I can confidently say that this is the most important article I have ever written, and will ever write. It contains the answer to every question in life. For, I am often asked for advice on parenting and education by Catholic parents, but the need for this practical advice if often owed to a greater need for knowledge of a much more important question, which they usually haven’t answered yet. On many occasions, I have stopped and asked Catholic parents, “What is the Gospel?” I don’t believe I have ever received a good answer, and this is where our practical problems begin. The mission of the Christian life is to believe, obey, and preach the Gospel. Yet, for all the stuff that Catholics read, talk about, and do, few can explain what the Gospel is. If we don’t know the Gospel, we’ll never get our lives in order, and when we do know it, and keep it in focus, we’ll have Wisdom necessary to guide us in all areas of life. So, let’s answer this important question together.
Surveying the Scriptures
The word “Gospel” is mentioned over 100 times in the New Testament–every instance of which is listed below (thanks to my Bible study software). It’s good to begin with a word study and simply read over all of the verses in which the word is found, to see if we can notice any common theme or qualities. (I recommend you try and read through each line below, but if you’re pressed for time, you can skip down to the next section.)
- Mt 4:23: And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people.
- Mt 9:35: And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people.
- Mt 11:5: The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them.
- Mt 24:14: And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.
- Mt 26:13: Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached in the whole world, there shall also this, that this woman hath done, be told for a memorial of her.
- Mk 1:1: The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God;
- Mk 1:14-15: Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.
- Mk 8:35: For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it.
- Mk 10:29: And Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel’s,
- Mk 13:10: And the gospel must first be published among all nations.
- Mk 14:9: Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached throughout the whole world, this also that she hath done shall be spoken of for a memorial of her.
- Mk 16:15: And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.
- Lk 4:18: The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised,
- Lk 7:22: Then Jesus answering said unto them, Go your way, and tell John what things ye have seen and heard; how that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, to the poor the gospel is preached.
- Lk 9:6: And they departed, and went through the towns, preaching the gospel, and healing every where.
- Lk 20:1: And it came to pass, that on one of those days, as he taught the people in the temple, and preached the gospel, the chief priests and the scribes came upon him with the elders,
- Ac 8:25: And they, when they had testified and preached the word of the Lord, returned to Jerusalem, and preached the gospel in many villages of the Samaritans.
- Ac 14:7: And there they preached the gospel.
- Ac 14:21: And when they had preached the gospel to that city, and had taught many, they returned again to Lystra, and to Iconium, and Antioch,
- Ac 15:7: And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up, and said unto them, Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe.
- Ac 16:10: And after he had seen the vision, immediately we endeavoured to go into Macedonia, assuredly gathering that the Lord had called us for to preach the gospel unto them.
- Ac 20:24: But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God.
- Ro 1:1: Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God,
- Ro 1:9: For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers;
- Ro 1:15: So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also.
- Ro 1:16: For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.
- Ro 2:16: In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel.
- Ro 10:15-16: And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things! But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report?
- Ro 11:28: As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers’ sakes.
- Ro 15:16: That I should be the minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering the gospel of God, that the offering up of the Gentiles might be acceptable, being sanctified by the Holy Ghost.
- Ro 15:19-20: Through mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God; so that from Jerusalem, and round about unto Illyricum, I have fully preached the gospel of Christ. Yea, so have I strived to preach the gospel, not where Christ was named, lest I should build upon another man’s foundation:
- Ro 15:29: And I am sure that, when I come unto you, I shall come in the fulness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ.
- Ro 16:25: Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began,
- 1 Co 1:17: For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect.
- 1 Co 4:15: For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel.
- 1 Co 9:12: If others be partakers of this power over you, are not we rather? Nevertheless we have not used this power; but suffer all things, lest we should hinder the gospel of Christ.
- 1 Co 9:14-18: Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel. For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel! For if I do this thing willingly, I have a reward: but if against my will, a dispensation of the gospel is committed unto me. What is my reward then? Verily that, when I preach the gospel, I may make the gospel of Christ without charge, that I abuse not my power in the gospel.
- 1 Co 9:23: And this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I might be partaker thereof with you.
- 1 Co 15:1: Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures.
- 2 Co 2:12: Furthermore, when I came to Troas to preach Christ’s gospel, and a door was opened unto me of the Lord,
- 2 Co 4:3-4: But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.
- 2 Co 8:18: And we have sent with him the brother, whose praise is in the gospel throughout all the churches;
- 2 Co 9:13: Whiles by the experiment of this ministration they glorify God for your professed subjection unto the gospel of Christ, and for your liberal distribution unto them, and unto all men;
- 2 Co 10:14: For we stretch not ourselves beyond our measure, as though we reached not unto you: for we are come as far as to you also in preaching the gospel of Christ:
- 2 Co 10:16: To preach the gospel in the regions beyond you, and not to boast in another man’s line of things made ready to our hand.
- 2 Co 11:4: For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him.
- 2 Co 11:7: Have I committed an offence in abasing myself that ye might be exalted, because I have preached to you the gospel of God freely?
- Ga 1:6-9: I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.
- Ga 1:11: But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man.
- Ga 2:2: And I went up by revelation, and communicated unto them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but privately to them which were of reputation, lest by any means I should run, or had run, in vain.
- Ga 2:5: To whom we gave place by subjection, no, not for an hour; that the truth of the gospel might continue with you.
- Ga 2:7: But contrariwise, when they saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me, as the gospel of the circumcision was unto Peter;
- Ga 2:14: But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter before them all, If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews?
- Ga 3:8: And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed.
- Ga 4:13: Ye know how through infirmity of the flesh I preached the gospel unto you at the first.
- Eph 1:13: In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise,
- Eph 3:6: That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel:
- Eph 6:15: And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace;
- Eph 6:19: And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel,
- Php 1:5: For your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now;
- Php 1:7: Even as it is meet for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart; inasmuch as both in my bonds, and in the defence and confirmation of the gospel, ye all are partakers of my grace.
- Php 1:12: But I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel;
- Php 1:17: But the other of love, knowing that I am set for the defence of the gospel.
- Php 1:27: Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel;
- Php 2:22: But ye know the proof of him, that, as a son with the father, he hath served with me in the gospel.
- Php 4:3: And I intreat thee also, true yokefellow, help those women which laboured with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and with other my fellowlabourers, whose names are in the book of lif
- Php 4:15: Now ye Philippians know also, that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church communicated with me as concerning giving and receiving, but ye only.
- Col 1:5: For the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, whereof ye heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel;
- Col 1:23: If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister;
- 1 Th 1:5: For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance; as ye know what manner of men we were among you for your sake.
- 1 Th 2:2: But even after that we had suffered before, and were shamefully entreated, as ye know, at Philippi, we were bold in our God to speak unto you the gospel of God with much contention.
- 1 Th 2:4: But as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God, which trieth our hearts.
- 1 Th 2:8-9: So being affectionately desirous of you, we were willing to have imparted unto you, not the gospel of God only, but also our own souls, because ye were dear unto us. For ye remember, brethren, our labour and travail: for labouring night and day, because we would not be chargeable unto any of you, we preached unto you the gospel of God.
- 1 Th 3:2: And sent Timotheus, our brother, and minister of God, and our fellowlabourer in the gospel of Christ, to establish you, and to comfort you concerning your faith:
- 2 Th 1:8: In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ:
- 2 Th 2:14: Whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.
- 1 Ti 1:11: According to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which was committed to my trust.
- 2 Ti 1:8: Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God;
- 2 Ti 1:10: But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel:
- 2 Ti 2:8: Remember that Jesus Christ of the seed of David was raised from the dead according to my gospel:
- Phm 13: whom I would have retained with me, that in thy stead he might have ministered unto me in the bonds of the gospel:
- Heb 4:2: For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it.
- 1 Pe 1:12: Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into.
- 1 Pe 1:25: But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you.
- 1 Pe 4:6: For for this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit.
- 1 Pe 4:17: For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God
- Re 14:6: And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people…
What Do We Learn?
Of these verses, one thing is abundantly clear: the Gospel is a message that is preached. In Mark, Jesus commanded the Apostles:
“Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.”
Second, the Gospel is a message that consists of objective content and can, therefore, be true or false. In Galatians, St. Paul wrote:
“Though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.”
Third, the Gospel is to be believed by those who hear it. Jesus said,
“Repent ye, and believe the gospel.”
Fourth, the Gospel is something to be obeyed by those who hear it:
“What shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?”
The Gospel is a message, with objective content, to be preached to the world, to be believed and obeyed by those who hear it.
Now, the next question is what this objective content of the Gospel is, which is to be believed and obeyed? To answer this question, we can look at St. Paul’s writing in 1 Corinthians 15:
“I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; 2 By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. 3 For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; 4 And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures.:
Thus, the content of the Gospel, in its barest and simplest form is that Christ died for our sins and rose again from the dead. When we read “according to the Scriptures”, it is implied that the ancient Scriptures of the Old Testament spoke of the need for a Savior to die for the sins of man, and the promises that God would do so are also called “the Gospel”. Consider this:
“And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed.”
Abraham, living almost as long before Christ as we live after Him, knew of and believed in the Gospel. For Abraham and those who lived before Christ, the Gospel was a promise to be believed in. For us, the Gospel is a promise partially fulfilled, and still to be fulfilled. For Christ has risen from the dead, but He has also ascended into heaven, and will come again. We read this in Acts 1:
“This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.”
St. Paul clarifies this in his letter to the Hebrews, writing of Our Lord Jesus:
“He appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.”
Thus, we live today in the midst of the fulfillment of this Gospel, as it is being preached throughout the world, and either believed and obeyed or rejected by those who hear it.
What is the mission of our lives, though, as we live and wait for this second coming of Christ? After His resurrection, Jesus told His disciples very plainly what the Christian mission is:
“All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.”
This execution of this mission, called “the Great Commission”, is what all Christians are to be focused on, and every detail of the Christian life makes sense only in light of this mission.
Understanding the Gospel
Now, St. Paul summarized the Gospel in only two points:
- Christ died for our sins, and
- Christ was raised from the dead.
The Gospel is this simple! However, contained in these two points are many, many truths which we need to tease out and make sure we understand. For example, when we read that Christ died for our sins, many questions arise, like:
- Where did the world come from?
- Where did man come from?
- What are sins?
- Why do men sin?
- Why was it necessary for Christ to die for our sins?
- How is Christ different than any other man?
- What would happen if Christ did not die?
- Why did men kill Christ?
- What makes Christ’s death capable of paying for the sins of all men?
- What happened to men who died before Christ died?
- What are the implications, for us, of Christ’s death?
- How do I know that my sins are forgiven?
- What happens to men whose sins aren’t forgiven?
Likewise, when we read that Christ ws raised from the dead, we ask questions like:
- What was Christ doing while he was dead?
- What did Christ do after He rose from the dead?
- What did Jesus tell His followers to do?
- Where is Christ now?
- What is Christ doing now?
- What happens if I sin after my sins are forgiven?
- What will Christ do in the future?
- What must we do to be saved when Christ returns?
- What happens if we die before Christ returns?
- How do I know that Christ will save me?
- What will life be like after Christ returns?
The answers to these questions are found in the writings of Sacred Scripture, inspired by God himself, and in the writings of the Fathers and Doctors of the Church, who have wrestled with these questions for centuries with unique gifts given to them by God for this purpose. For example, in the New Testament, we have four “Gospels”, in which St. Matthew, St. Mark (a companion of St. Peter), St. Luke (a companion of St. Paul) and St. John give a full a detailed explanation of “the Gospel”. If you read their writings–along with the rest of Scripture–with St. Paul’s simple two points in mind, you’ll understand their true meaning. You’ll find these two points to also be the focus of all of the writings of the Fathers and Doctors of the Church.
Obeying the Gospel
It is our duty, as Christians, to study these sources to fully understand how the Gospel applies to every area of our lives, that our life may be aligned with the Great Commission and never undermine it. This is why the Apostles were concerned with the details of church and family life in their writings in the New Testament.
For example, when St. Paul teaches Christian women how to live, he tells the older women to
“teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, 5 To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands.”
But what is the motive and purpose of this life among women? He says in the next line,
“…that the word of God be not blasphemed.”
In other words, as St. Paul preached the Gospel, he knew that if Christian women lived in a manner that contradicted his message, the Great Commission would be hindered.
Likewise, he commanded men to pray
“for all men; for kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.”
Prayers were not merely to be petitions for personal health and wealth, but for the happiness of all Christians for the salvation of all. Paul explained that,
“this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.”
All that we do is for the success of the Great Commission through the world and our lives either help men to believe and obey the Gospel, or see it as a bunch of nonsense.
When we look at the widely published scandals among Catholic priests, the real evil of these sins is the negative effect they have on the Gospel, which is the whole mission of the Church in the world. When we see men scoff at and mock the Christian faith because of the terrible scandals caused by those who are not merely Christians, but Christians set apart for the sacred ministry, we can see that the Church is failing to fulfill its mission, and this is very evil. These sins not only harm the souls of those who commit them, but also the souls of millions of others who are repulsed by them.
We, however, must see that unbelievers are looking at us, knowing that we claim to be Christians, to see if we truly believe and obey the Gospel and whether it offers the happiness it claims to. When you look around and see Christian people miserably fighting over the same worldly things that unbelievers are, appearing to have nothing better than the world has, what is the message to those people? For example, When they hear Christians talking about salvation, resurrection, eternal life, etc., and they watch Christians live no differently than anyone else–what is our actual message? Is it not that the Gospel is just a bunch of nonsense?
Worse, when Christians fall away from the truth of the Gospel and the Great Commission and get wrapped up in controversies that aren’t essential to the Christian life, rather than focusing on the work of evangelization, bringing the Gospel to the world, they spend their time fighting with other Christians about nonsense. The unbelievers are left to wonder why anyone would want to join this miserable community. When Christians get wrapped in ugly political controversies, they see themselves as opponents of unbelievers, rather than as those sent by Christ to preach the Gospel to them–not some worldly political message, but the way of eternal life. If Christians would evangelize and lead men to God, through the Gospel, political controversies would go away.
As Christians, we are to understand that this mission is not carried out by any individual men on behalf of others Christians, or that all individuals carry out this mission separately, but that it is carried out by the Church, as a body made up of different members, all of whom are given unique graces for the service of the Gospel. We are to pray for greater graces that allow us to do more, and to serve the Gospel with everything we have. In fact, we’re supposed to be willing to sacrifice our lives for the truth of the Gospel, as many have done in history.
When it comes to parenting and education, if a child’s education aims only at worldly requirements or career aspirations, we are not obeying the Gospel. In the Classical Liberal Arts Academy, we are working to restore the system of education that was studied and recommended by the Fathers and Doctors of the Church for the service of the Gospel. All Christian studies begin with the study of Sacred Scripture, which are ancient writings, composed in foreign languages. In his work On Christian Doctrine, St. Augustine explained how the study of the classical liberal arts helps us to rightly understand the Scriptures. In the Summa Theologica, St. Thomas Aquinas explains how divine revelation leads us to Wisdom, which is the knowledge of God and all that He has made, by which we are able to order our lives according to the Gospel. This is the purpose of classical Christian education. When people ask, “If our children study the classical liberal arts, what are they doing to do with this education?”, the answer is simple: believe, obey and preach the Gospel.
How each of us serves the Gospel is for God to determine. The work of salvation, after all, is His work. If we submit our lives to Him, He directs us by His grace and providence to the place that is best for us. We read in Proverbs 3:5-6:
Trust in the Lord with all thine heart;
And lean not unto thine own understanding.
In all thy ways acknowledge him,
And he shall direct thy paths
Seeking this direction in life is what it means to “discern a vocation”–and this is not something just for teenagers to think about. Since the Great Commission is the universal vocation of all Christians, an education that serves this mission is a non-negotiable. When we have received a sound, Christian education, and understand the Gospel, we are ready to enter into adult life with purpose, and the hope of living a meaningful Christian life, serving God in the best way possible. This is the mission of the Classical Liberal Arts Academy.
Hopefully, you can now answer the question, “What is the Gospel?” and, knowing the answer, believe it, obey it, and preach it!
God bless your families,
William C. Michael, Headmaster
Classical Liberal Arts Academy
Mr. William C. Michael is the founding headmaster of the Classical Liberal Arts Academy. He graduated from Rutgers University with an honors degree in Classics & Ancient History and is a member of Phi Beta Kappa. Mr. Michael has worked in private education as a Classics teacher and administrator for over 20 years. He is a Roman Catholic, married to his highschool sweetheart, a homeschooling father of ten children, and keeper of a quiet family farm in North Carolina. Mr. Michael enjoys studying ancient natural philosophy, gardening and running.