"Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the Gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; by which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. 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" (1 Cor.15:1-4)
It might seem almost a work of supererogation to answer a question like this. We hear the word, "Gospel" used so many times. People talk of this and of that as being "as true as the Gospel," and I often wonder what they really mean by it.
First I should like to indicate what it is not.
Not The Bible
"The wicked shall be turned into Hell with all the nations that forget God." That is in the Bible, and it is terribly true; but it is not Gospel.
"It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God." That is in the Bible, but it is not the Gospel.
Our English word, "gospel" just means the "good spell," and the word "spell," is the old Anglo-Saxon word for, "tidings", the good tidings, the good news. The original word translated. "Gospel," which we have taken over into the English with little alteration is the word, "evangel," and it has the same meaning, the good news. The Gospel is God's good news for sinners. The Bible contains the Gospel, but there is a great deal in the Bible which is not Gospel.
"The law," says the Apostle Paul, speaking as a Jewish convert, "was our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ. But after that Christ is come we are no longer under the schoolmaster."
THERE ARE SEVEN DESIGNATIONS OF THE GOSPEL in the New Testament, but over and above all these, let me draw your attention to the fact that when this blessed message is mentioned, it is invariably accompanied by the definite article. Over and over and over again in the New Testament we read of the Gospel. It is the Gospel not a Gospel. People tell us there are a great many different Gospels; but there is only ONE. When certain teachers came to the Galatians and tried to turn them away from the simplicity that was in Christ Jesus by teaching "another Gospel, "the apostle said that it was a different gospel, but not another; for there is none other than the Gospel. It is downright exclusive; it is God's revelation to sinful man.
So in our great universities and colleges men study this Science of Comparative Religions, and they compare all these different religious systems one with another. There is a Science of Comparative Religions, but the Gospel is not one of them. All the different religions in the world may well be studied comparatively, for at rock bottom they are all alike; they all set men at trying to earn his own salvation. They may be called by different names, and the things that men are called to do maybe different in each case, but they all set men trying to save their own souls and earn their way into the favor of God. In this they stand in vivid contrast with the Gospel, for the Gospel is that glorious message that tells us what God has done for us in order that guilty sinners maybe saved.
THE SEVEN DESIGNATIONS OF THIS GOSPEL are called
1. The Gospel Of The Kingdom,
and when I use that term I am not thinking particularly of any dispensational application, but of this blessed truth that it is only through believing the Gospel that men are born into the Kingdom of God; We sing: "A ruler once came to Jesus by night, To ask Him the way of salvation and light; The Master made answer in words true and plain, 'ye must be born again.' " But neither Nicodemus , nor you, nor I, could ever bring this about ourselves. We had nothing to with our first birth, and can have nothing to do with our second birth. It must be the work of God, and it is wrought through the Gospel. That is why the Gospel is called the Gospel of the Kingdom, for, "Except a man be born again he cannot see the Kingdom of God" (John 3:3,7). "Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the Word of God, which liveth and abideth forever. . . And this is the word which by the Gospel is preached unto you" (1 Peter 1:23-25. Every where that Paul and his companion apostles went they preached the Gospel of the Kingdom of God, and they showed that the only way to get into that Kingdom was by a second birth, and that the only way whereby the second birth could be brought about was through believing the Gospel. It is the Gospel of the Kingdom. It also called
2. The Gospel Of God,
because God is the source of it, and it is altogether of Himself. No man ever thought of a Gospel like this. The very fact that all the religions of the world set man to try to work for his own salvation indicates the fact that no man would ever have dreamed of such a Gospel as that which is revealed in this Book. It came from the heart of God; it was God who "so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." "In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He first loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins" (1 John 4:9,10). And because it is the Gospel of God, God is very jealous of it. He wants it kept pure. He does not want it mixed with any of man's theories or laws; He does not want it mixed up with religious ordinances or anything of that kind. The Gospel is God's own pure message to sinful man. God grant that you and I may receive it as in very truth the Gospel of God. And then it is called
3. The Gospel Of His Son
Not merely because the Son went everywhere preaching the Gospel, but because He is the theme of it. "When it pleased God," says the apostle, "who called me by His grace, to reveal His Son in me that I might preach Him among the nations; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood" (Gal. 1:15,16). "We preach Christ crucified . . . the power of God, and the wisdom of God" (1 Cor. 1:23,24). No man preaches the Gospel who is not exalting the Lord Jesus. It is God's wonderful message about His Son. How often I have gone to meetings where they told me I would hear the Gospel, and instead of that I have heard some bewildered preacher talk to a bewildered audience about everything and anything, but the Lord Jesus Christ. The Gospel has to do with nothing else but Christ. It is the Gospel of God's Son. And so, linked with this it is called
4. The Gospel Of Christ
The Apostle Peter preaching on the day of Pentecost of the risen Savior, says, "God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ." And He speaks of Him as the anointed One, exalted at God's right hand. The Gospel is the Gospel of the Risen Christ. There would be no Gospel for sinners if Christ had not been raised. So the apostle says, "If Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins" (1 Cor. 15:17). A great New York preacher, great in his impertinence, at least, said some years ago, preaching a so-called Easter sermon, "The body of Jesus still sleeps in a Syrian tomb, but His soul goes marching on.: That is not the Gospel of Christ. We are not preaching the Gospel of a dead Christ, but of a living Christ who sits exalted at the Father's right hand, and is living to save all who put their trust in Him. That is why those of us who really know the Gospel never have any crucifixes around our churches or in our homes. The crucifix represents a dead Christ hanging languid on a cross of shame. But we are not pointing men to a dead Christ; we are preaching a living Christ. He lives exalted at God's right had, and He "saves to the uttermost all who come to God by Him." The Gospel is also called
5. The Gospel Of The Grace Of God,
because it leaves no room whatever for human merit. It just brushes away all man's pretension to any goodness, to any desert excepting judgment. It is the Gospel of grace, and grace is God's free unmerited favor to those who have merited the very opposite. It is as opposite to works as oil is to water." If by grace," says the Spirit of God, "then it is no more works. . . but if it be of works, then is it no more grace" (Rom.11:6). People say, :But you must have both." I have heard it put like this: there was a boatman and two theologians in a boat, and one was arguing that salvation was by faith and the other by works. The boatman listened, and then said, "Let me tell you how it looks to me. Suppose I call this oar Faith and this one Works. If I pull on this one, the boat goes around; if I pull on this other one, it goes around the other way, but if I pull on both oars, I get you across the river." I have heard many preachers use that illustration to prove that we are saved by faith and works. That might do if we were going to Heaven in a rowboat, but we are not. We are carried on the shoulders of the Shepherd, who came seeking lost sheep When He finds them He carries them home on His shoulders. But there are some other names used. It is called
6. The Gospel Of The Glory Of God
I love that name. It is the Gospel of the Glory of God because it comes from the place where our Lord Jesus has entered. The veil has been rent, and now the glory shines out; and whenever this Gospel is proclaimed, it tells of a way into the glory for sinful man, a way to come before the Mercy Seat purged from every stain. It is the Gospel of the Glory of God, because, until Christ had entered into the Glory, it could not be preached in its fullness, but, after the glory received Him, then the message went out to a lost world.
It is also called
7. The Everlasting Gospel
because it will never be superseded by another. No other ever went before it, and no other shall ever come after it. One of the professors of the University of Chicago wrote a book a few years ago in which he tried to point out that some of these days Jesus would be superseded by a greater teacher; then He and the Gospel that He taught would have to give way to a message which would be more suited to the intelligence of the cultivated men of the later centuries. No, no, were it possible for this world to go on a million years, it would never need any other Gospel than this preached by the Apostle Paul and confirmed with signs following; the Gospel which, throughout the centuries has been saving guilty sinners.
Someone says, "But I do not understand it." That is a terrible confession to make, for "If our Gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: (2 Cor. 4:3). If you do not see that there is no other way of salvation for you, save through the death of the Lord Jesus, then that just tells the sad story that you are among the lost. You are not merely in danger of being lost in the Day of Judgment; but you are lost now. But, thank God, "the Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which was lost," and seeking the lost He went to the cross. "None of the ransomed ever know How deep were the waters crossed; Nor how dark was the night that the Lord passed through, Ere He found the sheep that was lost."
THE GOSPEL REJECTED
What about the man who does not believe the Gospel? The Lord Jesus said to His disciples, "Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned" (Mark 16:15,16). He that believeth not shall be devoted to judgment, condemned, lost. So you see, God has shut us up to the Gospel. Have you believed it? Have you put your trust in it; is it the confidence of your soul? Or have you been trusting in something else? If you have been resting in anything short of the Christ who died, who was buried, who rose again, I plead with you, turn from every other fancied refuge, and flee to Christ today. Repent ye, and believe the Gospel.
"O, do not let the word depart, And close thine eyes against the light; Poor sinner, harden not thy heart, Be saved, O tonight."