The Gospel Pt. 2


In my opinion some of the best Bible scholarship is coming out of western Europe! Ironic isn’t it? In a part of the world that is clearly post-Christian there are some who are challenging the misbelief that the Western European church is  an empty shell of what it used to be. Simon Gathercole is a British New Testament scholar who has given much thought to harmonizing the four gospel accounts along with the apostle Paul’s understanding of the gospel. Gathercole in God’s Power to Save, summarizes the data from Paul as, “the gospel is God’s account of His saving activity in Jesus the Messiah, in which, by Jesus’ death and resurrection, He atones for sin and brings new creation.”  Let’s tackle the first part.

What did Jesus accomplish on the cross? In Paul’s words in  2 Cor. 5:21… “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” While there are discussions about “atonement”, “propitiation” and “expiation” that we could have, I just want us to see the thrust of the verse. Paul is stating that there was an exchange that happened in history because of the cross: He made Him to be sin for me and He made me righteous. Again, we could have a discussion on what happened and it certainly has its roots in the Old Testament understanding of sacrifice. But all I want us to see is central to the gospel account is Jesus’ rescuing work. Our sins are “put on” Him and His righteousness is “put on” us.

At the center of the gospel then rests Jesus’ accomplished work on the cross. Jesus cries out in John 19:30, “It is finished” or “tetelestai”, debt paid in full. So Jesus accomplished on the cross something that  we could never do in fulfilling a debt to God that you and I could never pay and we are thus declared to be in a relational right standing with God. At the center of the gospel rests Jesus’ work in history that He accomplished on our behalf to make a declaration: we were in far worse shape than any of us would want to admit. But we are far more loved by God than we could ever imagine.

The gospel is not moral formation. It is not “get in” and then get busy. You do not become a Christian merely to become a good person. Nor do you become a Christian merely to go to heaven. You become a Christian by rejecting your own wisdom in order to embrace the Wisdom of God  (1 Cor. 1:24). Christ did something for you that you could not do and now has declared you to be somebody that you’ve always wanted to be.

What is the gospel? Pt. 1


The word “gospel” is the Greek word euengelion. The word was used primarily as a way of describing news that was brought from the battlefront to the rest of the city. A herald would stand and announce to the crowd euengelion, good news from the warfront. This news was in the past tense. It was about what happened.

Christianity then is a declaration, an announcement  first and foremost about what’s already happened in time and space. It’s not someone’s opinion. It’s news about what’s happened. Going back to 1 Corinthians 15:1-8, the Apostle Paul locates the central gospel message in Christ’s death, burial and resurrection. These were past tense events which tells us that the good news is about something that happened in history.

Did the Jews in the Old Testament know this word “gospel”? In Isaiah 52:7, the Hebrew word for “good news” means exactly that… good news. It’s “good” in the sense of radically, audacious, life-turning upside down news. And what was the content of the announcement? First, it’s shalom or peace. It’s more than just the absence of noise! As the Jews understood it, shalom had to do with personal wholeness, completeness, or soundness. The good news is that God is bringing a wholeness not just within yourself but also with your neighbor, with your spouse, and with all of creation. This shalom is a picture of the peace that Adam and Eve experienced in the Garden. So in many ways, Christianity is a renewal of shalom.

The second word is “happiness.” This good news is not about happiness in the modern sense of feeling good or an temporal elevated feeling. Rather this happiness means a rootedness, stability that leads to a sense of well-being. In other words, the happy or good life is the deeply settled life that does not ebb or flow based on circumstances and is connected to a deep inner transformation of the heart (character).

The third word is “salvation.” This Hebrew word related to the word Yeshua, which is where we get the name Jesus from. So this salvation involves both rescue and redemption from God.

So a Jew who read the Isaiah passage would not have understood the gospel as praying a prayer or personally accepting this. They would have understood it as Yahweh’s commitment to Israel to rescue them and put them in a place of safety where they could flourish as His people and ultimately enjoy shalom. Now the prayer as we know it is not bad. It’s just that’s not how the Jew would have understood salvation.

In the end, we are incredibly reductionistic when it comes to the gospel. Already we’ve seen that while at the core of it we have the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, the scope of this good news is much larger than we think. I have described it to others in the past it is as a diamond with the core of Jesus’ work in history at the center. Yet, there are different ways to see through the diamond to the core. It’s important that I unpack those for you in the next few blogs.

Why is this important for Young Adult ministry? The gospel is grand. It’s something that we must be reminded of over and over again because we tend to forget it. How do I know? Go through your day and try to catch how many times you get upset and don’t offer forgiveness, how many times you worry, how many times you forget how Christ is connected to our entire lives (John 15:5). The fact is that we continually forget this radically good news! As Mike offered in his sermon this past Sunday, we must be aware how easy it is for any of us to keep Christianity as a set of moral codes or intellectual propositions or just simply a lifestyle. This gospel is so compelling that we will spend the rest of of our lives trying to understand it’s intricacy and connectedness to everything in our life. As young adults, this is largely the difference between seeing the gospel as something heart stirring, compelling or merely as a set of propositions that one agrees with or seeing it as becoming a better person through adherence to a moral code. More on this later…