Definition of Evangelism: What is the Gospel?

Our definition of evangelism (from the PCUSA) has both:

  • A message to share (“joyfully sharing the good news of the sovereign love of God)
  • A destination (“calling people to . . . . . “)

The good news is the gospel.  This is what gospel means in its most basic form: “good news.”

However, we have developed a rich theological heritage around that word that gives it a more fuller meaning.  As such, we should ask “What is the gospel?”

What is the Gospel?

Embracing Grace Scott McKnightThe PC USA definition of evangelism elaborates one aspect: “the good news of the sovereign love of God.”

The evangelism definition here doesn’t contain a mention of sin (though indirectly in the call to action part in “to repentance”).

This week, I’m reading Embracing Grace: A Gospel for All of Us, Scott McKnight.  It is subtitled “A Gospel for all of us.”

Scott is a prolific writer at JesusCreed and has a large following on his blog.  I had him as a exegesis professor during my studies at Seminary in the 1990s.  I’ve commented on him before.

In his introduction he writes that to get a conversation started among his students, he’ll ask the question “What is the gospel?”

He typically receives answers that fall into three categories:

  • Jesus came to earth to die for my sins so I can be forgiven and go to heaven to be with God for eternity.
  • Jesus came to liberate us from oppression, systemic evil, slavery, so there would be justice and peace.
  • Being part of the church.

How does Scott’s answer the question?  It takes him the book to develop this:

“The work of God to restore humans to union with God and communion with others, in the context of a community, for the good of others and the world” (Introduction to Embracing Grace: A Gospel for All of Us, xiii).

Scott’s answer goes beyond focus on the love of God and into restoration of covenant community.

In fact, God’s destiny in history is a redeemed community.

Let me ask you this?

How would you define gospel? (I can’t believe I’ve not asked this question here before).  I invite your comments.

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  1. says

    The Gospel is basic and simple. Man’s heart is not right before God. His core being is evil. He is sinful.
    God does and will not accept him. His righteousness will not make him right. God hates sin in mankind. He is a righteous God. The only way we can come before him, communicate with Him, is through His Son’s righteousness. He was the only one who was sinless and is righteousness. By faith in Him, we are made right and thus can have a relationship with a Holy God. Oh yea, unless I forget, it was and is through His love that He gave His Son as the anointing sacrifice for our sins so we could be made right.

    God bless you!

  2. says

    Thanks for chiming in. I enjoy reading your blog at The Word on the Street as well.

    I think the point that McKnight makes says yes and more. The more part is some of the implications and consequences of coming to faith.

    He’s not going beyond or outside of orthodoxy, but expressing the richness of the gospel, the beauty of grace, and the impact of the community of faith. It’s an excellent book that I recommend.


  3. TerryE says


    Good News

    Good Tidings

    The Reward for Good Tidings

    The Reward for Good Tidings given to the Messenger

    GOSPEL has come to mean Good News.

    It’s original meaning in Classical Greek however was “The reward given to the messenger who brought Good Tidings”

    You’ve no doubt heard the saying “don’t kill the messenger”…That’s because in ancient times it was not unusual for someone to punish or even kill a messenger that brought bad news or tidings.

    The reverse is also true….when a messenger would bring good news he was often rewarded.

    so in this case Jesus is the messenger…the message iah.

    His message is the new covenant because he is the messenger of the covenant, his blood is the blood of this covenant. The Gospel would then be his…it would belong to him. For it is his reward for bringing the good tidings…the good news of the new and better covenant in his blood.

    The Gospel or reward of Christ is the Kingdom of God, and he shall rule for a thousand years….

    The message is ours

    Remember the gospel of Christ, the gospel of salvation, the gospel of peace, the gospel of Heaven is none other than the gospel of the kingdom…

    Re read your bible and place reward everywhere you read gospel and see if this does anything for you.

    There is a secret part of the everlasting gospel that only a few on earth now know.

    This secret of the Lord is with those that fear him.

    It is to these alone he will reveal his covenant.

  4. Michelle says

    I’ve broken God’s moral law. Jesus paid my fine — costed him his life (instead of mine). I’m free to go in God’s court on the Day of Judgement. THAT is the Good News!

    As for me, to die is gain; to live — I pray — is Christ. It is my number one moral responsibility to preach Jesus and the Gospel — him crucified, died, and rose on the third day to reconcile men to God through his blood.

  5. Chuck Davis Sr says

    While the term “gospel” is used throughout the New Testiment and generally means “Good News” for the
    gentile church it is clearly defined by Paul in I Cor 15 as being the death (in our place), buriel (descending
    into Sheol to deliver the old testiment believers) and glorious resurrection (to which we now can participate
    All the good news in the “Gospels” was pretty much to the Jews regarding their Messiah (Jesus) coming
    and the Kingdom (of Heaven and future on earth) promises.
    So, many aspects to the Good News (gospel) but one definition to the Church (Body of Christ). Praise Him!


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