The Gospel: Defined

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”—John 3:16 (NKJV)

If God had a dictionary, how would He define “gospel”? In part, we have an answer. For although the Bible isn’t written as a dictionary, it defines God’s heart and mind on many things, including the gospel. And there’s no clearer definition of the gospel than John 3:16! Let’s examine it bit by bit.

For God . . .” The gospel begins with God. He is the initiator of it. Apart from God and His active, deliberate involvement, there would be no gospel whatsoever. It has the greatest authority as its source with the One who sits on heavens throne and presides over all that exists.

“ . . . so loved . . . ” Not only is the gospel based upon the greatest authority, but it is activated by the greatest motivation imaginable. Is there anything more powerful than the love of God? Even in our fallen condition, we do things out of love that we would not do otherwise. How much more powerful, then, is the pure and holy love of God? 

“ . . . the world . . . ” What’s the object of this love? Us! The very world that rebelled and rejected God and fell to sin and inherited eternal judgment is the very world that He has set His love upon. Notice, it’s not a particular region or race of the world, but the whole world. God loves everyone!

“ . . . that He gave His only begotten Son . . . ” How did God’s love express itself and become real? Through the act of giving: the Father giving His own Son with whom He’d been in perfect relationship with from eternity past. This perfect union would now be sacrificed as Jesus would physically step into our world to be our sin-bearer on the cross.

“ . . . that whoever believes in Him . . . ” As the gospel flowed from God to us through His Son, a response is required: belief. We do not earn or work our way into God’s gospel. We can only enter it by believing in Jesus. It’s faith in what He’s done, not favor based on what we do.

“ . . . should not perish but have everlasting life.” Once believed, the gospel brings the dual blessing of being forgiven the wages of sin, which is to perish or die, and being given the greatest gift there is—everlasting life in God’s presence!

This is the gospel defined. May it forever define our lives!

DIG: Why is John 3:16 such an important passage?

DISCOVER: Why is it important to understand God’s definition of the gospel?

DO: Define the gospel in your own words.