The Meaning of the Gospel

[Jesus] said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.”
–Mark 16:15

In Romans 1, Paul introduced the gospel to the Christians in Rome. What do we mean by “gospel”? The word “gospel” in Greek is the word “euangelion.” It simply means “good news.” In Paul’s day, the word “euangelion” usually referred to a message from the emperor that was to be delivered to the residents of an empire. A herald would stand in the town square, blow the trumpet, and announce to all the people, “I have good news from the emperor!” That is what “gospel” is. It is good news.

My wife and I occasionally watched the PBS series “Downton Abbey,” a soap opera set in England during the early 20th century. The show was about the triumphs and travails of an aristocratic family upstairs and their servants downstairs. I noticed that the writers of this show had a device they tended to use to signal a major plot change: a telegram. I saw this over and over again. When something big was about to happen, someone would receive a telegram. Whenever you saw a messenger riding his bicycle up the gravel driveway to the manor, you knew something was about to happen. Sometimes the telegram had bad news–a relative died on the “Titanic.” But sometimes the telegram had some good news–somebody thought to be dead actually survived the battle, or somebody gained an inheritance that nobody had known about. In that sense, the telegram announced “euangelion”–good news.

Paul said the gospel is good news. In what sense is it good news? If you understand what other religions teach, then you understand why the gospel truly is good news. You see, there is no good news in other religions. Every other religion has bad news to deliver, and the bad news is this: You must work your way to earn God’s approval. You are under a heavy burden of guilt that you have to work and work and work to try to absolve. You will never know when you have done enough to earn God’s favor. That is why the gurus of other religions walk around sad-faced all the time. It is not good news. It is bad news that they are under a system of works.

Some people have realized that other religions have only bad news, so they think the way to have good news is to shun religion altogether. But is that really good news? Is it really good news that everything that happens in this world is simply by chance? Is it good news to say there is no benevolent Creator who loves us and has a plan for our lives? Is it good news to say that this world is all that there is, and that when we die, we slip into nothingness? That is the worst news. Christians are the ones who have good news that there is a God who loves us, that there is a God who guides the affairs of our lives, and that even though we have offended God, He offers to forgive us through faith in Jesus Christ. That is the good news of the gospel.


Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Good News from a Distant Land” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2014.

Adapted from D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, “Romans, Exposition of Chapter 1” (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1985).

Scripture quotations are taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

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