Right off the bat, I’ll do my best to deliver on the promise of my title. You ready? Here’s the simplest, clearest way I can think of to explain the gospel:
God loves you more than you can imagine, and He invites you to love Him back.
Wait, that doesn’t quite cover it. Let me try again:
The God who created everything created you, knows you, and loves you more than you can imagine. So much, in fact, that He became human to live and die for you and the rest of the world. He invites you to love Him back and join Him in His work to restore the world—work we are supernaturally empowered to do because of Christ’s life and death, and through the Holy Spirit who can now dwell within us.
That one’s a little wordy. The truth is, trying to explain the gospel in a concise way feels difficult—not because it’s not simple, but because it’s too good to pack into one brief sentence. The gospel is good news stacked on top of good news layered with good news. And it matters now and forever.
What do you think about all that? Does it sound incredible? Maybe too good to be true or too hard to fathom? Or maybe you just flat out don’t believe any of it. That’s okay. Or perhaps you’re simply thinking, “Um, what’s a gospel?”
So, what is the gospel, and why does it matter for all of us? Read on. I’ll do my best to keep explaining clearly.
What Does “Gospel” Even Mean?
Let’s start here. Are you familiar with this word, “gospel”? You might have heard someone say that something was “the gospel truth” or talk about the four Gospels in the Bible. But what about just the gospel? What’s that?
“Gospel” is translated from a Greek word that means good news. But good news about what? Most Christians would probably summarize it by saying it’s the “good news of Jesus Christ,” or that it means “God loves you” or “Jesus died for your sins.” Essentially, the word’s often used as a catch-all to summarize Christian beliefs, but for those of us who haven’t grown up in church it can be confusing at best. Why is this good news exactly? Someone died for me? God loves … me?
Context is important. And to find that context, we’ll have to take a trip back in time. Way back.
At the Beginning of All Things
In the first book of the Bible, Genesis, we find a story about the creation of everything. The author paints a poetic description of a God who takes delight in creating things, who says that His creations are good, and who loves humans most of all and wants to be with them. That sounds pretty great, right? But for the first readers of this ancient text, it wasn’t just great; it was revolutionary. Unbelievable. Scandalous, even. Why?
Since the beginning of time, we humans have looked to the skies for help and answers. In our search, we’ve messed up a lot. We’ve worshiped the wrong things and even created our own gods to sacrifice to—gods that were angry, unloving, distant, and never satisfied. This is exactly the world that the author of Genesis was living in when he wrote this inspired text. When he wrote of a God that couldn’t be created but instead was the Creator of everything—that was a big deal. That this One True God was loving, personal, relational, and could be experienced, well, that was an unbelievable, revolutionary thought. It was very good news.
But the author also writes how God, in His love, gave us the ability to choose to love Him or not. He created humans not as pre-programmed robots, but as free beings capable of expressing authentic love back to our Creator. And, in our “wisdom,” we chose to do things our own way, instead of trusting our God to love us best. The writer of Genesis called this step away from God “sin,” and humans have been plagued by it ever since.
But God’s grace is too big to let us stay in our sin.
And that’s really good news.
Books of Good News
If you were to blaze through the next 38 books of the Bible, you’d see a pattern:
People rebel; God loves them anyway. People choose darkness; God pursues them. People cry out; God hears them. Over and over and over, we see God giving people the freedom to do things their own way. We see the pain this causes. And we see God’s love, grace, mercy, and truth show up to help people heal, point them in the right direction again, and remind them of His love.
We mess up; God shows up.
For thousands of years, God took steps closer and closer to us. For thousands of years, He kept showing up in our darkest times, surprising us again and again with a love that made him unlike any gods before or since. But He wasn’t finished.
More good news was coming.
The Best Good News of All
Throughout all those pages of the Bible, people approached God through priests, heard about Him in stories, and witnessed His miracles. His radical, unprecedented love was on full display as He continued to subvert expectations and introduce people to the ideas of His kingdom, His perfect way of living together. But we couldn’t see Him, couldn’t hear Him, couldn’t touch Him … not yet, anyway.
In His deep wisdom and patience, He was carefully working toward something more game changing than anything He’d done before.
He would become one of us. A human.
God, in the person of Jesus, was born as a baby, His miraculous birth fulfilling thousands of years of prophecies about a coming King. However, Jesus’ life was anything but predictable. He wasn’t born into money, didn’t command armies, and didn’t erect statues of Himself. No, He served others, sat with outcasts, empowered women, rejected religious control, pushed back racial barriers, loved His enemies, and generously shared all He had.
Jesus did what only Jesus could do: He showed us what the kingdom of God looks like in our world. He walked with people. They could hear his voice. They could reach out and touch Him. He loves us so much that He physically showed up in the midst of our darkness, experienced all of the pain and heartache that comes with being human, showed us how to live, and even ultimately died for us.
The Bad News That’s Good News
After 33 years, Jesus’ life on earth came to an end. For some religious leaders and politicians, His ideas were too radical, too dangerous. They decided that He must be put to death.
Jesus knew this was coming. He accepted horrible suffering and death not as a failure, but as the culmination of everything He came into our world to teach us. He willingly died on a cross, executed like a criminal, to demonstrate what true love looks like. His sacrifice shows us what true forgiveness is and proclaims that in His kingdom, grace reigns supreme. He died to show us how to put an end to violence and not keep it in circulation.
But more than anything, Jesus died in our place, a sinless man sacrificed for the sins of the world, to show that the economy of sacrifice for sin was now finished for all time. From the cross, some of Jesus’ last words were, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Trusting in Jesus’ perfect sacrifice became the clear, new way to complete forgiveness.
But it didn’t stop there. Jesus didn’t just defeat sin. He defeated death itself.
After His death on the cross, He was laid in a tomb. But on the third day, He rose from the grave. He was seen by His closest friends and many others, gave them encouragement to continue the work of bringing God’s restorative, loving kingdom to earth, and then He went back to be with God the Father.
But, just as we’ve seen throughout the entirety of Scripture, He didn’t leave us as He found us. He took another step even closer. He gave us the Holy Spirit—God, alive in us; Jesus’ power working through us.
Because of our Maker, we’ve been created with purpose. Because of Jesus, sin no longer holds power over us, and we have a clear image of how to bring His kingdom to earth. Because of the Holy Spirit, we have everything we need to overcome the darkness of this world and bring God’s light everywhere we go.
And that is the gospel.
The Gospel Is Simple and Clear, But It’s Also Rich and Deep
The gospel—Jesus’ life, death, resurrection, and what that it means for all of us—is simple and clear, but it’s also rich and deep. God’s love can be experienced in a moment, but explored for a lifetime.
Want a little more good news? God’s eternal life doesn’t have to wait until the afterlife. It can start now. Jesus showed us the way. Invite Him in, just as you are. You’ve got a lifetime to explore His good news and become part of bringing His forgiveness and restoration to the world.
How Jesus Shared the Gospel
I’ll leave you with perhaps the most popular Bible verse in the world (for good reason). I hope the clear simplicity of this statement from Jesus in the Gospel of John speaks to you in a deep, rich way today.
“For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16 NLT
That’s good news, indeed.