For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” But how are they to 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!”
In reading this text, it is apparent that preaching the good news is vital for the salvation of sinners. It is not simply preaching, it is gospel preaching which leads to gospel hearing which leads to gospel believing which results in a sinner calling on the name of the Lord for salvation.
“Gospel” is a word that is thrown around a lot these days. Since it means “good news,” the content of the gospel can often be confused. For some, anything in the Bible that seems to be both “good” and “newsworthy” at the same time can be presented as the gospel. That may seem logical, but it actually contradicts the clear teaching of Scripture on the subject.
The Bible clearly teaches some very specific things about the gospel, and in the New Testament we see these things preached and explained in many different places. It is hard to overstate the necessity of right understanding when it comes to the content of the gospel. Jesus himself, in the first words Mark recorded coming from his mouth, said “The time is fulfilled, the kingdom of God is at hand, repent and believe the gospel” (Mark 1:15). If Jesus begins his earthly ministry with an emphasis on believing the gospel, it seems obvious that the “what” of the gospel is pretty vital. If we’re going to believe the gospel, and especially if we are going to preach it, we must know what it is.
I just finished a very good book on this subject aptly titled What is the Gospel? It was written by Greg Gilbert. In the foreword to the book D.A. Carson says “The clarity of Greg’s thought and articulation is wholly admirable. This book will sharpen the thinking of not a few mature Christians. More importantly, it is a book to distribute widely to church leaders, young Christians, and even some who have not yet trusted Christ who want a clear explanation of what the gospel is. Read it, then buy a box of them for generous distribution.” After reading it, I’m ready to do just that.
I have no hesitation in recommending this book to every Christian leader, church member, or even any individual who is curious about the content of the good news of Jesus Christ. It is a must read. It is vital we understand the gospel. As Christians called to live the gospel and lead others to the gospel, we must first learn the gospel. Gilbert speaks to the importance of knowing the true gospel as opposed to an unworthy substitute: “An emaciated gospel leads to emaciated worship. It lowers our eyes from God to self and cheapens what God has accomplished for us in Christ. The biblical gospel, by contrast, is like fuel in the furnace of worship. The more you understand about it, believe it, and rely on it, the more you adore God both for who he is and for what he has done for us in Christ.”
The Apostle Paul, writing inspired by the Holy Spirit of God, said as much to the Galatian Church in the first century.
I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel- not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.
As a Christian (and a pastor) who seeks to learn the gospel, live the gospel, and lead others to the gospel day in and day out, I don’t want to be accursed. I don’t want people who listen to my preaching or read what I write to be led astray either. Gilbert’s book has been an invaluable read in that regard. I highly recommend it.