What is the "gospel"?

Much has been said about the importance of (and our need for) the gospel.  We hear a plethora of Christian teachers proclaiming they "preach the gospel" and that we should believe their message.  But what happens when one teacher teaches a particular "gospel" and another teaches something entirely different?

We hear about a health and wealth gospel; a prosperity gospel; a Jesus-is-your-buddy gospel; a Jesus-only-wants-to-make-you-happy gospel.  We've heard it said of an honest man that "his word is gospel".  "Gospel" even has its own genre in the musical world, which is distinguished from the ordinary Christian music like "Contemporary Christian" or "Praise and Worship".  Is "Gospel" music preaching a different gospel than CC or P&W?

Believers are told to preach the gospel, to hold firmly to the gospel; we're told not to preach any OTHER gospel, and encouraged not to be ashamed of the gospel; we're told Jesus preached the gospel, that the gospel is the Word of God and of Christ. (Matt 4:23, Matt 9:35, Mk 1:14-15, Rom 1:16, 1Cor 9:16-17, Gal 1:8, 1Tim 1:11, 1Thess 1:5, 1Thess 2:13, Acts 13:26, etc)

But if we're not careful, we might miss the true message of the gospel among the various forms of "gospel" messages being spoken, and thereby be led astray.  "But I thought I was following the gospel", one might retort at the final judgment.

Just what IS the gospel?

The definition provided by Merriam-Webster is "the message concerning Christ, the kingdom of God, and salvation."  But that definition isn't really all that helpful, because, after all, we have lots of messages about Jesus floating around, and in my part of the world we don't really grasp the intricacies of a "kingdom".  Besides, what is the likely response you'd hear if you asked someone, "Are you saved?"  "Saved?  Saved from what?" 
Many -- most -- people do not see their need of the gospel.  Americans seem to need the gospel like we "need" another meal:
We're rich, we're fat, we're lazy. 
We don't miss meals here. 
We don't know what it's like to truly hunger.
And that's how I think Americans view the gospel -- "I simply don't need it",  "I'm just fine without it", "What good could it possibly do for me, anyway?" 
So why does it even matter to know what the "gospel" is if, after all, I don't need it?

What IS the gospel, then?  And why do we need it?
Here's what two great bible teachers -- RC Sproul and John Piper -- have to say about the gospel, the message of the Cross.

RC Sproul has this to say about the gospel.  And John Piper says...

Simply put, the gospel is the message of the Cross (1Cor 1:18).  The Cross proclaims the wrath of God against sin, and it places the Son of God in our place.  The message of the Cross reveals how much God hates sin, and how much He loves us.  The message of the Cross declares Jesus was willing to be brutalized in order to ransom us.  We are sinners who WILL one day stand before Almighty God, who is holy, pure, perfect, righteous.  He is our Supreme Judge, both now and at the end of the ages.

Apart from the Cross we stand to be condemned by God;
Apart from the Cross the state of man is utter hopelessness.

The hope for sinful man before a righteous Judge is like the hope a serial murderer has in a human court: he is guilty and deserves to be punished.  But God has not only required holiness, He has also provided holiness.  And that is through none other than the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ in our place.  He has taken our sin and removed it; He stands between us and God when we are judged and facing condemnation. 

But we must confess/admit that we are sinners and that we need to be rescued from God's wrath.  We must know Jesus Christ is the only One who can mediate for us, and that through His death we can have forgiveness of sin.  Won't you trust and believe today?

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