This summer I am taking some time to define biblical words that are often used. This is a chance to sharpen definitions, recapture a fuller understanding of a word and how it is used and as a way to help me use words in the best way possible. I thought some of you might enjoy learning along side so I will post a few word studies over the next several weeks. The way that I am tackling each word is to seek to define it from the context in which it is used. Since I am looking at important and common words in the New Testament like gospel, faith and salvation, I want to see how a word is used in various NT books. I am working towards a unified definition with the basic assumption that behind each usage of a word is God orchestrating his scriptures for us.
This post is a NT study of ‘the gospel’. Giving the gospel a definition is a challenge because it is seemingly used in a variety of ways. In the New Testament there is the gospel of the Kingdom of God (Matthew 4:23, Luke 9:2,), the gospel of the Son/Christ (Romans 1:9, 15:19, 2 Corinthians 9:13, 1 Thessalonians 3:2), Paul’s gospel (Romans 2:16, 16:25; 1 Corinthians 9:12, 1 Thessalonians 1:5), the gospel (Mark 8:35, Acts 8:25, 14:7, 1 Corinthians 15:1, Philippians 4:15), the eternal gospel (Revelation 14:6), and the gospel of God (Mark 1:14, Romans 1:2, 2 Corinthians 11:7). On top of the phrase itself, we call the first four books gospels though only Mark refers to itself as a gospel.
Then there is this Pauline warning:
As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. (Galatians 1:9).
There is a gospel and it has clearly been revealed. It is one gospel that cannot be change or modified. However we are to understand the different adjectival usage (or genitive usage for Greek nerds) used to describe the gospel, there cannot be different gospels if the Bible is to be understood as a unified whole. In what follows, we will look at Jesus’ and Paul’s use of the gospel to build a description.
Jesus proclaimed the gospel of the kingdom of God (Mark 1:38). According to Matthew,
Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction.
A kingdom is the reach, rule, authority and the effective power of the king of the kingdom. A kingdom is where the king or his regents can do what he wants and it happens with little or no resistance. A person is in a kingdom when the person must act in accordance to the rule of the king and can be acted upon by the king. Jesus’ message was that God’s kingdom is here (Mark 1:15). His teaching was different because it had “authority” (Matthew 7:29). He said God and his power is here and it was.
Jesus had authority over demons, healed bodies and souls, fed the hungry, raised the dead, did justice and forgave sins (Matthew 4:23, 9:35, 21:12, Mark 2:5-7, Luke 9:1, John 11). His ministry also included the commissioning of the 12 with the proclamation of the gospel of the kingdom:
And he called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal (Luke 9:1-2).
The gospel that Jesus proclaimed was that God is near—as near as the air you breathe (Acts 17:28)—and he is lovingly acting in the world. So, repent! Stop believing that you are on your own, captain of your own ship and no one cares about you. God is here, he wants to show you his good life and he is your father (Matthew 6:9).
Mark says that “the kingdom of God is here” is the “gospel of God” (Mark 1:15). The ‘gospel of God’ is phraseology also used by Paul (Romans 1:16, Romans 15:16, 2 Corinthians 11:7, and 1 Thessalonians 2:9). It seems reasonable to assume that Paul sees a direct connection with his gospel and the one Jesus preached. Paul’s gospel was given to him by Jesus himself (Galatians 1:12). Like Jesus’ gospel, it is a gospel of power (1 Corinthians 2:4, 1 Thessalonians 1:5). Paul ties this power to the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 4:20).More importantly, he calls this proclamation, “the gospel of his Son” (Romans 1:9).
Jesus is Paul’s good news! He is embodied good news. The kingdom of God is near—in all the way Jesus teaches and demonstrates—because Jesus is near. His name is Immanuel, God is with us (Matthew 1:23). He will never leave or forsake his people (Hebrews 13:5); he will be with us personally until the end of the age (Matthew 28:20). This is true in his earthly ministry and it’s true for us today. Jesus is near and the more we know about him, the more good the gospel becomes.
Jesus is God’s authority and power (Colossians 1:16). Jesus is God among us (John 1:14). His cross—foolishness, weakness and a stumbling block to the world (1 Corinthians 1:18, 23, 25)—is the power of God for our salvation (1 Corinthians 1:18, 24). In him, we are forgiven of sins (Ephesians 1:7). He has delivered us into his kingdom (Colossians 1:13). We are born again (John3:3). We will be with him as he rules forever (Revelation 21:1-7). In fact, we are being prepared to rule and reign (Revelation 5:10). Jesus is the fullest expression of the kingdom of God among us! By trusting him, he brings us into the ever ready, ever present rule of God forever.
The kingdom of Jesus of which we become citizens by faith (Ephesians 2:19, Philippians 3:20), makes God’s resources and power available to us. He grants us access to his father’s throne (Ephesians 3:12, Hebrews 4:14-16). He makes the same power he used available to us (John 14:14). He stands for us before our father fighting for us (Hebrews 7:25) He has given the very presence of God (John 16:7, 1 Corinthians 3:16)—the Holy Spirit.
Our part, though secondary, is essential. We are to abide in him (John 15:9), glorify him (Romans 15:6, 9, 1 Corinthians 6:20, 2 Corinthians 9:13, 1 Peter 4:16, worship God (Philippians 3:3, Hebrews 12:28, serve (Galatians 5:13, 1 Timothy 6:2, 1 Peter 4:10), be steadfast (1 Corinthians 15:58, Colossians 1:23, be obedient (Romans 16:26, 2 Corinthians 10:6, 1 Peter 1:14, 22), be sanctified (Acts 20:32, Romans 15:15, 1 Corinthians 1:2, 1 Thessalonians 5:23), endure (Matthew 10:22, 24:13, 2 Timothy 2:12, Hebrews 10:36, Revelation 13:10, 14:12), believe (Romans 1:16, 3:22, 4:5, 6:8, 1 Corinthians 1:21, Galatians 3:22, Ephesians 1:19, embrace suffering (2 Corinthians1:5, Philippians 1:29, 2 Timothy 2:3, 1 Peter 5:9) and bear fruit ( Matthew 7:16-20, John 15:1-16, Romans 6:22, Galatians 5:22, Ephesians 5:9, Philippians 1:11, Colossians 1:10, James 3:17).This is not an exhaustive list of our response but gives a clear sense of what a response looks like.
Then maybe we might say that the gospel is this: Jesus is right here, right now; and with him, he brings the resources and authority of his father. Trust him and he will forgive, make new and deliver you into his kingdom. He will fill you with God’s Spirit so God is always with you and so is his power. God’s work is that we become like Jesus the son in moral beauty.
We trust this gospel by following Jesus and intending to obey him. In this Master/disciple relationship, our lives slowly but surely look like his life. In death, we continue our life with God. It never ends. We will rule and reign with him forever.