Before Jesus returned to heaven, He left an assignment for His followers. We often refer to it as the Great Commission. This one assignment consists of five distinct commands that are stated in either Matthew 28:19-20, Mark 16:15-16, Luke 24:44-49, or Acts 1:7-8. Over the course of this month, we will examine one of these commands each week so we can obtain a clearer understanding of what Jesus expects us to do in the interim between His ascension and His Second Coming.
Last week we discovered that the first command presented to us in the Great Commission is for us to “Go.” The second command in God’s assignment is for us to “proclaim.” In Mark 16:15 Jesus said, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation” (emphasis added). Most of us understand what it means to proclaim something. It refers to making an announcement or a declaration. It is a presentation of information to an audience. So, God expects us to do more than just go; He expects us to go with the purpose of delivering a message. But what is that message?
Mark’s account of the Great Commission specified that we are to “proclaim the Gospel” (emphasis added). The Greek term from which we get the word “gospel” is euangelion, and it means “good news.” The word originally referred to “the reward offered to a messenger who brought news of victory in battle,” but, eventually, the term transferred its meaning from the reward the messenger received to “the content of the message he brought.” Once this transition in meaning occurred, euangelioin came to be used when any “good news” was received. This is evident from an ancient artifact called the Priene Calendar Inscription. This inscription is dated to approximately 9 B.C. and celebrated the birthday of the Roman Emperor Augustus by referring to it as “the beginning of the good tidings for the world.” In this context “the word euangelion was used to celebrate the ushering in of a new political leader and the optimistic future he might bring.” So, the word gospel refers to good news of victory and hope.
Now that we know what “gospel” means we can turn our attention to what it constitutes. In the New Testament the gospel is primarily associated with the life and death of Jesus Christ. For example, when Peter arrived at the house of Cornelius, Cornelius said, “we are all here in the presence of God to hear all that you have been commanded by the Lord” (Acts 10:33). What was Peter commanded to tell them? According to Acts 10:36, he was commanded to tell them the “good news of peace through Jesus Christ.” That good news is then summarized in verses 38-41 where Peter spoke aboutJesus’ ministry (i.e. “He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil”), death (i.e. “they put him to death by hanging him on a tree”), and resurrection (i.e. “God raised him on the third day and made him to appear”). Thus, according to Peter’s teaching, the good news centered around the life of Jesus, including His death and resurrection.
Now, consider for a moment what Paul said constituted the gospel that he preached. In 1 Corinthians 15:1, 3b-8, he wrote,
Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you…that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.
Paul’s summary indicates that the good news centers around the death and resurrection of Jesus. In other words, what Jesus did for mankind through His death and especially His resurrection is the source of good news. Paul goes on in 1 Corinthians 15 to indicate that without His death andresurrection “our preaching is in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:14), our “faith is futile” (1 Corinthians 15:17), our sins remain unforgiven (1 Corinthians 15:17), we have no hope of eternal life (1 Corinthians 15:17-18), and death remains unconquered (1 Corinthians 15:54b-57). So “the gospel of Jesus Christ” (Mark 1:1) is that through His death and resurrection our greatest enemy has been defeated (Hebrews 2:14-15), and, as a result, we have hope of an “optimistic future” ahead (1 Corinthians 15:20-22).
Peter’s presentation of the gospel in Acts 10 and Paul’s summary of the gospel in 1 Corinthians 15 centered on what Jesus did for mankind through His death and resurrection. Thus, the good news is that Jesus has obtained victory over sin and death at the cross and Jesus has given us the hope of eternal life through His resurrection. This is the message the world needs to hear, and this is the message that we are called to proclaim.
Walter Bauer, William F. Arndt, F. Wilbur Gingrich, and Frederick W. Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 2nd ed. (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1979), 692.
R.P. Martin, “Gospel” in The International Standard Encyclopedia, ed. George W. Bromiley (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 1982), 2:529.
Jonathan Jones II, A graceful Uprising(Dallas, TX: Start2Finish Books, 2015), 19.