If you look up the word “gospel” in Wikipedia, you’ll find a nicely summarized entomology of the word as follows: The word gospel derives from the Old English gōd-spell (rarely godspel), meaning “good news” or “glad tidings.” It is a calque (word-for-word translation) of the Greek word εὐαγγέλιον, euangelion (eu- “good”, -angelion “message”). The Greek word “euangelion” is also the source (via Latinised “evangelium”) of the terms “evangelist” and “evangelism” in English. The authors of the four canonical Christian gospels are known as the four evangelists.
Originally, the gospel was the good news of redemption through the propitiatory offering of Jesus Christ for one’s sins, the central Christian message. Note: John 3:16. Before the first gospel was written (Mark, c 65-70), Paul the Apostle used the term εὐαγγέλιον gospel when he reminded the people of the church at Corinth “of the gospel I preached to you” (1 Corinthians 15:1). Paul averred that they were being saved by the gospel, and he characterized it in the simplest terms, emphasizing Christ’s appearances after the resurrection:
“... that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born” (1 Corinthians 15:3-8).
Suffice it to say that the good news of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection are the highlight truths surrounding the central figure in the meaning of all creation. When the “gospel” was first shared by the original disciples of Christ, it was spoken to a culture that had a world-view that had been prepared by God for over 1800 years. Jewish people since Abraham had an understanding of substitutional animal sacrifice, a God of love and justice, a universal rule of law, the fall of mankind from his original purpose in relationship with God, a hope of Messiah, and covenant relationship. These truths and dozens more made up the world-view of 1st Century Jews. Even though they missed the identity of the physical Jesus (in part because of a preconceived notion of His political/military role confusion precipitated by the contemporary religious parties of His day), they totally understood the impact of His death on the cross during Passover, and they responded in mass to the message of His resurrection and confirmed sightings by over 500 witnesses. When Peter, James, Philip, and others began to “preach the gospel,” their audience was ready and knowledgeable of their terms and challenges. Today’s hearer coming from a secular, evolutionary, pluralistic or relativistic world-view may not even understand the meanings behind these ancient challenges that the early evangelist spoke. But it is important to cover them because these first presentations of the gospel are so trimmed of fat and excess. They are surrounded by little explanation because none was needed by the hearers. The modern listener of the Book of Acts telling of the gospel will hear religious terms that have little connection to his/her life and will certainly require patient explanation from you as to the meaning behind the terms.
Circle the key terms in these passages:
[ Peter addresses the crowd ] “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.”
When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”
Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”
With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.
Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than human beings! The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from the dead—whom you killed by hanging him on a cross. God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might bring Israel to repentance and forgive their sins. We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.”
Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right. You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, announcing the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. You know what has happened throughout the province of Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached— how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.
“We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a cross, but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen. He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen—by us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”
While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on Gentiles. For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God.
For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.