You may have heard the word “gospel” (euangelion) used in two different ways. This key term appears in the New Testament and summarizes the message of salvation as “good news” (see Acts 15:7). It also refers to the genre of Scripture that details an account of Jesus’s earthly life and ministry (the Books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John). But are you familiar with the cultural background of this Greek word?

In its everyday usage, the word suggested joyful tidings associated with announcements of good news. Whether connected to an emperor’s birthday or accession to power, “gospel” pointed to celebration. Such “good news” might be made through a public herald calling people to sense the excitement of the moment. It follows, then, that the Bible’s usage of the term points to an act of God to celebrate!

Matthew’s usage of “gospel” is tied to the kingdom—the major theme of Jesus’s teaching (Matthew 4:23; 24:14)—and depicts the arrival of God’s promise for deliverance (Mark 1:15a; Romans 1:2). Jesus’s coming and His provision of eternal life through His atoning death and resurrection is “good news” for sinners (Mark 1:1; 1 Corinthians 15:3–5). As such, the term simultaneously looks back to what Jesus has done as well as forward to what He will do. The “gospel” culminates in the salvation of believers and the complete restoration of the cosmos to a state of harmony and peace. That really is something worth celebrating!

Yet, the gospel does not appear to be “good news” to some. Since the gospel both challenges sinners to honestly reckon with their sin and invites them to embrace God’s gracious salvation, there is a tension in how the gospel is proclaimed and received. The ethics of preaching the gospel means we are called to love one another (1 John 3:11). Feeling impassioned to present the challenge of the gospel, believers may forget to extend God’s loving invitation of hope and new life. When this happens, the gospel’s “good news” is lost. 

It is central to remember that the gospel is the enabling power of God that allows believers to walk with God (Romans 1:16). The appropriate response to the gospel’s announcement is to repent, believe in what God has done, and embrace the act of God for oneself (Mark 1:15b). At the core of the gospel is a celebration of the good news that, in Jesus Christ, the way to eternal life is available to those who respond with faith in Him. To respond to Jesus is to respond for the sake of the gospel (Mark 10:29).

About the Contributors

Darrell L. Bock

Dr. Bock has earned recognition as a Humboldt Scholar (Tübingen University in Germany), is the author of over 40 books, including well-regarded commentaries on Luke and Acts and studies of the historical Jesus, and work in cultural engagement as host of the seminary’s Table Podcasts. He was president of the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS) from 2000–2001, served as a consulting editor for Christianity Today, and serves on the boards of Wheaton College and Chosen People Ministries. His articles appear in leading publications. He is often an expert for the media on NT issues. Dr. Bock has been a New York Times best-selling author in nonfiction and is elder emeritus at Trinity Fellowship Church in Dallas. When traveling overseas, he will tune into the current game involving his favorite teams from Houston—live—even in the wee hours of the morning. Married for over 40 years to Sally, he is a proud father of two daughters and a son and is also a grandfather.