What is the Gospel?
Let’s walk back in time for a second.
It’s 26 A.D in Nazareth (Israel). You’ve spent the week as a stonemason and your arms ache from the back-breaking work you do, day in and day out. This Sabbath morning, you’re sitting in the synagogue listening to the men of your small village read from the Holy Scriptures. Suddenly, your ears perk up. This is a scripture that you’ve heard before… but it’s been years. And now with the endless exhaustion that you call your life, the brutality from the Roman empire, and your brother joining the Zealots in their fight against Rome- you just want to survive. You listen as the words ring out from the mouth of Hezekiah, an elderly man that you’ve looked up to your entire life. He is the picture of what you hope to have one day… a solid family… good business… an honor to God.
His gravelly voice scruffs through the quiet sound of breathing and hushes from mothers to their infants in the alcove.
“‘Behold’…” he clears his voice and continues, “ ‘I am going to send My messenger, and he will clear the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple; and the messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight, behold, He is coming, says the Lord of hosts.’”
Your breath catches. For some reason… this seems to strike a chord within your heart. One of the poems from the prophet Isiah you had memorized as a child floods your mind. You feel as though the hardness of your life is cracking and light is seeping in.
How lovely on the mountains
Are the feet of him who brings good news,
Who announces ]peace
And brings good news of happiness,
Who announces salvation,
And says to Zion, “Your God reigns!”
Listen! Your watchmen lift up their voices,
They shout joyfully together;
For they will see with their own eyes
When the Lord restores Zion.
For some reason… you suddenly have an overwhelming sense of…. Hope. You blink to keep the tears from forming behind your dry and sleep-creased eyes and you suck a breath in. You cannot let your boss sitting a couple rows ahead of you see your emotion. Could it be? Could the return of the King be closer than ever?
You fake an eye rub but that doesn’t slow down your heart beginning to race. You immediately recall what you heard in the river valley the other day. A man, whose voice was hoarser than old Hezekiah’s blasting a message in the desert. What was he preaching? Something about the Kingdom of Heaven is coming near? Suddenly, you have a desire to walk out of the synagogue to hunt down that crazy guy who supposedly eats insects and wears camel leather to clothe himself. Could it be true? Could the Messiah be on his way? Was this the Good News your nation had been waiting for?
The nation of Israel had been waiting for hundreds, even thousands of years for the Anointed One (Messiah) who would come and deliver them. They had been exiled as a nation… thrown into slavery… watched as their temple was demolished and decimated… and yet still- they hoped and prayed for the day when the Messiah would come to save them. That to them- was the Good News.
Here’s the thing… in today’s day and age, we think we’re pretty smart. We laugh and giggle at how our worship and our churches have a leg up on what God wanted for the church. We believe that God is applauding us for our amazing way of ministry and church involvement. But… I think we’ve missed a lot of what Jesus would call the Good News/Gospel. We tend to make it all about ourselves… and it’s cost us dearly in our churches. We’ve lost the majority of the Good News about the reign of the King… and we hardly mention anything about the Kingdom. And repentance? Well… isn’t that a Catholic thing?
Bill Hull and Ben Sobels, in their book, “The Discipleship Gospel” write,
“Instead of telling the gospel story of God’s kingdom coming through Jesus Christ, we’ve reduced salvation to hearing a truncated gospel with a short, one-time prayer tacked on the end. The gospel we often hear today goes something like this: You have sinned, and sin separates you from God. Jesus died on the cross for your sins. If you believe in Jesus, God will forgive your sins and you will go to heaven when you die. Would you like to believe in Jesus? Great!, let’s pray the sinner’s prayer and you’ll be saved. Boom! Done. Gospel presented. But really? Is that it?”
And here you see… we’ve made it all about ourselves. I’ve literally heard that this is what the Gospel is… our way to get to heaven. But dear friends, we’ve missed the main point when we think it’s all about that. Because it’s not about us at all.
So- really—- what is the Gospel? And where did that strange word “gospel” even come from?
What is the Gospel?
We find the phrase, “Good News” in the Old Testament first. But this Good News isn’t just a basic phrase meaning regular good news… like your dog having puppies. Its meaning lies specifically in the announcement of the reign of a new King. This isn’t your everyday type of good news… this is news that a new King is in town… and he’s come to stay. (See Bible Project’s video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xmFPS0f-kzs).
If you look back at the verses found in the poem in Isaiah, it’s talking about news coming from a messenger (How lovely on the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news…) who’s bringing an announcement of the reign of a new King.
This same word in the New Testament is the Greek word, “Euangelion” or “Good News” which the NT authors used to combine all of Jesus’ teachings on the Kingdom into one word. When the New Testament was translated into English, they translated Good News into the Anglo-Saxon word, Godspell (which means God Tale or God Story). So… Gospel = Good News.
(FYI: I honestly like Good News better… so I may stick with that for the most part.)
So… we still haven’t exactly clarified what the Good News is… so I’m gonna give you a quick peek into the overview.
What is the Good News?
Mark 1:14-15 (NASB)- Parenthesis Mine
Now after John had been taken into custody, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel (good news) of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel (good news).”
So… Jesus preached the Gospel? I don’t know why… but I’ve missed that for YEARS. How a Bible college-educated, pastor’s wife and church planter missed that… I don’t know. (I’m gonna blame it on my underactive thyroid and gluten fog I was in for the previous 30 some years… LOL!)
Later in that same passage in verses 16-18, it reads:
As He was going along by the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and Andrew, the brother of Simon, casting a net in the sea; for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” Immediately they left their nets and followed Him.
So… Jesus was preaching that the Kingdom of God is NOW… and to repent and believe (put your trust) in this Good News… and then to follow Jesus.
Later in chapter 8 of Mark, verses 29-31, we read about Jesus and his disciples having a discussion as they walked to some villages near Caesarea Philippi. Jesus begins to ask some questions and then asks the disciples some specific questions.
And He continued by questioning them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered and said to Him, “You are the Christ.” And He warned them to tell no one about Him.
And He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.
Let me give you some background first: Christ means Messiah… which also means “The Anointed One… who’s anointed? A King.)
But in these verses, Jesus begins to set up his disciples to understand more of what this Good News was (specifically about his death and resurrection.)
The Good News was (and still is):
- The Kingdom of God is coming (or is here now… more on that in the next blog post…)
- Jesus is King (or the Christ… or the Messiah…)
- His Death
- His Resurrection
And our response?
- To Repent
- To Believe (Or trust in the Good News)
- To Follow.
So… if this is the Gospel… then it’s not…
- Forgiveness Only
- Left (Old and New Gospel)
- Prosperity Gospel
- Consumer Gospel
- Right (Conservative) Gospel
- American Gospel
- Social Justice Gospel
All of these gospels may have a part of the Good News correct…. But they are missing so… much… more. And ultimately… if we make the gospel about us… then it’s not the Good News.
Because the Good News is all about Jesus and the Kingdom.
Boom. Drop mic.