Summary: The Gospel is the Good News of Jesus Christ in the Word of God and Paul tells us What it is, How it came and What we should do with it.
THE GOSPEL CAME
One of the most frequently used words in the Christian church is the word ‘gospel’. It is of course the ‘Good News’ of the Lord Jesus Christ. The gospel is the most important message that we can ever hear. George Whitefield was preaching and noticed an old man settling down for his accustomed sermon-time nap. Suddenly he paused. His cheerful expression changed, and changed again, until a thundercloud sat on his brow. ‘If,’ he said in measured, deliberate words, ‘I had come to speak to you in my own name you might rest your elbows upon your knees and your hands on your heads and go-to-sleep!’ (The old man in front dozed on.) ‘Once in a while,’ George continued, ominously quietly, ‘you would look up and mutter, “What does this babbler say?” But, I have come to you in the name of the Lord God of Hosts and’ Bang, he clapped his hands and stamped his foot, and the old man woke up – ‘I must and I will be heard.’ He looked at the old man. ‘Aye, aye, I have woken you up, have I? I meant to do it! I have not come hear to preach to socks and stones. I have come to you in the name of the Lord God of Hosts and I must and I will be heard!’
It’s the gospel that brought the church of God into being. Anything which is preached as less than that is what the apostle Paul would condemn as “another
gospel” (Gal 6:8). So:
WHAT IS THE GOSPEL?
There’s a verse in I Thessalonians that stood out vividly when I was reading it one day “For our Gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction” (1:5). It will be helpful to look at each phrase carefully. When Paul wrote to the Thessalonians, he was referring to:
He wasn’t claiming proprietary rights as if it was his version. In many other references to the Gospel he calls it “the gospel of God” (2:2,8,9) because it was God who had revealed himself in it as a God of love, and it’s also referred to as “the gospel of Christ” (3:2) because the good news was focused on Him. It’s been said:
‘If our greatest need had been information,
God would have sent us an educator.
If our greatest need had been technology,
God would have sent us a scientist.
If our greatest need had been money,
God would have sent us an economist.
If our greatest need had been pleasure,
God would have sent us an entertainer.
But our greatest need was forgiveness,
So God sent us a Saviour!’
Paul could write that it was “our gospel” because he
and his companions faithfully proclaimed it. They were the primary agents in making the Good News known to mankind, and we, in our turn, are their successors in this great work. Paul had the Gospel, but it had been committed to him for the purpose of its transmission to others. That’s what he meant when he wrote “Our gospel …” and then he added: It …
“CAME TO YOU”
Something happened. The Gospel didn’t come by itself. It didn’t drop by parachute from heaven. No, Paul, Silas and Timothy brought it. Before they arrived in Thessalonica there was no church, perhaps no one in that city of Greece had even heard about Jesus, let alone believed in him. The world needs a Saviour and we who have a personal knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ have been commissioned by Him to make the Gospel known to those around us.
One of the ways of doing this is to make available the Scriptures to as many people as possible. I wonder if, when you go to a foreign country on holiday, you’ve thought of taking a few copies of the New Testament to leave behind as a silent witness of the Gospel?
The planting of the church in Thessalonica, that is, the gathering together of a number of believers in Christ, was the direct result of the preaching of the Gospel.
SO HOW DID IT COME?
Paul goes on to explain the process. It came:
The Gospel didn’t come only with words far from it, because with words only it would have been something mechanical and without 1ife. But it did come to the Thessalonians “with words". The Gospel is a message, it has content, and it can only be made known by using words. Words can be used well or badly. We need to be careful in our choice of words if we are to get our message across successfully.
Words are a basic means of communication. They are a powerful means of putting across a message, whether it be good or bad. Think of the personalities of the last century - of Hitler and Churchill - how they used words in their causes. But even more powerful is “the word of the Lord”. How often we come across that phrase 1n the Scriptures.