What Is the Gospel?

3 We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, 4 since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, 5 because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, 6 which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and increasing—as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth, 7 just as you learned it from Epaphras our beloved fellow servant. He is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf 8 and has made known to us your love in the Spirit. (Colossians 1:3-8)

Back to Colossians this morning. I am glad to be back in this book and am very thankful for Bilal, who preached for us last week. Tammy, Colton, and I took a few days off the week before last and I’m always grateful for the time off and for those of you who so graciously step in for me in a variety of ways to make time off possible. But I am also very happy to be back and to talk with you today from Colossians 1:5.

We ended last time with the beginning of verse 5, “because of the hope laid up for you in heaven.” In our English translations that is the end of a sentence, making verse 5 contain the end of a sentence and the beginning of a new sentence. It is hard to divide up this big paragraph, and you can see how the translators seemed to struggle with how to punctuate and how to complete sentences throughout the paragraph, it just looks strange to us. But the reason is that Greek grammar is different than English, so translating can be difficult. Also, Paul sometimes tends to write very long, interconnected thoughts in many of his letters. That is true here. Even in preaching it can be difficult to decide which part of the text to use in a sermon. So it may look to you like I am picking up some random beginning and ending points in these messages, and you may be right, but what I am attempting to do is to be sure we deal somewhat thoroughly with the major points that Paul is making and the major points that will be helpful for us as a church.

So my attempts at this may be feeble, but that is what I am trying to do. So for today, here is where I would like for us to focus: “Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, which has come to you,” Now let me read it to you with more of its context…

3 We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, 4 since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, 5 because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, 6 which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and increasing (Colossians 1:3-6)

Paul is hitting on so many things here. Already in these few words he has mentioned four words that are critical to the Christian faith, in fact that help us to understand and define our faith. These four words are: faith, love, hope, and gospel. For today our focus will be the gospel. And I think I can say that all of our lives should be focused on the gospel.

What have they heard, what has been delivered to them? The gospel. What is it that has given them hope of eternal life? The gospel. What is it that has brought us together? The word of the truth of the gospel.

People congregate for many reasons. A concert hall is filled by people who love a certain type of music. An arena is packed by fans who love a particular sport. For every event, every gathering, there is a unifying theme, there is something that has brought people together. 

My parents visited Hawaii a few years ago, and while they were there, an event was going on called the “Spam Jam.” Some of you may not even know what Spam is. I’m not so sure either, but it’s a type of canned meat. So yes, even Spam can bring hundreds of people together. People gather because of similar tastes and likes, or even dislikes.

What brings us together? Why are we here today? It is the gospel. We as Christians, if you are a Christian, you too have heard the gospel. God has delivered it to you through someone. The Colossian church people had heard the gospel before Paul’s letter, we read in verse 7 that Epaphras had been a missionary to them and evangelist, he had shared with them the gospel. They had received the gospel and now they were Christians, or saints in the gospel. The true gospel was delivered to them. But what is this gospel? What is the gospel?

Gospel is a word that is closely tied with the Christian faith. Paul uses it 60 times in the New Testament. It was a word used in Greek literature outside of the Bible, but when it was used it was almost always used in the plural sense, like gospels, and it meant “good tidings.”

The word may have been chosen by Paul and used so prominently to describe the message of our faith because of a companion verb found often in Isaiah…

Go on up to a high mountain,
O Zion, herald of good news;
lift up your voice with strength,
O Jerusalem, herald of good news;
lift it up, fear not;
say to the cities of Judah,
“Behold your God!” (Isaiah 40:9)

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.” (Isaiah 52:7)

A multitude of camels shall cover you,
the young camels of Midian and Ephah;
all those from Sheba shall come.
They shall bring gold and frankincense,
and shall bring good news, the praises of the Lord. (Isaiah 60:6)

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor;
he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; (Isaiah 61:1)

Isaiah in each of these instances uses the phrase in English “good news” to describe what would be coming, what would be given to those who needed good news of change, of something leading to desperately needed change, of what would set them free from their bondage, not a bondage of walls, bars, and locked doors, but a bondage of the heart, a bondage of the mind. It is news for the poor, for the broken hearted, for the captives, and this news is described as good news! And so when Jesus comes, He carries with Him similar language, familiar words…

the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. (Matthew 11:5)

22 And he answered them, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them. 23 And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.” (Luke 7:22-23)

Peter then in Acts 10 says this…

34 So Peter opened his mouth and said: “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, 35 but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. 36 As for the word that he sent to Israel, preaching good news of peace through Jesus Christ (he is Lord of all), (Acts 10:34-36)

I love these passages! Isaiah, Jesus, and Peter all speak of what? Of good news. Something has happened in this world in which we live. There is news of what has happened that is stunningly good! This good news is what Paul says is the gospel. The good news is the truth of the gospel. It is the message of the gospel.

What is the gospel? The good news that a Savior has come to rescue man from his sin so that he can have peace with God, now and for all eternity.

We see the need for good news from the very beginning of creation.

1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” 2 And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, 3 but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’ ” 4 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. (Genesis 3:1-6)

At this moment early in history, Adam and Eve sinned, and we have inherited that sin nature. We may say, “That doesn’t seem fair, it was Adam and Eve.” But it’s not just them. We all have sinned.

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, (Romans 3:23)

For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it. (James 2:10)

We have a sin nature, yes, but we are also active sinners. What is the problem with that? God is perfectly holy, He is without sin.

You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:48)

We are sinners, and we are called to perfection. So we need a substitute. Someone, something has to bridge that gap to get us to God, one who is perfect. And a savior has come! Christ came!

but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21)

We have a perfect Savior who has come to take our place, to stand in the gap for us, to take the wrath due our sins, so that His perfection can be given to us. Positionally we can be righteous, we can be perfect. How does that work? We must repent and believe. Repent is to be willing to turn from our sins, which God gives us power to do, and agree that sin is sin, to turn to God.

And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. (Luke 9:23)

To believe means to rely on or place full trust in.

9 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. (Romans 10:9-10)

“Repent and believe” is the call of the gospel message. What happens if we do that? He makes us new. God makes us a new creation.

17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself (2 Corinthians 5:17-18)

So we begin a new life in Christ, a changed life, with a new heart He has given to us. As we are changed, our goals in life change.

So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. (2 Corinthians 5:9)

He never leaves us, never forsakes us, and He is preparing a place for us.

1 “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. 2 In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. (John 14:1-3)

This is the gospel, this is the good news, these are the glad tidings of good news! It is in these truths by God’s power that we are truly set free from the bondage of sin which leads to eternal punishment for our sins. If you are a believer, this is your good news. If you are not a believer, then repent and believe, embrace Christ as Savior and Lord, be set free from the bondage of sin and follow Christ.

This is the message that Paul says the Colossians had received already, and it is in this message of the gospel they had a sure hope of a heavenly home.

because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, (Colossians 1:5)

But here is an interesting thing. If you are here today and you have received this good news by faith, and have genuinely come to Christ, then you understand the nature of this good news. It is good news to you, right? I mean it is really even much better news than any of us here have really grasped. I think from heaven we will just be floored, I mean on a new level, with a new level of understanding just how good this news, how good the gospel really is. I mean we know it is good, but I think some day we will know that about a billion times more, and treasure it so much more. But still, even today we can say, “Yes, this is good news.”

But I’ll tell you, we don’t go around always proclaiming this good news, do we? I mean it is so good and all, but really, does everyone around you want to hear it? Not so much. Many are neutral about this good news story of the gospel and how it can be theirs. Some may seem moderately interested and still another group will be hostile toward it. And here we are, like, “No, really, this is big, this is huge news! You can shed that old life and have Christ in you, you can know God, you can have a future in paradise with Him!” But the world is, frankly, not so impressed, right? Even those people in Colossians, they were once enemies of the gospel, right? How about us, weren’t we at one time an enemy of the gospel and enemy of Christ? But that did not keep Ephaphras from sharing the good news. It didn’t keep others from sharing the good news with us, nor should it keep us from sharing the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ with others. Some day, those that we share the good news of the gospel with today, enemies of Christ, may one day be with us also proclaiming, “Yes, this is good news!”

Let us not be discouraged when we look out our windows and see our neighbors, and our coworkers, and even our family members who seem to be opposed to the truth of the gospel, but instead remember, “Yes, I too was an enemy of the cross, and yet now I say it is good news!”

I mean, isn’t it something that we are those who have experienced salvation through Christ? Each of us who are saved have been touched by this message of truth. I find that amazing, at least that I am here and counted among you, a part of God’s family. This is the gospel, this is the good news, this is the message to be proclaimed to our world.

On this side of the gospel, having believed, it is hard to think we have to convince people that it is good news, but the plight of the human condition, the depravity of the human heart apart from Christ, is blinding to those who are not of the faith. And so we pray, we preach, we proclaim, we say it is good news, we speak truth lovingly, that God may by His grace draw others to His kingdom.

Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, which has come to you, (Colossians 1:5b-6a)

The gospel is truth that should be proclaimed wherever we go, in our everyday life. Sometimes however, we may have unique opportunities to proclaim gospel truths to others. I mean, we may get to go to another place or even another country to share gospel truths. These are exciting times, times when we are more free to focus on gospel ministry, having for a time the chance to not focus so much on our ordinary responsibilities of life. Short-term mission trips allows for this. A time of more intense ministry in a different environment. We can’t all do these trips all the time, but we can pray for and support those who do.

For us as a church body, we have three people who are leaving next week, going on short-term mission trips for the summer. The purpose of the trips is gospel proclamation, gospel ministry. Allison Adams and Annie Day are going to minister as summer interns One Hope, an inner city ministry in downtown Tulsa, Oklahoma. Caroline Adams is going to China to Shepherd’s Field, and she will be ministering there through August. I would like for us to have a time of prayer this morning. Prayer for Allison, Annie, and Caroline in these unique short-term opportunities, and also prayer for the rest of us in our normal, daily opportunities of life, that each of us will be gospel proclaimers within our sphere of influence.