I have heard a lot of discussion, and sometimes debate, over what constitutes a gospel message. Frankly, I think that is a difficult question to answer because it depends on so many factors. It depends on prior knowledge of the hearers, the setting, on what is to be accomplished in the conversation or preaching, and many others things. However, I do believe there are a few themes that should come through when we are declaring the good news.
In order to find a full yet concise gospel message, we have to look no further than the words of angels just moments after Jesus was born. I consider this to be the first declaration of the good news following the birth of the Savior.
And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. – Luke 2:10-14
1. The gospel is good tidings (good NEWS).
The gospel is not an offer of salvation it is a declaration of salvation.
We would never want our nightly news to be filled with news anchors making news and reporting it at the same time (even though this is what we see all the time). The gospel is the same. The gospel does not give life, it brings the life that God has given to light! It is the good news of what God has done or will do by His divine sovereignty.
2. The gospel brings joy, not fear.
A message that uses fear of hell of some other kind of punishment in order to coerce the hearer into action is neither good news nor joyful.
These kinds of scare tactics fill pulpits and the airwaves in the name of Christian gospel, but a simple glance at this scene in Luke chapter 2 shows that the shepherds were already afraid and the gospel replaced that fear with joy.
3. The gospel is for all sorts of people.
The reason I say it is for all sorts of people is that it clearly was not good news to Herod or others that wanted to kill Jesus. When a Jew of that day was told that something is for all people or for the world, he understood that it was for more than just the Jews.
This also means we should not pick and choose to whom we share the good news. God has people in every nation under heaven.
4. The Savior came for specific people.
The angel said, “unto you is born.” These shepherds showed both a natural fear of the angels but also a spiritual fear of the holiness of God. That was clear evidence of their new birth.
There should be specific comfort to specific people who have felt their sense of sin and need of a Savior. Their hunger for righteousness and mercy is clear evidence that Christ died for them.
5. The Savior is God.
I doubt any professing Christian would deny this simple statement, but I wonder if all have considered what it truly means.
God has never asked anyone if He could do something. God has never tried to do anything. He speaks in His authority and acts in His sovereignty. This means that salvation is not an offer to men but an act performed by God for men.
The hosts of heaven confirm this with their chorus “glory to God in the highest.” Their song does not give praise or even a small amount of credit to the sinner, preacher, or anyone else – just God.
6. Jesus is peace.
Many places teach that Jesus is Peace itself. There is no more clear comfort from this fact than in Isaiah 53.
the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. – Isaiah 53:5b (Emphasis mine.)