image courtesy of intheway.missionaltribe.org
“…we are requesting a great assistance from your family so as you can enable us to purchase Church’s music instrumental which will be used to preach the Gospel of the Lord.” — these words from a nearby pastor requesting funds from my family. (Read about said request here.)
[In this post the words "preach," "proclaim," and "announce" will be used interchangeably, as will the words "gospel" and "good news." I personally believe the phrase "announce the good news" is generally a better (and more understandable) wording. From some other guy's thoughts, go here.]
What does it mean to preach the gospel of the Lord? Because I think we may seriously misunderstand — or at least regularly minimize — the true significance of these words. Consider this list of nearly every summary statement of Jesus’ ministry while on earth:
- Matthew 4:23 — Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people.
- Matthew 9:35 — Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness.
- Mark 1:14-15 — After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!”
- Luke 4:43 — But he said, “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent.”
- Luke 8:1 — After this, Jesus traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God.
- Luke 16:16 — “The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John. Since that time, the good news of the kingdom of God is being preached, and everyone is forcing his way into it.”
When we enter into the book of Acts, we see the body of Christ continuing to announce the good news, and this gospel message is spoken of in many terms and phrases:
- the good news of the kingdom of God
- the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ
- the good news that Jesus is the Christ
- the good news about Jesus
- the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all
- the good news about Jesus and the resurrection
Notice first that we don’t see the gospel merely explained as:
- heaven’s accessibility (I think we have an unhealthy obsession with heaven)
- Jesus dying for our sins
- forgiveness of our sins
- the presence of a personal savior
Now, I am not suggesting the above concepts are not included in the good news, rather I’m suggesting that offering any (or all) of these as a definition is entirely too small an interpretation. Each has its place within the gospel, but all are completely swallowed up in the expanse of the gospel and it’s goodness. For most of my life the gospel was defined and described to me as “the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.” This is far too small a definition — not to mention that it is indeed not what Jesus himself proclaimed as the good news.
I’m afraid we’ve been announcing a good news that is not nearly as good as the news Jesus announced.
I’m afraid we’ve been announcing a good news that is not nearly as good as the news Jesus announced. We’ve been marketing a small portion of the gospel as the whole package. And I believe our inattention to the fullness of what Jesus considers to be the gospel has created a narrow-minded understanding of salvation and the Christian life.
I think much of our problem — mine, at least — is that we like to take ideas apart so that we can study them better and understand them more. So if the good news is this large notion that encompasses much, we’ve isolated portions of it (which are in reality inseparable) in the name of scholarly learning. I don’t think this is all bad — except that somewhere in the process we seemed to have tossed out a large chunk of what Jesus himself understood as the good news. I’m not sure if we discarded it because we didn’t understand it, because it didn’t suit our interests, or because we merely lost the ability to understand the whole for looking at its parts.
But many of us seem to have disposed of the gospel’s relationship with kingdom. I’d argue Jesus didn’t come simply to die for our sins, but rather to usher in a new kingdom. And his death was necessary for our entry into this kingdom, just as our death is necessary for life in the kingdom. Jesus’ resurrection demonstrates the kingdom’s power over death, as well as its overcoming and restorative nature. It also serves as a demonstration of our new life in him — and in his kingdom. Whatever our definition of “gospel,” we can’t afford to ignore, neglect, or even downplay the idea of God’s kingdom.
In light of the above, I intend for my next couple of posts to address the issue of what a correct (and full) understanding of the gospel must include. [Next is the vastness of the gospel.] Care to offer some suggestions? [I need all the help I can get.]