“It’s news I’m most proud to proclaim, this extraordinary Message of God’s powerful plan to rescue everyone who trusts him, starting with Jews and then right on to everyone else! God’s way of putting people right shows up in the acts of faith, confirming what Scripture has said all along: “The person in right standing before God by trusting him really lives.” Romans 1:16 (The Message).
One secular definition is: “the word gospel comes from the Old English god meaning “good” and spel meaning “news, a story.” In Christianity, the term “good news” refers to the story of Jesus Christ’s birth, death, and resurrection”. Proclaiming the gospel (whether by word or deeds) is a most important activity. Jesus commanded His disciples: “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world” Matthew 28:16-20.
As far as Paul writing to the Romans goes, whether a Jew, with the Law, or a Gentile, with their conscience, we all fall short of God’s standard, subject to God’s condemnation and unable to save ourselves: “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” 3:23. But here comes the good news: “For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” 5:6-8 and “for the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” 6:23.
As far as the Hebrew prophets go, most looked forward to Israel’s deliverer and most had insights into his character and ministry. When the risen Christ walked along the Emmaus Road with two disconsolate followers of their hoped for Messiah, confounded at the way his life had ended, he remonstrated with them: “Then he said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory? And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself” Luke 24:25-27. Even though the prophets understanding was incomplete, we could do as Jesus did and preach the gospel from what the prophets said, something Philip did when preaching from Isaiah 53 to the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8).
Some have said that the gospel is like our ABC: A: admit you are a sinner, B: believe in Christ to save you and C: confess Christ before others. The plain fact is some of the simplest of folk get and welcome this message and some of the most sophisticated fail to get and welcome it. I am not alone in recollecting the first Bible verse I learned by heart: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life”, and yes the gospel message is simple and sublime but once it is embraced it has profound consequences for the rest of our lives.
Like the Hebrew prophets, we would be remiss if we just focused on God’s love and mercy and neglected His righteousness and holiness. We who follow Jesus are told to “put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness” Ephesians 4:24. Jesus made it clear: “if any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me” Luke 9:23. After Paul eruditely sets out the gospel message in Romans 1-8, in 9-16 after discussing the conundrum of unbelieving Jews to who that message was initially directed, he turned to our response: “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” 12:1-2.
As one of my Sunday School choruses so sublimely put it: “Oh, the love that drew salvation’s plan! Oh, the grace that brought it down to man! Oh, the mighty gulf that God did span At Calvary! Mercy there was great, and grace was free; Pardon there was multiplied to me; There my burdened soul found liberty, At Calvary”. That gulf could not be spanned by human endeavor, only through what Jesus accomplished at the Cross and rising from the dead – the very heart of the gospel message. As Paul told the church at Corinth: “For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how 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” 1Corinthians 15:3:4.
The prophets were strongest when looking forward to Christ’s Second Coming, not as the man of Calvary send to atone for our sins, but as the glorious Lord of lords, to reign forever. “But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” Philippians 2:6-11. It is our privilege, not just to open up the prophetic scriptures, but to tell people of the one who the prophets foretold.