In the first post of this series, I said that I was looking at the terms Scriptures, Bible, New Testament, Gospels, and gospel. In the next post, I looked at various uses of the term “Scriptures” in the New Testament. Then, I explained how I use the terms “Scriptures,” “Bible,” “New Testament,” and “Gospels” and explained why I use the terms that way. After that, I looked at the nature(s) of the “the gospel” and began wondering how it relates to the Scriptures (or the New Testament or the Gospels).
As I said in the previous post, the term “gospel” could have several different referents in Scripture, and each occurrence should be considered in context. However, for the most part, I think the term “gospel” refers to the message of God’s salvation. Obviously, there are many, many aspects of that message, but they all refer to same message.
One passage in particular in the New Testament (which actually refers back to the Old Testament) indicates that the gospel refers to the message of God salvation.
In Romans 10, Paul is writing about salvation and the gospel. At one point, he writes:
For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.(Romans 10:13-17 ESV)
In the quotation, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”, the phrase “preach/proclaim the good news” is from the Greek verb εὐαγγελίζω (euaggelizo – “to proclaim good news”), and it is a quotation from Isaiah. The following verse in Romans (“But they have not all obeyed the gospel”) indicates that Paul is talking about “the gospel,” and he believes that Isaiah’s statement relates to “the gospel.”
Here is the passage from Isaiah:
How beautiful upon the mountains
are the feet of him who brings good news,
who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness,
who publishes salvation,
who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.”
The voice of your watchmen—they lift up their voice;
together they sing for joy;
for eye to eye they see
the return of the Lord to Zion.
Break forth together into singing,
you waste places of Jerusalem,
for the Lord has comforted his people;
he has redeemed Jerusalem.
The Lord has bared his holy arm
before the eyes of all the nations,
and all the ends of the earth shall see
the salvation of our God. (Isaiah 52:7-10 ESV)
In the immediate context of this passage from Isaiah, it’s clear that the “good news” is about God’s deliverance of Jerusalem and Israel after the Jews are exiled. But, the end of the passage (and Paul’s application) indicates that it has a broader and more eternal meaning as well.
What is the point of Isaiah’s passage (a passage that Paul referred to)? It refers to a message delivered by the watchmen that God is bringing salvation to his people. That is the “good news”… the gospel.
Like I said, we see different descriptions and aspects of this message throughout the New Testament. But, the New Testament authors never identify their writings as “the gospel” themselves. (The closest is Mark, who begins his books with, “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God…” and then quotes Isaiah again.)
So, there are many ways to proclaim this message, and many aspects of this message that can be described. It’s possible to focus on Jesus Christ as the one who actually bring salvation, or his death, burial, and resurrection as the means through which God’s salvation is realized. Similarly, we can talk about mystery (that has now been revealed) of how God planned to save the Gentiles. Each of these could be considered “the gospel” because they refer to the message of God’s salvation.
If the gospel is the message of God’s salvation, then it is by nature different from the Scriptures, the Bible, the New Testament, and the Gospels, all of which refer to specific writings. Those writings may contain descriptions and references to the gospel (as a message), but they are not the message themselves.