euangelion :: what is the Gospel?


In an attempt to “redeem” this blog and blogging as an exercise, I’d like to begin a series of discussions concerning the gospel. Tonight I’d like to start with the question, “What is the gospel?” It’s a fair question, I think. We claim to be a people committed to the proclamation of the gospel and yet I have claimed, and I am not alone, that the church has at a minimum lost part the gospel in our practice and proclamation. In my opinion, what we hear being taught today is often gospelish and yet not the gospel in its totality. In Mark 1:14-15 Jesus said, 

14Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, 15and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”

What was Mark referring to when he claimed that Jesus was proclaiming the “gospel of God”? If we have lost the gospel, what in this description of “the gospel” have we failed to communicate?

Micah is a husband to Tracy & a daddy to Grace, Kessed & Haddon. He’s Senior Pastor at Brainerd Baptist Church in Chattanooga, TN. Most of all, he’s a debtor to grace.

10 thoughts on “euangelion :: what is the Gospel?

  1. I remember Tim Keller talking about this question. Here is a quote: “…the gospel is news about what God has already been done for you, rather than instruction and advice about what you are to do for God. The primacy of his work, not our work, is part of the essence of faith. In other religions, God reveals to us how we can find or achieve salvation. In Christianity, God achieves salvation for us. The gospel brings news primarily, rather than instruction. ”

    And then this summary:

    Man was created to glorify God & Enjoy Him forever
    “Worthy are you, our Lord and our God to receive glory and honor and power, for You created all things.” (Rev 4:11) “Do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor 10:31)

    Man has failed to glorify God & is under His just condemnation
    “For all have sinned…” (Rom 3:23) The wages of sin is death (Rom 6:23) “These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction” (2 Thes 1:9)

    Jesus fully bore the wrath and suffered the punishment sinners deserve
    Not wishing that sinners perish forever, God determined to save a people for Himself in the Eternal Son who became a man and lived the life we should have lived and died the death we justly deserve. God loves sinners and sent His Son to be the wrath absorbing sacrifice for their sin (1 John 4:10; John 6:37) he “…gave His life as a ransom for many” (Mk 10:45) & “rose again” from the dead (2 Cor 5:15) on their behalf.

    All who, by the grace of God, turn to Jesus in submissive faith are forgiven
    If you confess you are a sinner in need of Christ then God has begun to work in you a life-changing, eternally satisfying relationship with Himself! “Repent and believe the gospel (Mk 1:5) “In Your presnece is fullness of Joy (Ps 16:11). If your trust is in Jesus alone for your salvation (that is, you have no hope save for Christ’s mercy) then you can be assured that your sins are forgiven and He has granted you eternal life.

    source: http://www.monergism.com/whatisgospel.html

  2. Micah,

    This is a great topic.

    I think different churches/Christians are missing different aspects of the gospel. In this particular passage, Mark seems to be implying at least three aspects of the gospel:

    1. A true story(“the time is fulfilled”) — the gospel is not a formula, a truth nugget, or any other message in a vacuum. There is a “back-story” to the message of Jesus. If Jesus just drops into our proclamation, divorced from all that comes before him and all (or most) that he points to, then we are missing this aspect. The gospel is the true story of the world.

    2. A new people(“the kingdom of God is at hand”) — God is not just saving individual sinners through Christ, he is forming a new people to inhabit his new creation (the climax of the true story). Any gospel proclamation that focuses on individual salvation to the exclusion of the people of God in general (both present and eschatalogical) and local churches in particular is incomplete. The true story tells us that our broken world is becoming the true world, and that process begins with individual sinners who are united with Christ in faith.

    3. A real change (“repent and believe”) — to embrace the gospel means you not only understand the basics of the story and are willing to become a part of the new people, but that you are willing to radically break with the wrong story and your old person. In other words, your past. Not to discount the work of the Holy Spirit (it is God that does the converting, after all), but when a sinner becomes a Christian he or she has to recognize the implications of the gospel and embrace the whole thing. Sinners must respond to the gospel with “repentant faith” or “faithful repentance” if they are to actually find their personal story caught up in the story of stories. This aspect is definitely missing in many corners of contemporary evangelicalism.

    One final note: Mark calls this message the “gospel”–good news. This is not just truth, or even the only truth, but it is good truth, the best truth. It is good news that God is at work through the person and work of Christ to redeem a people unto himself and restore all that has been broken because of the carnage of sin. So in our proclamation, let’s communicate the gospel in such a way that the world knows this is not mere news, and even true news, but good news.

    NAF

  3. Funny, I just started a study of that last night with a few students at Mizzou. It’s going to take more than one post in the comments section to answer that. I will post my initial thoughts on my blog later.

  4. Great thoughts so far, gentlemen. I appreciate your input. You have all obviously thought deeply about this, which honestly is my main intent in authoring the post. It appears that we have so shortchanged our understanding of the gospel that we are now becoming of passing off something less than the gospel and not even recognizing our failure.

    Nathan, you nailed one of the more significant aspects, in my opinion. The concept of the gospel as more than a transaction at the “heavenly Wal-Mart” where I give God my prayer and He gives me heaven in return is one of my greatest concerns.

    It seems to me that the loss of the “kingdom motif” from our teaching is damaging appropriate understandings of the gospel. The idea that the gospel is primarily about reconciliation with God, therefore salvation ultimately entails not just verbal assent to a relationship but submission to God as evidenced in obedience has got to become more prominent in our understanding of the gospel.

  5. I should add that I hope this is the first of a number of posts in which we can discuss not only the nature of the gospel, but the application of the gospel in our proclamation, evangelism practices, etc.

  6. As you mention the “kingdom motif”, it reminds me of this:

    There feels to me to be a type of parallel between:

    Kingdom is greater than divine transaction
    ~AND~
    Cross is greater than divine transaction

    I remember Piper saying that in recent years he has come to more of a personal realization that the cross was not just the means to salvation, but it was the actual pinnacle of the display of the glory of the grace of God – the ultimate purpose in all history. Instead of being the “ticket,” it was the event that we would praise and sing songs about for all eternity. So instead of just being the means, it was also the end.

    So perhaps the gospel is, to a great extend, the combination of those two things; the kingdom (rule of God in the hearts of men), and the cross (the pinnacle of God’s glory.)

  7. I’ve asked the same question, but never got much response. I did mention to a former professor that I found it interesting how in four and a half years in seminary, I don’t remember anybody specifically ever defining “gospel.” I mean, outside of “It’s a book of the Bible” or “the good news.”

    Still wondering if a. Anybody really knows the answer, and b. What it means if they don’t. As Scot McKnight said at NOBTS, “The Gospel we preach produces the churches we get.”

    Oh. Right.

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