Some words are so common to Bible language and Christian vocabulary that we rarely think twice about what they mean. We just use them and hear them used.
Gospel is one of those words. This word describes the first four books of the New Testament. For Lutherans and a few others keen on the Reformation, it’s contrasted from Law. Sometimes we even use it in everyday conversation: “You can take that as ‘gospel’ truth.” The church of Luther’s day would certainly have been familiar with this word, too. What had become very unfamiliar, however, was how God gives meaning to this critical word – Gospel – in His Word.
Consider a few examples:
1 – When the angel calms the shepherds in the rural Bethlehem field, he tells them he has Gospel for them: “Today… a Savior has been born to you. He is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10-11). The Gospel IS good news for its hearers.
2 – When Paul writes to the Christians in Rome, he wastes no time in asserting the function of this good news. He boldly ascribes to this good news (Gospel) the power to save sinners (Romans 1:16). The Gospel is not potential energy – neutral news that will be good if the hearers donate their hearts and lives to it. Wherever and whenever the Gospel sounds off, it IS power – power that delivers salvation precisely where God wills.
3 – Finally, when the Lord lets St. John see the continuation of the Christian Church in the future (The Revelation), John sees an angel (a messenger) “with the eternal Gospel to proclaim” (Revelation 14:6). The Gospel, God’s good-news power to save, IS eternal. No people have ever needed or will ever need a new bit of “good news” to save from sin and death.
If you ask: ‘What is the Gospel?’…. no better answer can be given than these words:
“Christ gave His body and shed His blood for us for the forgiveness of sins.” – Martin Luther
Reverend Kyle Madson
Editor, The Lutheran Sentinel
Divine Mercy Lutheran Church, Hudson Oaks, TX