Ukraine Relief Fund

God's Good News

As a young man I stumbled into a fascinating opportunity. On a short-term mission trip to eastern Europe, after a series of fortunate events, I found myself standing in front of a classroom full of students in the English department of Ivano Franko university in what was still at that time the Soviet Union. Excited over the prospect that his students would hear a native speaker of English, the professor gave me an open podium.

Faced with the chance to say anything, I quickly crossed stories off the list, because I’m not that interesting; I crossed philosophy off the list, because I’m not that smart; I crossed economics off the list, because that would have been to rub salt in an open wound. Rather, after overcoming the fear that as soon as I mentioned Jesus or God or the Bible, that secret doors would open and KBB (secret state police) agents would rush in and arrest, I gave them the best thing I had – the gospel.

The apostle Paul was a multi-lingual philosopher theologian who interacted with the brightest minds of his day. Yet, when faced with the prospect of addressing people in Rome, the capital city of the world’s most powerful empire, he said ‘I’m not ashamed of the gospel; it is God’s power for salvation for everyone who believes (Romans 1.16).
Similarly, when he came to the city of Corinth, he preached nothing among them except ‘Christ and him crucified’. And when he wrote a letter to these same Corinthians, he reminds them of what he had preached.

Too many Christians seem to be distracted by wanting to press on to ‘the deep things of God’. Here’s the deal: the deepest deep thing of God is the gospel, because in God’s good news we learn who God is, who we are without God, what God has done in Christ, and who we are in Christ.

Let’s take a moment to remember the gospel as recorded in 1 Corinthians 15.1-11.

1. The priority of the gospel: Now I would remind you, brothers and sisters

Here, Paul is writing to Corinthians – people that were already saved, and to whom he had already preached the gospel. Being reminded of the gospel is not because we don’t know it, but because we do. They were already saved; the gospel is how we live. Paul was not bothered about reminding them of something they knew. In our lives, we should 1) continually remind ourselves of the gospel by learning the art of preaching the gospel to yourself; 2) continually remind others of the gospel. Why? Because the gospel is the basis of our identity in Christ; it is how we live the Christian life.

Why is the gospel the appropriate centre for our lives? That’s found in the word ‘identity’. The gospel gives us our new identity in Christ. It tells us what we are without God, it shows us our need for God, it tells us what God has done for us in Christ, and it tells us who we are in Christ: forgiven, redeemed, loved, blessed, adopted, set free from the power of sin, seated with Christ in the heavenly places. In the word of Tim Keller, ‘You will love Christ and commit to Him to the degree you see the depth of your own sin & the application of the cross to that sin being final.’.

2. The singularity of the gospel: the gospel which I preached to you

One of the key biblical concepts to grasp is that there is one gospel. The word ‘gospel’ simply means ‘good news’ and in the period of Greek city states would have been used for the announcement that the city’s army had been successful and won a victory. The gospel is God’s good news regarding the victory he has won through Christ.

Even though this good news can be communicated in a variety of ways, we need to remember that there is ONE Gospel. Look at this text:

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. Galatians 1:6-9

Consider the key statements Paul makes about the gospel:
  • Some people quickly desert God 
When God calls us to himself, it is in the grace of Christ; there is only one way to be saved, only one way to live in God, only one location to inhabit God’s promise, and that is in the grace of Christ.

  • People can be seduced by a different gospel. 
Most often this will be syncretism ‘the conscious or unconscious reshaping of Christian plausibility structures, beliefs, and practices through cultural accommodation so that they reflect those of the dominant culture’.5 6In other words, ‘Syncretism is the blending of Christian beliefs and practices with those of the dominant culture so that Christianity loses its distinctiveness and speaks with a voice reflective of its culture’. Syncretism usually includes biblical words and concepts but mixes it with other ideas (e.g., the prosperity gospel). In the case of the Galatians, syncretism was the mixing of the gospel with Jewish beliefs about circumcision.

  • A different gospel is a distortion of the gospel of Christ
  • A contrary gospel is one that differs from the one originally preached by Paul and the apostles 
  • A contrary gospel brings a curse 
  • A different gospel is a false gospel  
  • Deviant gospels involve a departing from grace.
Ephesians 2.8 is crystal clear: you have been saved by grace. Every deviant gospel adds something to grace to make us think that somehow our good works contribute something to our salvation. They don't. To add works to grace is to depart from grace, and that's a different gospel. 
  • The true gospel is always in the grace of Christ.

Let me put this in simple terms: the reason there is only one gospel, and the reason salvation is available only through that gospel, is simple - no one else is who Jesus is and no one else has done what Jesus has done.

The implications of this are deeply significant: every generation must accurately understand and clearly communicate the gospel; without the first, the second is impossible.

3. The appropriate response to the gospel: which you received

There is always a human response to the gospel: receive, reject, ignore. Although this receiving cannot happen without the work of the Holy Spirit (cf. Acts 16:14), salvation always includes a human response. Paul is writing to people who have received the gospel: that is, by their own verbal affirmation, they agreed with and accepted what he is teaching

4. The appropriate posture towards the gospel: in which you stand

The ONE gospel is what defines the “standing” (identity, life, perspective, values,
ethics) of a Christian. It isn’t merely what saves us, it is the defining vision of
the Christian life. Standing is not a passive position, but an active posture;
there are forces that try to knock us off the gospel: ‘having done everything, to
stand firm, stand therefore (Ephesians 6:13-14).

5. The Benefits of the Gospel: By Which You Are Being Saved

It is the one gospel that saves. If a person is being saved, it is because they
have believed the one gospel. The gospel is God’s power unto salvation, and it
works – it is able to save.

This word Saved (Gr. sozo) is used of the deliverance of the Israelites from
the Egyptians (Ex. 14:13), and of deliverance generally from evil or danger. In
the New Testament, it is specially used with reference to the great deliverance
from the guilt, pollution and judgement of sin accomplished by Jesus Christ, “the great
salvation” (Heb. 2:3).

6. The requirements of the gospel: If You Hold Fast To The Word I Preached To You

The word ‘hold fast’ (Gr. Katecho) means to hold back, retain, detain, to keep from going away). To ‘hold fast’ implies active reliance. It speaks to a keeping, a cherishing, a
possessing of the gospel. It is a person holding fast who experiences the benefits of standing and believing. There is no promise of salvation for a person who doesn’t believe or ‘hold fast’ the gospel.

7. The priority of the gospel 2: For I delivered to you as of first importance

Paul functioned as a delivery man: being a minister of the gospel is primarily about delivering the gospel to people. Paul was able to look back at his ministry and say, ‘I delivered the gospel to you’. Along with living a life consistent with and reflective of the gospel, this is the most important thing we can say about our lives and our church. In our lives, loving the Lord with all our hearts, soul, mind, strength - this is at the core of who we are. In our ministries, delivering the gospel is central. This is the baton we have to pass on; if we get this right, there is a chance everything else might fall into place. If we get this wrong, nothing else matters.

Paul calls this of first importance. This is not second, or somewhere in a top-5 list; this is of first importance. Be sure that you are prioritising, focusing on, and being faithful with the gospel.
Paul reminds Timothy: 1:15: The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. Is the gospel of first importance in your life?

8. The unoriginality of the gospel: which I also received

Our job is to pass on the gospel, not to get theologically creative. Consider all that Paul tells Timothy:
  • 1 Tim 1:3: As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine.
  • I Tim 6:20-21: O Timothy, guard the deposit entrusted to you. Avoid the irreverent babble and contradictions of what is falsely called “knowledge,” 21 for by professing it some have swerved from the faith.
  • 2 Tim. 1:14: By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you.

In order to pass on the gospel, we first need to make sure we have received it; we can’t pass on what we don’t receive.

9. The heart of the gospel: Christ died for our sins

There are three things of first importance that frame the gospel. This could be called the gospel in a nutshell:




The WHO of the gospel


The WHAT of the gospel


The HOW of the gospel


  • The who of the gospel is Jesus, the Son of God, the second person of the Trinity who became man and lived a perfect life for us.
  • The what of the gospel includes the events that happened – what Jesus did: he lived, he died, he was buried, he was raised.
  • The phrase for our sins, unpacked further below, means that Jesus died in our place to save us from the consequences of our sin.

Note that the the Gospel is a fact-based message. It is rooted in history in real events that actually happened. These events are confirmed in Scripture and affirmed in the historic creeds of the church. The preaching of the gospel is centred on these events (life, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus) and what they mean. Regarding that meaning, Paul summarises it like this: Christ died for our sins. What does this mean, that Christ died for our sins?

1. Jesus teaches about “dying for”:
Jesus on teaches on redemption: For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. Mark 10:45
Jesus explains the significance of his death: And he said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many”. Mark 14:24

2. Paul teaches about Christ’s “dying for”:
Romans 5:6: Christ died for the ungodly
Romans 5:8: Christ died for us
Galatians 2:20: Who . . . gave Himself for me
I Timothy 2:6: Who gave himself a ransom for all
Galatians 1:4 Who gave himself for our sins

3. Peter teaches about Christ’s “suffering for”:
I Peter 3:18: For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous.
Simon Gathercole notes that  'The interchangeability of the statements of Christ’s death ‘for us’ and the language of his death ‘for our sins’ points strongly in a substitutionary

10. The authenticity of the gospel: In accordance with the scripture

The PROMISE of the gospel: the gospel is preached and promised – in different ways and different forms - all through the Old Testament: to Adam and Eve in the garden, to Abraham, through the law, through David, through the prophets.

This means the ONE gospel is biblically accurate. When the apostles preached the gospel in Jewish synagogues, they built their case from the Old Testament. At that time, the Old Testament were the only scriptures, and they could preach the gospel from the Old Testament.

11. The historicity of the gospel: that He was buried

The burial of Jesus is the confirmation that he was really, completely, and absolutely dead.
The burial of Christ is essential; not only does it confirm his death, but all of the historical events surrounding the resurrection are based on a real burial. Interestingly, the burial of Jesus is affirmed in the ancient creeds such as the Apostle’s creed: crucified, died, and was buried. Not only does the burial of Christ confirm his death was real, it also sets the scene for the resurrection.

12. The confirmation of the gospel: He was raised on the third day (again, according to the Scriptures)

The death of Christ and his resurrection were the core features of gospel preaching by Jesus, Peter, and Paul  The original context of witness is very literally that of an eye-witness of the resurrection.  This was a pre-requisite for being an Apostle (of the same status as the twelve, apostle with a capital ‘A’. All through the book of Acts Peter and the apostles describes themselves as witnesses of the resurrected Lord.

13. The historicity of the gospel 2: he appeared to Cephas; to the twelve; to more than five hundred; to James; to all the apostles; to me.

It is difficult for us to appreciate the degree to which the gospel was described as a ‘fact based’, historical message. This really happened, therefore … Paul underscores this by listening the people and groups to whom Jesus appeared alive after the resurrection, including over 500 at one time. At the time, he was writing 1 Corinthians (appx. 53/54 AD), about 20- 25 years after the resurrection. Thus, many of those 500 would have been alive and available for interview.

14. There is one gospel: so we preached

Paul is again highlighting the consistency of his ministry: it’s not just that there is one gospel, but this was the gospel that he preached. Ouir lives should be marked by the same consistency – receiving, believing, and clinging to the same gospel. There will be some things we get wrong in our Christian lives, but the gospel should not be one of them.

15. There is one response: so you believed

This is a beautiful statement reminding the Corinthians that the gospel they received was the right one. If Paul is calling them back to anything, it is the gospel he preached and they believed, not something new. Faith (believing) is how we come to participate in the benefits available in Christ, through the gospel.


The biblical gospel can be summarised in three core ideas, summarised in Paul’s statement from 1 Corinthians 15: Christ died for our sins. The three gospel elements are the identity of Jesus, the work of Jesus, and the results of that work. Here's a summary statement of the gospel:

The gospel is the good news that God became man in Jesus Christ to reconcile lost people to himself. He lived a perfect, sinless life on our behalf and died on the cross for our sins. He was buried, and on the third day rose from the dead, securing our redemption forever. Having triumphed over Satan and the forces of darkness, he ascended into heaven as Lord of all. Everyone who repents and believes in him receives forgiveness of sins and eternal life.




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