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Defining the Gospel

(stumpy) christ of the ozarks

   The question arises as to what exactly is the gospel. The word, gospel, in Greek is evangelion, which means “good message,” “good tidings,” or “good news.” The gospel is the life and teachings of Jesus Christ.
   There are four gospels in the New Testament: the Gospel according to St. Matthew, the Gospel according to St. Mark, the Gospel according to St. Luke, and the Gospel according to St. John. St. Matthew begins his gospel with the words:

The beginning of the book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. (St. Matt. 1:1)

Then, he gives the biological genealogy of St. Joseph and a short story about how Jesus was miraculously conceived by the Virgin Mary without having had carnal relations with a man. St. Matthew’s gospel consists of 28 chapters. St. Mark calls his book “the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” (St. Mark 1:1) His gospel begins with St. John the Baptist preaching and baptizing in the wilderness. It consists of 16 chapters. St. Luke wrote his gospel for Theophilus, but it has been used by everyone else in the Church as well. He begins with the story of how St. John the Baptist was born. His gospel consists of 24 chapters. St. John wrote his gospel sometime toward the end of the first century between 90 and 95 A.D. He begins his gospel in a manner similar to the Book of Genesis. He uses the words, “In the beginning.” He starts off by placing emphasis on Jesus’ divinity and His assumption of a human nature like ours in his first chapter. His gospel consists of 21 chapters.
   St. Paul, in his epistles, mentions various parts of Jesus’ life as being part of the Gospel message. He said that Jesus is of the seed of David. (Rom. 1:1; II Tim. 2:8) The birth of Jesus Christ and His ancestral lineage that links Him to King David is part of the Gospel message. He said that Jesus died, was buried, and arose from the dead on the third day. (I Cor. 15:1-8) These events form part of the Gospel message. He said that Jesus abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. (II Tim. 1:10,11) The gospel tells about God forgiving the sins of those who repent. (St. Luke 24:46,47; Acts 17:30,31; 26:19,20) Christ died for our sins. The gospel message is about Christ saving us from our sins and death. (St. Mark 16:15,16; Rom. 1:16; Eph. 1:13,14) He said that he preached the “unsearchable riches of Christ” to the Gentiles. (Eph. 3:4-8) He also talked about the hope laid up for them in Heaven. (Col. 1:5,23) and obtaining the glory of Jesus Christ. (II Thess. 2:13,14) He talked about entering into God’s Sabbath rest in the afterlife. (Heb. 3:16-4:11) So, future rewards for those who believe and obey the gospel are part of the gospel message. The gospel message tells about Jesus returning one day to judge the world in righteousness. (Acts 17:30,31; Rom. 2:16) The Last Judgment is part of the gospel message.
   Jesus preached the gospel of the kingdom to the masses. (St. Matt. 4:23) To see what He taught we only need to read the four gospels in the New Testament. His teachings are part of the gospel message.
   In the Book of Revelation, it says that an angel had an everlasting gospel to preach. He told people to fear God, give Him glory, and worship Him. (Rev. 14:6,7) Worship of God and obedience to Him are part of the gospel message.
   Here are some quotes from Blessed Augustine and St. John Chrysostom regarding the gospel.

First page of the Gospel of Mark, by Sargis Pi...

   We assert, therefore, that, although a thousand Gospels were written, if the contents of all were the same, they would still be one, and their unity no wise infringed by the number of writers. So, on the other hand, if there were one writer only, but he were to contradict himself, the unity of the things written would be destroyed. For the oneness of a work depends not on the number of its authors, but on the agreement or contradictoriness of its contents. Whence it is clear that the four Gospels are one Gospel; for, as the four say the same thing, its oneness is preserved by the harmony of the contents, and not impaired by the difference of persons. And Paul is not now speaking of the number but of the discrepancy of the things spoken. With justice might they lay hold of this expression, if the Gospels of Matthew and Luke differed in the signification of their contents, and in their doctrinal accuracy; but as they are one and the same, let them cease being senseless and pretending to be ignorant of these things which are plain to the very children. (On St. Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians, chapter 1, by St. John Chrysostom, 347-407 A.D., vol. 13, p. 7, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series)

   Augustin replied: Well, in answer to your own questions, you tell us first that you believe the Gospel, and next, that you do not believe in the birth of Christ; and your reason is, that the birth of Christ is not in the Gospel. What, then, will you answer the apostle when he says, “Remember that Christ Jesus rose from the dead, of the seed of David, according to my gospel?” (II Tim. 2:8) You surely are ignorant, or pretend to be ignorant, what the gospel is. You use the word, not as the apostle teaches, but as suits your own errors. What the apostles call the Gospel you depart from; for you do not believe that Christ was of the seed of David. This was Paul’s Gospel; and it was also the Gospel of the other apostles, and of all faithful stewards of so great a mystery. For Paul says elsewhere, “Whether, therefore, I or they, so we preach, and so ye believed.” (I Cor. 15:11) They did not all write the Gospel, but they all preached it. The name evangelist is properly given to the narrators of the birth, the actions, the words, the sufferings of our Lord Jesus Christ. The word Gospel means good news, and might be used of any good news, but is properly applied to the narrative of the Saviour. If, then, you teach something different, you must have departed from the Gospel. Assuredly those babes whom you despise as semi-Christians will oppose you, when they hear their mother Charity declaring by the mouth of the apostle, “If any one preach another Gospel than that which we have preached to you, let him be accursed.” (Gal. 1:8,9) Since, then, Paul, according to his Gospel, preached that Christ was of the seed of David, and you deny this and preach something else, may you be accursed! And what can you mean by saying that Christ never declares Himself to have been born of men, when on every occasion He calls Himself the Son of Man? (Reply to Faustus the Manichean, Book II, by Blessed Augustine of Hippo, 354-430 A.D., vol. 4, pp. 156-157, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series)

   Faustus said: Do I believe the Gospel? You ask me if I believe it, though my obedience to its commands shows that I do. I should rather ask you if you believe it, since you give no proof of your belief. I have left my father, mother, wife, and children, and all else that the Gospel requires (St. Matt. 19:29); and do you ask if I believe the Gospel? Perhaps you do not know what is called the Gospel. The Gospel is nothing else than the preaching and the precept of Christ. (Reply to Faustus the Manichean, Book V, by Blessed Augustine of Hippo, 354-430 A.D., vol. 4, p. 162, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series)

   And He hath properly called His work by a name (which signifies) good tidings. Yea, for it was removal of punishment, and remission of sins, and “righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption” (I Cor. 1:30), and adoption, and an inheritance of Heaven, and a relationship unto the Son of God, which he came declaring unto all; to enemies, to the perverse, to them that were sitting in darkness. What then could ever be equal to these good tidings? God on earth, man in Heaven; and all became mingled together, angels joined the choirs of men, men had fellowship with the angels, and with the other powers above: and one might see the long war brought to an end, and reconciliation made between God and our nature, the devil brought to shame, demons in flight, death destroyed, Paradise opened, the curse blotted out, sin put out of the way, error driven off, truth returning, the word of godliness everywhere sown, and flourishing in its growth, the polity of those above planted on the earth, those powers in secure intercourse with us, and on earth angels continually haunting, and hope abundant touching things to come.
Therefore he hath called the history good tidings, forasmuch as all other things surely are words only without substance; as, for instance, plenty of wealth, greatness of power, kingdoms, and glories, and honors, and whatever other things among men are accounted to be good: but those which are published by the fishermen would be legitimately and properly called good tidings: not only as being sure and immoveable blessings, and beyond our deserts, but also as being given to us with all facility. (Homilies on the Gospel according to St. Matthew, Homily I, by St. John Chrysostom, vol. 10, p. 2, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series)

   Wherefore that he might himself put a check upon a spirit of this sort, he adds, “according to the commandment of the everlasting God, for the obedience of faith.” (Rom. 16:26) For faith requires obedience, and not curiosity. And when God commands, one ought to be obedient, not curious. (Homilies on St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, Homily XXVII, by St. John Chrysostom, 347-407 A.D., vol. 11, p. 534, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series)

   The gospel is the life and teachings of Jesus Christ as found in the four gospels.

Bibliography

Ante-Nicene Fathers, edited by Alexander Roberts, D.D. & James Donaldson, LL.D., volumes 1-10, Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody, Massachusetts

Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, edited by Philip Schaff, D.D., LL.D., volumes 1-14, Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., Peabody, Massachusetts

Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, edited by Philip Schaff, D.D., LL.D. & Henry Wace, D.D., volumes 1-14, Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., Peabody, Massachusetts

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