image courtesy of intheway.missionaltribe.org
I’ve made clear my beliefs that:
- We’ve been marketing a small portion of the gospel as the whole package — and 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.
- The gospel is not a shallow and elementary concept adopted by new believers until they can move on to the weightier matters of Christianity — but the gospel is the weightier matter of Christianity. And it’s deep enough that its goodness compounds and intensifies as we live in Christ, allowing the good news to be good no matter who we are, and at what station in life we may found ourselves.
These two ideas make a strict definition of the gospel difficult, but I want to at least attempt to offer a more biblical and complete explanation of the good news. Any attempt at describing the gospel must include the following:
- The kingdom of God.
- Jesus ushered in a kingdom in which God’s sovereign rule is recognized, and all citizens of that kingdom are his loyal subjects.
- He did this through his incarnation, perfect life, death, burial, and resurrection — in which he conquered sin and death for all time (and even made possible our entry into this kingdom).
- This kingdom signifies a return to Eden of sorts, a restoration of right relationship between mankind and God — and all earth is involved in this regeneration.
- When the kingdom comes in its fullness, there will be no sickness, poverty, oppression, or death — but love will reign. [Jesus offered a glimpse into this when he healed the sick and raised the dead.*]
- Our entry into the kingdom of God.
- Jesus, through his life, death, and resurrection, made it possible for us to enter into his kingdom. This has great significance and multiple repercussions:
- We are returned to a right relationship with God. We have been justified and given Christ’s righteousness, all of our sins having been forgiven (both past and future).
- We are being sanctified by the Holy Spirit to be pleasing to God, so that our faith exhibits itself through obedience. We are free from sin, and have power over it.
- We are serving a good, perfect, and loving king, who created life, knows how it should be lived, and wants us to experience it.
- We are free from the ways and rules of this world. And so, we have turned from useless things to what is of true value. We live by faith.
- We have entered into the land of peace and rest, made possible by God’s grace.
- We are given true life, which lasts through our “death” and into eternity. We have, then, been granted power over death and all evil.
- We will be present for the coming fullness of the kingdom, and will share in the glory of Christ for all eternity.
- This gospel is the power of God to save EVERYONE who believes.
- As citizens of his kingdom, God reveals Christ in us, to the world.
- The gospel is hope for a dying world, and displayed through us by the Holy Spirit. God’s presence is demonstrated in our love.
- All nations and all peoples will be blessed through Abraham, Christ, and us.
- The gospel will be advanced, always bearing fruit and growing, as people recognize Jesus as their Lord and enter into his kingdom.
- God, who is alone worthy of praise and honor, will be glorified in all earth and heaven. This is both the foundation and the objective of the gospel, it’s driving force and its culmination, its beginning and its end. God’s glory powers the gospel, is responsible for its goodness, and is the result of its acceptance among men. May God be glorified.
Because of how my mind works, I have neatly listed and categorized each detail of the gospel as best as I can. But I should be clear that this is not necessarily the best way to discuss the goodness of the news we’ve been given. In reality, the categories are not as isolated as I’ve made them appear; I’ve found it difficult to stress the overlap and interrelatedness of each facet of the gospel. But know it is there. [Also, how often is good news really conveyed in bullet points?]
In summary (and if forced to do so briefly), I’d define the gospel as:
God came to earth in the flesh to establish his kingdom, a kingdom in which his sovereignty is recognized and all is good and perfect. Jesus made this kingdom — and our entry into it — possible by defeating sin and death, once and for all, through his perfect life, death, and resurrection. As a result we are extended an open invitation into the kingdom of God and into a right relationship with him. The Holy Spirit empowers us to live the kingdom life, and we become a sign to all men everywhere that Jesus is Lord and that life in him is perfect and good. God is glorified, and as the fullness of the kingdom comes, we will share in his glory.
* It seems Jesus’ preaching of the good news was always accompanied by healing the sick and raising the dead. Paul says he “fully proclaimed the gospel” and describes his having used signs, words, and miracles. I will address this in a future post: preaching the gospel today — accompanied by service and ministry or miracles and healings?