"The gospel of the grace of God." Acts 20:24
What does the word "gospel" signify? Gospel is a good old Anglo-Saxon word, sprung from that pure Anglo-Saxon stock which forms the bulk, as well as the most expressive and precious portion of our noble language, of that language of which the daily lengthening line is gone throughout all the earth, and its words to the end of the world, our mother tongue, in which God seems to have set a tabernacle for the Sun of the gospel, whose going forth is from the end of the heaven and its circuit unto the ends of it. Its literal meaning is either "God's word" or message, or rather, "good news," or "good tidings," which is more agreeable to the original.
But if it be "good news," it must be good news of something and to somebody. There must be some good tidings brought, and there must be some person by whom, as good tidings, it is received. In order, then, that the gospel should be good news, glad tidings, there must be a message from God to man, God being the Speaker, and man the hearer; he the gracious Giver, and man the happy receiver. But if the gospel mean good news from heaven to earth, it can only be worthy of the name as it proclaims grace, mercy, pardon, deliverance, and salvation, and all as free gifts of God's unmerited favour. Otherwise, it would not be a gospel adapted to our wants; it would not be good news, glad tidings to us poor sinners, to us law-breakers, to us guilty criminals, to us vile transgressors, to us arraigned at the bar of infinite justice, to us condemned to die by the unswerving demands of God's holiness. And as it must be a gospel adapted to us to receive, so must it be a gospel worthy of God to give.
This gospel then, pure, clear, and free, is good news or glad tidings, as proclaiming pardon through the blood of Jesus and justification by his righteousness. It reveals an obedience whereby the law was magnified and made honourable, and a propitiation for sin by which it was for ever blotted out and put away; and thus it brings glory to God and salvation to the soul. It is a pure revelation of sovereign mercy, love and grace, whereby each Person in the divine Trinity is exalted and magnified. In it "mercy and truth meet together, righteousness and peace kiss each other."
As revealed in it, "truth springs out of earth" in the hearts of contrite sinners, and "righteousness," eternally satisfied by Christ's obedience, "looks down from heaven." If you love a pure, a clear, a free gospel, "the gospel of the grace of God," you love it not only because it is so fully suitable to your wants, so thoroughly adapted to your fallen state, but because you have felt its sweetness and power; because it not only speaks of pardon, but brings pardon; not only proclaims mercy, but brings mercy; not only points out a way of salvation, but brings salvation, with all its rich attendant blessings, into your heart. It thus becomes "the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth."
J. C. Philpot (1802-1869)