Is The Apostle’s Gospel “The Gospel”?August 14, 2009
What is the gospel? How should we refer to it? Is it the entire Biblical story or a specific part of it? What does it begin with? What does it end with? Should we explain the gospel message primarily to be God making all which is broken fixed, that God’s purpose for you is to better the world, or a mere proclamation that the Messiah is the risen Lord? Is it that Jesus helps depressed people become happy, poor become rich, losers become winners, and bad people become good people, like many today are advocating to be the “good” of the “good news”?
While I at times refer to the gospel as everything accomplished or purposed by God in Christ, I am increasingly becoming hesitant with this language. The more I look at how the Apostles use the term “gospel” the more I see it as a specific message, NOT an all encompassing story. I see this message being a narrative (specific truths) to a meta-narrative (all of God’s truths). In other words, it is a message by which all other parts of the story get to be carried out and equally cherished.
If this is so, we ought to make sure that when we say “gospel” we mean what Scripture means and we proclaim what Scripture proclaims. This would be for the purposes that the message was intended, hence the power of God unto salvation and people entering God’s kingdom by actually being born again, not because they acknowledge a secondary truth (which wont save their soul).
Why do I personally come to this conclusion and believe that Christians should too? Because Scripture primarily shows the gospel to be a gospel of salvation from ultimately God himself and no matter how much we talk about God making all which is broken fixed, that God’s purpose for you is to help better the world, proclaim that Christ rose again and is Lord, or that God will turn depressed losers into successful winners, we may be forfeiting the gospel of God unto salvation by confusing it with greater implications of the actual message. This type of thinking I am presenting is somewhat of a backlash to certain Post Millennialist thinking, all-ecompassing gospel thinking (such as this article by ‘Christianity Today’), New Perspective on Paul (NPP) thinking, and prosperity, self-esteem, therapy gospels.
Many of the things advocated by these are great truths (while some of they’re teachings are way off), yet none of these other things taught should replace the gospel, or namely, the message which Scripture calls the gospel which is used to save the soul and make sinners right with God the Judge.
Therefore, this is my reaction to conversations I have had, remarks I have heard, sermons I have heard, and books I have read by which the gospel message was replaced with implications of the gospel. This might be for possible reasons of wanting to make the gospel more politically correct, wanting to soften its offense, or wanting to have certain points in Scripture more emphasized.
Well, I personally believe that the doctrine of the Trinity needs to be more emphasized by Christians today, yet that doesn’t mean I equate this doctrine to be the gospel message! In Acts 2, Peter didn’t proclaim God’s triune nature. No, he proclaimed the gospel of salvation! I think you get my point.
I say “amen” to all truths of Scripture. I say “amen” to all truths being greatly emphasized. Yet, I do NOT say “amen” to the gospel being said to be something it specifically isn’t – if in fact it is understood by the Apostles to be a narrative to a meta-narrative if you will, OR a means unto the meta-narrative!
What is my Scriptural backing for these claims? It’s very simple. Go to www.biblegateway.com and search the word “gospel” and see how the Apostles use it.
All throughout Acts and the NT the gospel is referred to as a “message”, NEVER a story (or an over-arching story at that), nor is it a message strictly about God’s love – as it entails truths about our sin and God’s wrath as well, nor is it a message that God wants to bless you – as though He is just standing by anticipating your response to want Him to, nor is it a message that if you want to say a certain prayer you get to go to Heaven when you die and avoid Hell, nor is it a message that God will give you total victory over your finances, self-esteem, and health! So the real question is if the gospel is a specific message, what is it?! Here is what the Apostles show us:
Mark 1:1, 1 Cor 9:13, 2 Thes 1:8, the gospel is about Jesus Christ.
Acts 20:24, Rom 1:9, the gospel is about God’s grace.
Rom 1:16, the gospel is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes.
Rom 1:17, the gospel reveals a righteousness from God and is received by faith.
Rom 2:16, the gospel is God judging sin through Christ.
1 Cor 1:17, the gospel is connected to the cross of Christ and its power to save is in the form of being a humbling truth.
1 Cor 15:2, by the gospel one is saved.
2 Cor 4:4, the gospel is about the glory of Christ (probably referring to the glory of redemption, John 17, 2 Thes 2:14).
Gal 3:6-14 (gives a gospel message summary which entails God requiring perfection and sinlessness, judgment upon those who fall short of that standard, and being justified through the faith of Abraham by Christ being our substitute for God’s justice).
Eph 1:13, it is a gospel of salvation
Eph 3:6, through the gospel a great mystery is revealed that Jews and Gentiles share together in the promise in Jesus Christ (a promise of redemption, Eph 1:14)
Eph 3:8, it entails unsearchable riches in Christ.
2 Thes 1:8, there is punishment from Christ of those who do not obey the gospel.
2 Timothy 1:10, Christ has destroyed death and brought life and immortality.
2 Tim 2:8, the gospel is that Christ has been raised from the dead and was descended from David.
Heb 4:2, the gospel message is of value if it is combined with faith.
1 Pet 4:17, the gospel is to be obeyed (reference with 1 Pet 1:9, the goal of our faith is salvation).
We often hear Christians ask, “are you saved?” What does it mean to be saved? Saved from what? The gospel message shows us Who we are saved from. Sinners can be saved from God who is the final Judge of our sin. We often hear Christians say, “Jesus died for my sins.” But how bad are your sins? The gospel message shows they are so bad that one sin is enough to separate you from God forever. We also hear Christians say, “Jesus saved me from hell.” Well what is hell? The gospel message would show us that it is the place of God’s wrath, not Satan’s as he will be under God’s wrath there too.
But how familiar are we with these truths? Are these the things that immediately come to the forefront of our minds when we hear the word “gospel” used? Do we touch on these things when we share the gospel? Do we recognize false or half-true gospels because we compare them to this truer message? We should, if this is what Scripture reveals the gospel to be. In today’s North American Christian sub-culture the gospel is merely “say a certain prayer and you’ll get to go to Heaven when you die instead of Hell.” Christians today have grooves in their brains that tell them this is the gospel. But getting people to say prayers isn’t the power of God unto salvation. What people understand about God and themselves and then why only Jesus Christ can help is what the gospel is for, and only it saves.
The Apostles emphasize the gospel to be a message about our sin, God’s judgment, what Christ did, and what we do to know we are right with Him so that we get to enjoy everything else which Christ offers. Never do we see the gospel message being described or proclaimed as all these other things which many Christians or so called “Christians” make the gospel out to be in today’s world.
And again, there are many great implications to the gospel, hence God restoring a broken world and broken people, all believers being eternally glorified and glorifying God, and all believers forever worshiping Christ as Lord. But I see there being a narrative (the specific gospel message as revealed by the Apostles) that ought not be confused for the meta-narrative (God’s overarching story and accomplishments).
In Acts 2 and 17, the Apostles share the gospel by addressing the people’s specific sins, the reality of God’s judgment, and a call for belief in Christ as Lord and repentance. People believed as a result to this specific message (hence the gospel being the power of God unto salvation), and as a result we can say all those who believed will get to be a part of God’s meta-narrative (the endless implications of the gospel message)!
What are your thoughts? 🙂