What is the Gospel?

 Man’s Misery 

Man comes to know his misery through the law of God (Rom. 3:20; 7:7-25).                                 

No man can or will come to know the forgiving grace of God freely offered in the Gospel until he has been humbled and brought to know his exceeding misery before a holy God.

God’s law requires absolute perfection (Matt. 5:48). Christ, in Matthew 22:37-39, teaches us a summary of what God requires in His law: 

37 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. “ 

The problem is that all mankind has fallen short of God’s requirement to measure up in every way to God’s divine law (Rom. 3:20, 23). All men by nature and by choice hate God and their neighbor (Gen. 2:6:5; Jer. 17:9; Rom. 7:23-24; 8:7; Eph. 2:1-3; Titus 3:3). There is no one who is righteous (Isa. 64:6; Rom. 3:9-20, 23; 1 John 1:8, 10). No one’s righteousness can pass God’s scrutiny and stand in His judgment (Psalm 76:7; 130:3; Rev. 6:17).

Because man has willingly broken God’s law, he lives under a spiritual curse, specifically, under sin and the wrath of God, and everlasting death (John 3:36; 5:24; Rom. 1:18; Rom. 5:9; Eph. 5:6; Col. 3:6; 1 Thess. 2:16; 1 Jn. 3:14; Rev. 19:15). As it is written, 

“For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them,” (Gal. 3:10; [Deut. 27:26]).

God will not permit such disobedience and rebellion to go unpunished. For the Scriptures teach that, 

“no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account,” (Heb. 4:13).

God is terribly angry with the sin man is born with (Ps. 51:5) as well as the sins man personally commits and thus will punish sinful man both now and in eternity (Ex. 34:7; Ps. 5:4-6; Nahum 1:2; Rom. 1:18; Eph. 5:6; Heb. 9:27).

Though God is merciful, He is also just (Ex. 34:7; Deut. 7:9-11; Ps. 5:4-6; Heb. 10:30-31). The Lord God is a holy God (Isa. 6:3; Hab. 1:12-13; Jam. 1:13). He is a consuming fire, a jealous God (Deut. 4:24; 12:29). Thus, His justice demands that sin, committed against His supreme majesty be punished with the supreme penalty, namely eternal punishment of body and soul in hell (Matt. 10:28; 25:35-46).

How then shall a sinful man reply to the Heavenly Judge when he calls him to account?

Because sinful man cannot pay the debt which God’s justice demands, the debt must be paid in full by another (Isa. 53:11; Rom. 8:3-4). The answer then lies in the Gospel. The Gospel is the answer to man’s greatest problem.

Man’s Deliverance

Man comes to know his deliverance through the gospel of God (Mark 1:14; Rom. 1:1, 16). 

What is the Gospel?

“…at its briefest, the Gospel is a discourse (story) about Christ, that he is the Son of God and became man for us, that he died and was raised, that he has been established as a Lord over all things…This is the Gospel in a nutshell,” (Martin Luther,Luther’s Works, 35:117-124).

An Announcement of Good News

“…I bring you good news of great joy!” (Lk. 2:10) 

The term gospel literally means “good news!” It is an announcement of joyful tidings, revealed from heaven to man (Luke 2:10-11; Gal. 1:11-12).

The good news of the Gospel is that God promises and proclaims, out of His sheer free grace and mercy on account of and for the sake of Christ alone to:

♦ Forgive the believer’s sin and reckon him as righteous in God’s sight (Matt. 26:28; Luke 24:47; Acts 5:31; 10:43; Rom. 4:4-8; 5:17; 2 Cor. 5:19-21; Eph. 1:7);

♦ Deliver the believer from death (John 5:24; 8:51-52; 1 Cor. 15:54-55; Heb. 2:15; Rev. 20:6, 14), the devil (Eph. 2:2; Col. 2:15), condemnation (Rom. 8:1), and the wrath of God (Rom. 5:9; Eph. 2:3-5; 1 Thess. 1:10; 5:9);

♦ Raise up the believer from death, reuniting his body and soul to a blessedness in which to praise and enjoy God forever (1 Cor. 15:20, 42-46, 54; Philip. 3:21; 1 John 3:2; John 17:3; 1 Cor. 2:9).

God promises to give these benefits to all that repent and believe (Mark 1:15; John 3:16, 36; 5:24; 6:40, 47; 17:2-3; Acts 10:43; 16:31). Through the preaching of the gospel the Holy Spirit works effectually in the hearts of sinners and produces in them, faith, repentance, and the beginning of eternal life (John 3:5; Acts 11:18; 16:14; Rom. 1:5, 16-17; 10:17; 16:26; 1 Cor. 2:10-14; 2 Cor. 3:8; Eph. 2:8; Philip. 1:29; 2 Tim. 2:25). Thus, in the Gospel God gives to us what He demands from us.

God first revealed this good news in the garden of Eden immediately after the fall of man into sin (Gen. 3:15). Afterwards, though less clearly and to fewer persons, God revealed this good news:

♦ by the Patriarchs (Gen. 12:3 [John 8:56]; 22:18; 49:10; Deut. 10:15; Num. 21:9; 24:17; 1 Cor. 10:1; Heb. 11:13);

♦ by the Prophets (Isa. 53; Jer. 23:5-6; Mic. 7:18-20; John 5:46; Acts 10:43; Romans 1:2; 10:4; 1 Peter 1:10; Heb. 1:1-2);

♦ and by the shadows of sacrifices and the other ceremonies of the law (Lev. 1-7; John 5:46; Heb. 10:1-10).

In these last days (Heb. 1:2), God has more clearly and broadly revealed this good news by his only begotten Son (Mark 16:15; Luke 2:10-11; 24:47; John 1:18, 29; 6:41; 14:6; 15:5; Acts 1:8; Rom. 10:4; 1 Corinthians 15:3-8; Gal. 4:4-5; Eph. 2:15–19; Col. 2:17; 1 Timothy 2:5; Heb. 1:1-2).

Christ’s Humanity

“Behold, the Virgin shall conceive and bear a son,…” (Matt. 1:23) 

The gospel declares the good news that Christ was manifested in the flesh: 

“ 10 Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord,” (Luke 2:10-11).

Why was the incarnation necessary?

The eternal Son of God had to become man because sinful man cannot pay for others the debt they owe to God (Heb. 7:26-27; 1 Peter 3:18). Christ, the Mediator, had to be born of a virgin (Isa. 7:14) and become a man because God’s justice demands that human nature, which has sinned, must pay for its sin (Rom. 5:12, 15; 1 Cor. 15:21; Heb. 2:14-16).

Christ’s Deity

“…the Word was God.” (Jn. 1:1)  

Yet, it was necessary that our Mediator also be God (Jn. 1:1, 18; 20:28; Rom. 9:5; Col. 1:15-19; 2:9; Titus 2:13; Heb. 1:3, 8; 1 Jn. 5:20; 2 Pet. 1:1) so that by His own power, He might bear the weight of God’s anger in His humanity and earn for us and restore us to righteousness and life (Isa. 53; John 3:16; 2 Cor. 5:21). “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel,” which means, God with us,” (Matt. 1:23). 

Christ’s Death

“Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,…” (1 Cor. 15:3b) 

The gospel declares that Christ freely offered Himself as a sacrifice on the Cross in order to satisfy the just and righteous demands of God and His law, which has been broken by sinful man (Rom. 3:25-26; 1 Peter 2:24).

The gospel declares that Jesus Christ, the Mediator, was given for sinners to set them completely free and to make them right with God (Isa. 53; Matt. 1:21-23; Mk. 10:45; Luke 2:11; 1 Tim. 2:5; 1 Cor. 1:30). On the cross, Christ, the righteous servant, “would render Himself as a guilt offering” for sinners (Isa. 53:10). He would “bear their iniquities,” and intercede “for the transgressors,” (Isa. 53:11-12).

And so Christ came and lived a life of perfect obedience to God (Ps. 40:8; John 8:29; 1 Peter 2:22-24) and fulfilled all righteousness (Matt. 3:15), not for His own wellbeing but for His people.

Thus, Christ was qualified as the perfect, sinless, fully righteous Mediator and Savior because as a man He could be tempted and yet because He was God could not and did not sin (John 8:46; 14:30; 2 Cor. 5:21; 1 Pet. 2:22; 3:18; 1 Jn. 2:1).

Christ’s Burial 

“…and that He was buried…” (1 Cor. 15:4a) 

After Jesus death, He was taken down from the cross and laid in a tomb (Acts 13:29). Jesus’ burial certifies the reality of His death and points forward to the reality of His resurrection. 

Christ’s Resurrection

“…that He was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that He appeared…” (1 Cor. 15:4b-5a)

The gospel declares that Jesus rose from the dead on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures and appeared for forty days to a host of eyewitnesses (Matt. 28:1-10; Mk. 16:1-8; Lk. 24:1-12; Jn. 20:1-10; Acts 2:24-32; 1 Cor. 15:3-4). As Peter declared, 

“God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it,” (Acts 2:24).

The death of Christ is futile without his triumphant resurrection (1 Cor. 15:12-19). Therefore, the resurrection vindicated Christ’s teaching as well as His life and death. His resurrection demonstrated that His death on the cross was an effectual sacrifice for sins. The resurrection demonstrates that Christ achieved victory over sin, death and the devil and that the good news about Him is true (Acts 2:24; 17:31; 1 Cor. 15:1-11, 20, 54-57; Col. 2:12-15; Rev. 1:18).

Christ was not raised for His own wellbeing but for the wellbeing of His people. His resurrection guarantees the believer’s present forgiveness, justification and co-resurrection with Him into newness of spiritual life (1 Cor. 5:17; Rom. 4:25; 6:4-11; Eph. 2:1-10; Col. 2:12; 3:1-11; 1 Pet. 1:3).

Still further, Christ’s resurrection guarantees the believer’s future resurrection when Christ returns to match our spiritual co-resurrection with a bodily transformation (John 11:25-26; Phil. 3:21; 1 Cor. 15:12, 50-54; 2 Cor. 5:4; 1 Thess. 4:14). This great hope of the church will signify the final destruction of death, which is a hostile and destructive intruder into God’s creation (1 Cor. 15:26, 54-56). 

25 I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die,” (John 11:25-26). 

Christ’s Ascension

“…as they were looking on, He was lifted up…” (Acts 1:9) 

Forty days (Acts 1:3) after His resurrection, Christ ascended to heaven (Luke 24:50-51; Acts 1:9-11; 2:34; Philip. 2:9-11) where He is now seated at the right hand of God (Eph. 1:20-21; Heb. 1:3; 10:12) presently reigning as King and Head of His church (Eph. 1:20-23; Col. 1:18; Matt. 28:18; John 5:22-23)..

Christ’s ascension was the consummation of His redemptive work and thus the source of great benefits for believers:

♦ Christ now intercedes for His people as their advocate before His Father applying unto them the perpetual and infinite worth of His one great sacrifice (Rom. 8:34; Heb. 7:25-26; 10:12; 1 John 2:1-2). Thus believers may have great assurance that Christ will forever defend them, since He is reigning as their glorious Head and is exalted far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. (Eph. 1:21; Phil. 2:9; Heb. 7:26)

♦ Christ sends the Holy Spirit to gather, comfort and defend His people and to seek those things, which are above, because it is there that Christ is (John 14:15-26; 16:7; Eph. 4:8; Col. 3:1-10).

♦ Christ’s ascension into Heaven guarantees all believers their future glorification and eternal dwelling and reign with Christ in glory (John 12:26; 14:1-3; Rev. 5:10; Rev. 22:5).

Christ’s Return

“This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw Him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:11) 

Christ is now in Heaven until He comes again to judge the living and the dead (John 5:22, 27; Acts 1:11; Acts 10:42; 2 Tim. 4:1; 1 Pet. 4:5).

How then may a sinful man come to share in the benefits of the gospel? How is a sinful man made right with God? 

God’s Gift

Man comes to share in the benefits of the gospel through faith, which is the gift of God (Rom. 4:4-5; Eph. 2:8-9). 

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,…” (Eph. 2:8). 

No amount of good works will make a man acceptable to God (Isa. 64:6; Rom. 3:20; Gal. 3:10-14; Titus 3:4-7).

4 But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life, (Titus 3:4-7).

The gospel declares that a man receives God’s righteousness and makes it his own solely by grace through the gift of faith alone in Christ alone (Rom. 3:21-28; 10:10; Gal. 2:16; 3:7-9, 14; Eph. 2:8-9; Philip. 3:8-11; 1 John 5:10-12). 

4 Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. 5 And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness…,” (Rom. 4:4-5). 

“8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast,” (Eph. 2:8-9).

When a man trusts in Christ alone his sins are forgiven, he is declared just by God, and adopted into God’s family as a beloved son (John 1:11-13; 3:16, 18, 36; Acts 16:30-31; Eph. 1:3-14; Rom. 4:4; 5:1).

 God’s Invitation 

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest,” is both Christ’s invitation and promise.

What about you? Will you come?

Jesus is a kind, gracious, merciful saving Lord. If you come, He will receive you.

Trust in Him to save you from the guilt and power of your sin (Matt. 26:28; Acts 13:38; 1 Cor. 1:8; Col. 1:14). Trust in Him to save you from His wrath and condemnation (Rom. 8:1; 1 Thess. 1:10; 5:9). Trust in Him to save you from the dominion of the devil (Acts 26:18). Trust Him to give you a new heart (Jer. 31:31-34; Ezek. 36:26-27; 2 Cor. 5:17). Will you trust on Christ alone for the forgiveness of your sins?

“Desperate cases are the glorious triumphs of His art of saving.” 

Christ will save the vilest and most wretched of sinners who come to Him for salvation. The vilest sinners are properly qualified and prepared for the gospel’s design, which is to show forth the exceeding riches of grace when God pardons their sins and saves them freely (Eph. 2:5-7). 

13 though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, 14 and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 15 The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. 16 But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. (1 Tim. 1:13-16)

You do not have to delay. You do not have to prepare yourself to come. All that man brings to the Lord in salvation is his sin, sheer disgrace and emptiness. Christ calls you to freely believe in Him who justifies the ungodly (Rom. 4:5). He does not require you to be godly before you believe. 

Christ came not for the healthy but for the sick (Matt. 9:12). He did not come to call the righteous but sinners (Matt. 9:13). He did not come to call the rich but the poor (i.e., those who recognize their spiritual poverty; Matt. 11:5; Mark 10:17-31; Luke 4:18). 

Come, ye thirsty, come and welcome, God’s free bounty glorify; True belief and true repentance, Every grace that brings you nigh.

Come, ye sinners, poor and need, weak and wounded, sick and sore; Jesus ready stands to save you, Full of pity, love and power.

Come ye weary, heavy laden, Lost and ruined by the fall; If you tarry till you’re better, You will never come at all.

View Him prostrate in the garden; On the ground your Maker lies; On the bloody tree behold Him; Sinner, will this not suffice?

Lo! th’ incarnate God ascended, Pleads the merit of His blood; Venture on Him, venture wholly, Let no other trust intrude.

Let not conscience make you linger, Not of fitness fondly dream; All the fitness He requireth is to feel your need of Him. 

Jesus has given full satisfaction to the justice of God for sinners (Rom. 3:25). Therefore, come to Christ just as you are. He will receive you when you come to Him for salvation. Those who trust in Christ will never perish (John 3:16; John 10:28). Come to Jesus and He will not cast you out. “All that the Father gives me will come to Me, and whoever comes to Me I will never cast out,” (John 6:37).

 Let whosoever will, come! 

1 Come, everyone who thirsts,
 come to the waters; 
and he who has no money,
 come, buy and eat!
 Come, buy wine and milk
 without money and without price.
 2Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,
 and your labor for that which does not satisfy?
 Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good,
 and delight yourselves in rich food.
 3 Incline your ear, and come to me;
 hear, that your soul may live; 
and I will make with you an everlasting covenant, 
my steadfast, sure love for David…6 “Seek the Lord while he may be found;
 call upon him while he is near;
 7 let the wicked forsake his way, 
and the unrighteous man his thoughts;
 let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him,
 and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon,” (Isa. 55:1-3, 6-7).  

 “The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price,” (Rev. 22:17).


9 Responses to What is the Gospel?

  1. Hi… It’s not easy to know who you are from the blog (or perhaps I am an idiot… that’s good possibility!), but I wanted you to know about The Gospel Man Conference: How Grace Changes Men! in Atlanta in March 2008.

    All the info is here: http://www.thegospelman.com.

    I thought given the purpose of this blog that you would appreciate it.

    His grace to you,

  2. […] are a few thoughts that I offered in response to the question (for a more fuller discussion see What is the Gospel? and The Great End and Design of the […]

  3. Karen DeNeui says:

    Praise God for such a wonderful web-site! My heart was so blest and my spirit so encouraged!!!!!!!!I feel so free and uplifted as i swam in your gosple pool so refreshing to the soul!!!!Thank you so much you are so gifted. God has truely blest you with powerful insights that are in the same beat as that hammer that nailed those 95 theses to the door of the catholic church-keep pounding brother-AMEN-AMEN!!!!

  4. […] (borrowed from John Fonville, gospeldriven.wordpress.com) […]

  5. Daniel says:


    Many people present the ‘gospel’ in such as way that it can be explained in one minute. I believe that that is very unbiblical. I stumbled across your site and was encouraged to see your explanation of what the gospel is. Thank you!


  6. […] (borrowed from John Fonville, gospeldriven.wordpress.com) […]

  7. Sanji Walters says:

    Dear brother in christ,
    I am a foriegn student in Suwon.I wish to know the location of your church.
    Best regards,
    Sanji Walters.

  8. jeremiah17 says:

    thank you, god must have revealed the gospel to you…so many cannot tell you, yet they claim they preach it.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: