Friday, September 11, 2009

The Gospel

 “What is the gospel?” is a hot-topic issue within some segments of the evangelical church.  Over the last 8 years, the question has increasingly become the subject of now countless sermons, articles, conference messages, debates and books.  A Google search of “What is the gospel?” returns a list of 47,500,000 websites.  In this past year, I have personally sat under the teaching of first-rank conservative evangelical theologians who saw fit to use their time to bring clarity to this question.  “What is the gospel” is creating no small stir in America as pastors and ministry leaders struggle to reach people while clearly communicating the message that “there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).
Some have lamented the ineffectiveness of today’s church (especially compared to the book of Acts!) and concluded that an adjustment of their message is the order of our day.  This is not, however a sign of our times.  Paul wrote to the Galatian church and saw the need to immediately address this issue in their fellowship, “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel… there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ”.  The temptation to change the message of the church comes anew to each generation.  Indeed, even Paul maintained “gospel-habits” to keep himself centered on the message of Grace (1 Cor. 15:31).  The need for clarity on the question, “What is the gospel?” is as old as the Church itself. 

GospelThe news and meaning of the life, substitutionary death and resurrection of Jesus.

The gospel is a clear & very specific message.  Popular misunderstandings of the gospel mistake the message of grace for “instruction” on how to live morally in order to maintain God’s blessing.  Others distort the message of grace into a license to pursue our own appetites and seek the fulfillment of our will.

 In ministry, confusion about the gospel also arises from a lack of clarity between the gospel message itself and the various presentations of the doctrines of the gospel in scripture.  When this informs the study of scripture, the text is most often broken down for analysis into various disparate subjects.  So, the subjects of worship, faith, prayer, serving the needy, marriage, preaching, missions, fellowship, evangelism, eating, discipleship, and even the subject of “the bible” itself, are beheld as distinct subjects.  They are vaguely related as “things of God”, connected primarily through their proximity in the bible.

For contrast, the doctrines of the gospel are; the incarnation (life), atonement (death), and eschatology (resurrection - new life unto the restoration of all things, Col 1:20) of Jesus.  We see these doctrines presented explicitly and thematically throughout the entire bible.  The meaning and implications of the incarnation, atonement and resurrection are the “subjects” which generate the writings of the entire New Testament.  The news and meaning of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus – the gospel – informs every word and theme in the bible. 

No comments: