In 1:1 of Romans Paul tells us he is devoted to, or set apart unto, the “gospel of God.” What is the gospel? It might be good today for us to look at this term in Romans. We’ll look at “gospel” (euaggelion) and “preaching the gospel” (euaggelizo).
Here are the references in Romans: 1:1, 9, 15, 16; 2:16; 10:15, 16; 11:28; 15:16, 19, 20; 16:25.
My summary: “gospel” can stand for Paul’s entire message (so all of Romans), and it is first and foremost a declaration about Jesus Christ and what God is doing in this world through Jesus Christ (1:9) to bring together both Jews and Gentiles into the Church by faith in Jesus Christ. This gospel Paul gets to preach is for everybody, Jew and Gentile (1:15).
Inherently the gospel is God’s power to create, to re-create, and to establish the new creation, or “salvation” (1:16). So committed is Paul to this gospel that he believes God will judge all humans on the basis of this gospel (2:16). For this reason, Paul believes more and more need to be sent to preach this wonderful good news about God’s redemptive work in Jesus Christ (10:15-16). Israel’s relationship to this gospel perplexes Paul and he thinks, somehow, God’s covenant with Israel remains irrevocable but their unbelief permits Gentile belief (11:28). Paul is a priest on behalf of these Gentiles who respond to the gospel (15:16) — and his preaching involves powerful miracles through the power of the Spirit (15:19-20). Once again, to top it all off with a final statement that can summarize his gospel, in 16:25 Paul says his gospel is “about Jesus Christ”.
Tom Wright urges us all to consider the “gospel” is an announcement that Jesus, the Messiah, is the Lord. I do not dispute this, but I also think the gospel cannot be limited to a statement about Jesus Christ but also to the consequences of that declaration of Jesus Christ — and I see that as the saving power at work in Jesus and all those who are incorporated into him. The gospel is a declaration about Jesus as Lord, and that Lordship creates a new people who believe in him.
Now, if I’m asked what Paul means by gospel in Romans there are two words that sum it up the best: Jesus Christ. (And you can explain term each at length.) But, this must be learned by all of us: the only thing the Church has to offer to anyone, anywhere, and at any time is Jesus Christ. When I’m asked how I “evangelize,” especially in light of my book Embracing Grace, I simply say what for me is the only thing that needs to be known: talk about Jesus and try to get people to consider following Jesus.