Gospels

About the Gospels

The term gospel stems directly from the Anglo-Saxon godspel, meaning “god-message.” Ultimately, however, the earlier form of the expression went back to god-spel, signifying “a good message,” a phrase apparently invented to reflect exactly the Gk. euaggelion. Thus the Gospels provide us with the Good News of Jesus Christ, a Savior from our sin.

Unparalleled in World Literature

The gospels find no parallel in world literature. Negatively they are not romances or folk tales, since they catalog historical events. Neither are they biographies in any strict sense, nor memoirs. They are not even in the strict sense of the word literary works. None of the evangelists, not even Luke, is dominated by literary aspirations. Perhaps the gospels can be best described as portraits of Jesus, the promised Messiah.

Why Four Gospels?

One of the first questions to be answered is, “Why four gospels?” After all, if all four gospels are providing an account of Jesus’ birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension back to heaven, why did God need to provide four different accounts? The answer to that question is that the four Gospels are directed to the four major groups in the world of that day – The Religious man, the Strong man, the Thinking (Intellectual) man, and the Wretched (Poor) man. Even today people will find that they fall into at least one of those same four groups.

Four Perspectives of the Messiah

The gospels are thus written in a unique literary genre developed to present the divine message of salvation. In these four portraits of the Savior are immortalized the church’s memory and testimony concerning Jesus. All four are concerned with what Jesus was and said and did. Each evangelist has his peculiar style and his contribution is indispensable to the picture of the Christ that we get from the fourfold presentation.

  • To the Religious Man – Matthew: The Gospel of Matthew is written to the Religious Man – the man that thinks he can be good enough to save himself. Matthew delineates the prophesied coming One not only as a King, but as the King of Kings whom we must worship and serve to gain eternal life.
  • To the Strong Man – Mark: The Gospel of Mark is written to the Strong Man – the man who thinks that his position of power, his wealthy lineage, and his rugged individualism can save him. Mark presents Jesus as a Servant. Before we can be strong, we must first humble ourselves for service as Jesus did.
  • To the Thinking Man – Luke: The Gospel of Luke is written to the Thinking Man – that man who thinks his fine education and his intellect mean he does not need instruction or counsel from godly people or God’s Word. Luke portrays Jesus as a Man, but the ultimate man to whom thinking man will be attracted.
  • To the Poor Man – John: The Gospel of John is written to the Wretched Man – the man poor in spirit who loves God and wants to know Him, but feels he is not smart enough, strong enough, or religious enough to know God and obtain eternal life. John shows us the divinity of Jesus, the God-man, who came to bring sinful man back into fellowship with the Holy God.

Matthew

The Gospel of Matthew was written to the nation Israel. It was first written in Hebrew, and it was directed primarily to the religious man of that time. Today we have many religions, and generally speaking, religion is man’s way of dealing with his sense of guilt and proving his worthiness to attain eternal life and eternal rewards.

Mark

The Gospel of Mark was directed to the Roman. The Roman was a man of action who believed that government, law, and order could control the world. A great many people feel that is the way it should be done today. It is true that there must be law and order, but the Romans soon learned that they couldn’t rule the world with that alone. The world needed to hear about One who believed in law and order but who also offered the forgiveness of sins and the grace and the mercy of God. This is the Lord whom the Gospel of Mark presents to the Romans.

Luke

The Gospel of Luke was written to the Greek – the Thinking man, the intellectual. Dr. Luke wrote his Gospel with a twofold purpose. First, his purpose was literary and historical. Of the four Gospels, Luke’s Gospel is the most complete historical narrative. There are more wide-reaching references to institutions, customs, geography, and history of that period than are found in any of the other Gospels. Secondly, his purpose was spiritual. He presented the person of Jesus Christ as the perfect, divine Man and Savior of the world. Jesus was God manifest in the flesh.

John

The Gospel of John was written directly for believers but indirectly for the Orient where there were the mysterious millions, all crying out in that day for a deliverance. John’s Gospel speaks to the heart of those poor in spirit, those who feel perhaps God has passed them by as unnoticed or unworthy of God. John’s writing takes the soul of that wretched person seeking God, and like an eagle, lifts him higher, and far more sublimely than the other three gospels. John shows us that Jesus was God in the flesh, Holy God who humbled Himself to come to our rescue and save us from our sin that we might spend eternity with Him.

The Message of The Gospels

The world still cries out for a Deliverer, and know man or woman, no matter how religious, strong or intellectual can deliver us from our sin. But Jesus, the all-knowing, all-powerful God-man can save us, and wise men still seek Him:

  • The Religious Man needs Christ and not religion.
  • The Man of Power needs a Savior who has the power to save him.
  • The Thinking Man needs One who can meet all his mental and spiritual needs.
  • The Poor Man needs to know about a Savior who will not only save him from his wretched life but will then build him up so that he can live for God.

And so, written in the simple, compelling language of the common people, these four gospels inimitably present Jesus as no biography, history, or other similar type of literary form could make Him known. The Gospels thus provide a fourfold portraiture of One who is in His person and work set forth as the Savior and Redeemer.

(Information Sources: The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary and Dr. J. Vernon McGee’s Through the Bible Commentary)

Notes and Audio Lessons

Click on the links below to access notes and audio lessons about the Gospels.

Matthew

CLICK HERE to access lessons from the Gospel of Matthew.

Mark

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More lessons TBP

Luke

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John

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More lessons TBP

NEXT CLICK HERE for lessons on the New Testament Book of History – Acts.