The question, What is the Gospel? has been debated by many Christians since the days of the earliest church. The term, “Gospel,” itself, has various definitions depending on the region, culture, and the individual believer. In general, however, the gospel is interpreted as a set of written, verbal teachings that are aimed at leading believers to salvation.
According to the classic, first-century letter, letters of Peter and James, a certain Jesus chose three apostles, who were to be his apostleship recipients: Simon, James, and Judas. These three men were to share Jesus’ mission of preaching the gospel to the people in Israel. The letter continues to make reference to other specific teachers who would come after them, to complete the twelve apostles. The term, “Gospel,” therefore, referred not only to the teaching of Jesus to the early church but also to the broader teaching that would endure throughout the centuries. Gospel in its modern sense today refers to a set of ideas, values, and teachings that, together, attempt to convey the good news-the gospel. This good news, the gospel, is designed to inform, inspire and strengthen people, particularly those who have suffered or are fallen under the burdens of sin.
For an accurate understanding of what the gospel is, one must take into consideration the threefold distinction made between the traditional, non-essential nature of the gospel. According to the traditional interpretation, the gospel is nothing more than a personal message or teaching was given by Jesus to his disciples. Gospel, then, is simply the word or words of God given to man, which he then applies to his life. It thus includes such works as prayer, songs, works of mercy, and the like.
Another non-essential aspect of what is the gospel is the idea that salvation is through grace. Salvation is viewed by traditional religious believers as being completely free of any actions of free will. Everything is considered to have been being willed or determined by God. This means that salvation is a gift from God and not something that man can earn by his own efforts. While it is true that some people are born with the gift of free will, that does not mean that all efforts are fruitless.
In addition to the above, traditional gospel believers often hold views that are strongly opposed to liberal ideas of freedom. They tend to reject the notion that man has any responsibility towards his fellow man and do not accept the idea that a person can be responsible for his own salvation. Those that subscribe to this school of thought hold that God has predetermined the timing of salvation and has no further concern for man’s conduct until that time has passed. This, of course, goes against liberal and moderate views on salvation, which hold that man plays a pivotal role in determining his own destiny. Thus, those that adhere to the more traditional gospel believe that a person must be saved before he can enter heaven.
One of the main points of contention between the conservative wing of the Christian community and the more liberal wing is the idea of election. Many traditional Christians believe that salvation is determined by the free will of man. They believe that there is an internal choice of man to salvation, rather than a decision based upon external circumstances. The liberal viewpoint on the matter is that salvation is a freely determined act, and that man makes his own decisions about his own life. Because Romans 12 does not mention election specifically in its entirety, some assume that election refers to God choosing people to salvation.
Some have also expressed the opinion that salvation is a good news story. The good news, they believe, is that salvation has happened to mankind. They do not see it as a story of grace, but as the fact of creation, wherein God has blessed mankind through His almighty Son. It is not a good news story because it contains no promises of specific rewards of salvation.
Some of the most disputed issues in regards to what is the gospel include the nature of the early church, the existence of works done in the heavenly bodies, the existence of secret worship rituals, the validity of signatures on documents, and the nature of genuine tongues. All these points of contention have been debated over for centuries. Most Christian apologists have their own opinions on all of these matters. Some will argue that secret worship rituals and signatures are legitimate forms of worship, while others will discount it completely. However, the important point of what is the gospel remains unchanged – salvation is achieved through the work of the Holy Spirit.