” (Isa 52:7, NASB'95)
ἀγέλαι καμήλων, καὶ καλύψουσίν σε κάμηλοι Μαδιαμ καὶ Γαιφα· πάντες ἐκ Σαβα ἥξουσιν φέροντες χρυσίον καὶ λίβανον οἴσουσιν καὶ τὸ σωτήριον κυρίου εὐαγγελιοῦνται. (Isa 60:6, LXX)
“A multitude of camels will cover you, the young camels of Midian and Ephah; all those from Sheba will come; they will bring gold and frankincense, and will bear good news of the praises of the Lord. (Isa 60:6, NASB'95)
Πνεῦμα κυρίου ἐπʼ ἐμέ, οὗ εἵνεκεν ἔχρισέν με· εὐαγγελίσασθαι πτωχοῖς ἀπέσταλκέν με, ἰάσασθαι τοὺς συντετριμμένους τῇ καρδίᾳ, κηρύξαι αἰχμαλώτοις ἄφεσιν καὶ τυφλοῖς ἀνάβλεψιν, (Isa 61:1, LXX)
The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners; (Isa 61:1, NASB'95)
ἐπικατάρατος ὁ ἄνθρωπος ὁ εὐαγγελισάμενος τῷ πατρί μου λέγων Ἐτέχθη σοι ἄρσεν, εὐφραινόμενος (Jer 20:15, LXX)
Cursed be the man who brought the news to my father, saying, “A baby boy has been born to you!” and made him very happy. (Jer 20:15, NASB'95)
εὐαγγελέω: http://stephanus.tlg.uci.edu/lsj/#eid=44501Here are some lists from the digitized classics library of Tufts University in Boston, showing a variety of both Christian and secular uses of the words:
εὐαγγελέω: http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/wordfreq?lookup=eu%29aggele%2Fw&lang=greekSo, when you read the scriptures, just mentally re-translate the word "gospel" as "good message" or "good news" and, also, you can drop the indefinite article, "a," because there are no indefinite articles in the Greek language, on top of that.
Let's try those references at the beginning of this article again, and I'll also translate more literally, at the expense of proper English form:
1 Cor 15:1 Now I make known to you, brethren, the good message that I good-message to you..."So, you see, once you take the Christian-ese jargon out and replace it with generic words, the scriptures are deprived of their traditional, religious stigma, and the word takes on a more general meaning.
[Yes, it's actually in there twice as a separate noun and verb -- not proper English, but the ancient Greek writers didn't write in proper English, right?]
Gal 1:6 I am marveling that you are being transferred quickly from the one calling you in [the] grace of Christ into different good news, 7 that is not another, except some are being the ones disturbing you and willing to distort the good message of the Christ. 8 But also if-supposing we or [a] messenger out of heaven should be good-messaging you beside which we good-message you, let be banned! 9 As we have declared before and now again I am saying, if any is good-messaging you beside which you receive, let be banned!
Mat 24:14 "And this, the good news of the kingdom, shall be heralded in the whole world for witness to all the nations, and then shall the completion arrive."
Rev 14:6 And I perceived another messenger flying in mid-heaven, having eternal good news to good-message the ones dwelling upon the land and every nation and tribe and tongue and people, 7 saying in a loud voice, fear the God and give to him glory, that the hour of his judgment comes, and worship the one making the heaven and the land and the sea and springs of water.
Now let's be clear: Jesus' substitutionary payment for our sins and his death, burial, and resurrection are at the core of what we proclaim as Christians, the most profound, redemptive, and empowering revelation ever articulated to us in human history. And it should be at the core of what believing Christians proclaim to the world. And if you neglect that, then evidently you just don't care that the masses are on a highway to hell, perishing for lack of knowledge and understanding of that good news. What I am saying is that the New Testament talks about lots of things that are "good news." Furthermore, Jesus didn't tell us to "make converts," let alone take people through a process of recitational regeneration by praying The Sinner's Prayer, so they can "get saved." He told us to make disciples. That is an endeavor that takes more than 15 minutes, or more than 5 seconds, in the case of passing someone a "gospel tract," and is a lifelong process of growth in not merely understanding how to get right with God and into heaven, but to transform their life to one effectually worthy of Jesus' Lordship and calling, to all who would dare to believe and commit themselves in faith to Jesus.
I grant this work to the public domain.
Attribution required for second alter call photograph in video: