By Pastor Aaron Shamp
What does the word “gospel” mean to you? You might think of gospel music, “Full Gospel” denominations, or blog titles. Or you might think of the four Gospels in the New Testament. The Gospels were a brand new genre of literature at the time of their writing. Have you ever considered why they chose the word “gospel?” That’s something that I’ve been considering lately, and I want to share with you what I found.
What “Gospel” means
Mark’s book opens with “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God” (Mark 1:1 NKJV). He introduced his work with one of his favorite themes. Mark uses the term gospel the most out of the four evangelists.
Gospel means “good news.” It is the modern form of the Old English word “godspel,” also meaning good news. Godspel comes from two words god (good) and spell (story or message). These English words are translations of the New Testament term for good news.
When Mark first wrote his Gospel, he used the word euangelion. Christians didn’t coin the term; instead, they used this word because it was a special term. It means “joyful tidings” and was the term used to announce specific kinds of events. They would declare an euangelion on the emperor’s birthday or accession to power. Sometimes an euangelion was about victory from the battlefield.
The main idea is that an evangel was the declaration of a major event that has changed history. Something has occurred in our world, and it will never be the same. So, for Mark to declare Jesus’ evangel means a few things.
This is news
When Mark and other New Testament writers speak about “the Gospel” of Jesus, they are sharing an evangel. They are claiming to testify to an historical event. The New Testament is trying to tell us the news about a significant event that has changed the world.
The fact that the gospel is a claim to be news means that Christianity can be tested. You cannot test the majority of religions and beliefs in the world for their validity. Take Hinduism or Buddhism as an example. The central tenets of their faiths aren’t falsifiable. They do not depend on any evidence. However, Christianity stands upon a singular historical event—the resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:17).
If someone claims an event to have happened, then we can expect for there to be evidence of that event. We may then test the evidence to verify or falsify the claims. The New Testament’s evangel makes Christianity scrutable to evidence. Therefore, Mark invites criticism and scrutiny. The Bible welcomes the skeptic, questioner, and seeker to come and review the evidence. If you honestly pursue truth, then examine the evidence and follow where it leads.
This is salvation
The Gospel of Jesus is not only about the past; it’s about the future too. Good news declares something that has happened, and that event has ushered in a new era. When my wife told me that she was pregnant, it was an announcement of something that had happened. But it also changed our future.
In Isaiah 52:7, the prophet wrote about the “good news” of Israel’s King returning to Zion. The Lord was coming to redeem Jerusalem and establish His rule again. For a people who were living under the control of a foreign empire, this was good news. It was news of salvation for the nation, freedom from their oppressors. The Gospel is the hope of salvation.
The evangel of Jesus is that His work ushered in a new era for how God and man would relate to one another. By His death and resurrection, every person is invited to enter into a relationship with God by grace. The good news is that sins can be forgiven, oppression can be broken, and we can know God. The New Testament called this an evangel because it all happens by the work of King Jesus.
Why “gospel?” Mark and the first Christians were trying to communicate that God had done something that changed everything. This was the good news. It wasn’t the birthday of an emperor or victory of a finite kingdom. The Gospel is the good news of King Jesus’ victory and the life now offered to us.