Easter Five Day devotional

Day Two – What is the Gospel?

The word “gospel” literally means “good news.”  In the Book of Mark the first words that Jesus speaks are, “The time has come. The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news (gospel)!” At the center of Christianity is the invitation to believe the gospel.

The Gospels and the Gospel

It can be easy to get confused because Christians talk about the gospel, and then we also talk about the Gospels. The Gospels are the first four books of the New Testament: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. These are four accounts of the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus. The reason these books are called Gospels is because they tell the good news about Jesus. A great way of thinking about them is as the gospel according to Matthew, or Mark, or Luke, or John. Each of the Gospel writers tell the story of Jesus in a slightly different way, but all tell the same big-picture story.

The Gospel of Jesus

To believe the gospel (good news) is not simply to adopt some Christian rules or practices. The gospel is specifically about Jesus. To believe the good news about Jesus is to put your faith in Jesus. He revealed himself as the eternal Son of God (John 8:58), who came to save all people from their sins (Matthew 1:21; John 3:16-17).

Throughout his life Jesus made several statements about his purpose for coming to the earth. In Luke 19:10 he says, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” In Luke 5:31-32 he says, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” And John 3:17 says, “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” The good news about Jesus is that he came to seek out lost, sinful people, and to save them.

There are other passages in the New Testament that seem to summarize the good news about Jesus. Second Corinthians 5:19 says, “God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them.” And Romans 5:6-8 makes clear how he reconciled us to God: “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

Why Did Jesus Need to Die?

While most of us are aware of the concept that Jesus “died for us,” we can feel thrown off by the idea that anyone would need to die for us. We might even be willing to concede that we have made mistakes and done things that are wrong, but we probably are not convinced that we’ve messed up so badly that someone would need to die a sacrificially death in order to pay for our sins (1 John 4:10).

Maybe we’re unconvinced that Jesus needed to die for us because we view our lives as belonging to us. We see ourselves as free persons who can choose how to live. In fact, we may be a little confused as to why God cares so much about how we behave. We wonder why he is so judgmental about choices that belong to us.

But when we think this way, we miss the point that we only exist because God created us. In fact, we are only breathing today because God has given us breath. We were created by him, and our purpose for existence comes not from ourselves, but from him. And despite the fact that God made us and blessed us and gave us life, we chose to ignore him and, for all intents and purposes, become our own god. When we do this, it is not just that we perform isolated sinful actions; it is that our entire lives are set in defiance against God.

On top of this, many of us in the U.S. believe that we are good people if we have not committed acts of violence or if we haven’t been sent to prison. But our relatively “good” lives are often more a product of our environment than a product of our virtue. Many of us simply go along to get along. We go with the flow of our culture. In in 1930s, Germans who went along to get along ended up as Nazis. In the 1990s, Rwandans who went along to get along ended up participating in a genocide. And for the first century after the United States declared its independence, going along to get along typically involved owning slaves who were kidnapped from their homeland. 

The point is this, the difference between our sinful acts and the sinful acts of the villains of history are nothing more than a difference in degree. And if many of us were put in different circumstances we would have committed sins that would be much harder for us to overlook. The fact that we haven’t done these things is more due to circumstances than to our good character.

Why the Gospel is Good News

We may feel afraid to admit that we have sin and guilt before God. But the gospel of Jesus frees us from that fear. We can openly admit that we are helpless, we are sinners, we are guilty. We don’t have to run from these truths because through Jesus we have forgiveness for all of our sins. He lived the perfect life that we should have lived, and when we believe in Jesus, god acts as if it was we who lived that perfect life. Then he died on the cross to pay the penalty for all the sins that we committed. In other words, he died the death and we deserved to die. And when he was raised from the dead, he opened the doors of eternal life for all who belong to him. His resurrection is our resurrection.

The gospel is good news because we find out that the path toward salvation and adoption into God’s family is not for us to perform religious rituals or to obey rules. We are saved when we put our trust in Jesus and in all that he did for us.

The gospel does not say, “This is what you need to do for God.” The gospel tells us, “This is what God has done for you.”


  1. What part of the gospel is most exciting and life-giving to you?
  2. What part of the gospel is most confusing or difficult for you to embrace?

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