December 14, 2017

Gospel Definitions

By Chaplain Mike

UPDATE: I have added an additional sentence to point #2 in my definition.

Over at Rachel Held Evans’ blog, she is running a post with responses to the question, “What is the Gospel?” I encourage you to visit her site, read the entries, and enter the discussion.

She asked me to participate, but I wasn’t able to get her my entry in time. So, she encouraged me to put it in the comments, which I did. Here’s what I wrote:

1. The Gospel (Good News) is the divinely-authorized proclamation that the appointed time has arrived and God has come to restore his blessing to his broken creation.

2. It announces that the climactic act of God’s story has been accomplished in the birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus, his promised King. Christ’s finished work atoned for sin, defeated the powers of sin, evil, and death forever, and reconciled the lost and dying world to God.

3. It calls all people to turn from their own wisdom and ways that fight against God and his blessing, put their trust in Jesus for forgiveness and new life, and join his new community of faith, hope, and love.

4. It promises that God’s Kingdom inaugurated in Jesus will one day be consummated when Jesus returns to raise the dead, pronounce final judgment on all evil, and make a new creation in which heaven (God’s realm) and earth (the human realm) are one.

What do you think?

If someone asked you to define the Gospel concisely, what would you say?

Comments

  1. To go for truly brief, I’d say: “God loves us and is with us in Jesus. He has shown us who he is through his son. Through Jesus’ death and resurrection, he has redeemed us and promised us eternal life, a blessed life in fellowship with him and all those in him. In his kindness, he does not judge us as our deeds deserve but deals with us in mercy through Jesus.”

  2. “Christ is risen!”

  3. JoanieD says:

    I would say: “What Chaplain Mike said!”

  4. Jesus said that the good news was that the Kingdom of God was near. I like how you have included that in your definition.

  5. That Christ conquored sin and death by offering himself in our place, being obedient to death on a cross, and on the third day arose from the dead.

    The implication for us is that we are freed from the guilt and mire of our self reliance and can begin minute by minute to trust in god not ourself. The gospel becomes the power of god through the holy spirit to bring us peace in an upside down world and god does indeed provide our daily bread and order our steps as we work out our salvation, a joy known only to true belivers.

  6. I like a succinct statement that I heard Tim Keller use (or at least it was very similar to this):

    God, Himself, is redeeming and restoring all of creation by and through the work of Jesus Christ on our behalf.

  7. On one level, I like it because it makes me look again at my faith and say “yes, this is the way it should be.” It is a modern language, modern thinking Creed.

    But… It is an entry level statement. Like any contemporary concept it is a product of its time. It smacks of a mission statement language, with bullet sized sound bites. It just doesn’t feel right to make the Gospel fit into any box. God’s expression in this world is much bigger.

  8. Wow. I’ve read many descriptions that always seem to be lacking some key aspect … but I think you covered everything in what you wrote above. In fact, if someone asked me, I would probably say only your #3 and, if asked for more background, I’d offer most of your 2.

  9. The Gospel:

    God said, “Let there be light.” And God separated the light from the darkness.

  10. A very small quibble is that I would move the Kingdom up higher in the listings. After all, Jesus’ announcement was that the Kingdom of God is at hand. But that is a small quibble.

    My bigger quibble is that the social dimension of the Gospel is not as readily apparent in your definition. Jesus’ announcement of his ministry in St. Luke:

    “The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me,
    Because He has anointed Me
    To preach the gospel to the poor;
    He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
    To proclaim liberty to the captives
    And recovery of sight to the blind,
    To set at liberty those who are oppressed;
    To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD.”

    That is, I would argue that Jesus’ self-definition was that he defines the Gospel as broader than just preaching and dying. Notice that every one of his phrases can be taken in both a spiritual and a literal sense. And, St. Luke shows him both healing the brokenhearted (emotionally) and healing the brokenhearted physically, giving sight to the spiritually blind and giving sight to the physically blind, etc.

    Nevertheless, it is an excellent summary that you gave. As I said these are quibbles rather than disagreement.

    • Hi Fr. Ernesto,

      I love it when you comment.

      I read the Kingdom implicitly in point 1.

    • David Cornwell says:

      This passage from Luke is what it’s all about.

    • You’ve missed the meaning of the passage. Christ accomplishes this all in the cross.

      We are the spiritually bankrupt, we are the sick, the lame, the brokehearted, we are the ones in bondage to sin. the blind, the lost, and the hopeless.

      But through the cross, we are forgiven, set apart, and declared righteous.

      Christ did not go around breaking prison doors, but instead broke the bondage of sin. Paul’s spiritual bondage was broken by Christ, even though he physically went from freedom into bondage. Christ landed Paul in physical prison. Misunderstanding this passage eliminates the meaning of what Christ accomplished on the cross.

  11. Jim Stjernstrom says:

    The Gospel is the announcement that God came among us in the person of Jesus Christ, lived a perfect life we could not live, was crucified bearing our sins so we would not have to die and promised that all who believe in him receive forgiveness and eternal life beginning now; a life of witness and service to others accomplished through the power of His Spirit according to His Word.

  12. My own definition is actually quite simple, though my precise choice of words may be a bit controversial. And I would say the same thing if someone asked me — as in a previous post here at iMonk — “Why do you believe in God?”

    Ny answer: “Because I f**d up so much, and hurt so many people, I couldn’t live with it anymore. And the Good News is, I don’t have to live with it. Not forever. And not anymore. Everybody has done things they regret doing, especially things tthey never wanted to do. And that’s the beauty of Grace — Jesus takes the s**t away.”

  13. Fr. Ernesto,

    Jesus’ own announcement as you brought forth combined with chaplain Mike’s #3 I believe hit the nail on the head of what the Good News in the Gospel is all about.

  14. Michael says:

    That, through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God the Son, nothing in this world or the next can separate us from the love of God.

  15. I always thought the old threefold truth was, if not the whole, at least the center of the gospel:

    Christ has died, Christ IS risen, Christ will come again.

    The meaning of that line is, of course, entirely dependent upon how you define who the person of Christ is. Who it is that has died, is risen, and will come changes everything.

    His death brings us peace and forgiveness for our past. His resurrection gives us new life and strength for today. And his future coming gives us hope for tomorrow!

  16. I’m glad Fr. Ernesto posted from Luke. It captures it for me.

    The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me,
    Because He has anointed Me
    To preach the gospel to the poor;
    He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
    To proclaim liberty to the captives
    And recovery of sight to the blind,
    To set at liberty those who are oppressed;
    To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD.

  17. These are great comments!

    Ever since I started this conversation on the blog, I’ve been so fascinated by the variety of responses that have rolled in. The two themes that seem to be emerging the most: Kingdom and reconciliation.

  18. I am way uncomfortable with your formulations, Mike, because they are way to similar to the formulations of post-modern deconstructionists who are repudiating the gospel. The problem is that by moving the news away from the simple message that “Christ has died for the forgiveness of our sins” towards the “kingdom-inaguration” gobbledegook language, many find that they can repudiate the former while holding onto the new form, even denying the existence of sin.

    God promises in Isaiah 55 that his Word will accomplish his intended purposes, so why not just define the gospel according to God’s word:

    Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you— unless you believed in vain.
    For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. (1Cor15)

    It makes little sense to risk arriving at a gospel contrary to the one paul preached, as so many using language similar to the language you’ve used are doing.

    • beon:

      I think Chaplain Mike’s formulation accords rather well with how Jesus announces and proclaims the Gospel in the opening chapters of Matthew, Mark and Luke.

    • Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying,”The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:15)

      Yeah, Beon, I hate it when modern theologians speak gobbledegook.

      • The Bible progressively reveals the gospel, starting in Genesis 3:15, with the promise to Eve.

        You could go around saying… the gospel is…
        “The seed of Eve will crush the serpents head.”
        or
        “The offspring of Abraham will bless all nations.”

        and while technical correct, if you are using that formulation to completely obfuscate the forgiveness of sin won by Christ on the cross, then it is not really very different than preaching another gospel, is it?

        In your 4-bullet formulation, the cross isn’t even a footnote, and yet strangely Christ’s death and resurrection this is the climax and consummation of all God’s promises in the gospels and all the writiings of the apostles.

        • beon says:
          May 21, 2010 at 7:01 pm
          .
          In your 4-bullet formulation, the cross isn’t even a footnote, and yet strangely Christ’s death and resurrection this is the climax and consummation of all God’s promises in the gospels and all the writiings of the apostles.

          You’re right, beon. “In [Chaplain Mike’s] 4-bullet formulation, the cross isn’t even a footnote.”

          It’s actually his second point:

          2. It announces that the climactic act of God’s story has been accomplished in the birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus, his promised King.

          • Anyone reading that will immediately know that their sins are forgiven, because Christ died on the cross for them, right?

            Shall we conduct a focus group.

            The climactic act of God’s story….(shaking head)… WHAT ABOUT RESCUE FROM ETERNAL CONTEMPT???

            And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. (Daniel12)

            God’s climactic story doesn’t help me very much, if I’m still damned. Gospel means “GOOD NEWS”, not irrelevant beat-around-the-bush theological formulations that don’t tell me about how God is going to deal with my sin.

            When did SIN become a word the church isn’t allowed to mention???

            “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” (Jn3)

            Good news is news that tells me what’s up with the wrath of God?

            Watery gospel formulations, that don’t tell me about the forgiveness of my sins against God, won for me by Christ on the cross, are only good news for sociopath’s and other men devoid of conscience.

            For us whose conscience rails against us, their isn’t anything good or helpful about it. It’s like telling me the “climactic act” of the judge, jury, and executioner, who’ve rightly convicted me of my crimes, have inaugurated their accomplishment. Which is extremely BAD NEWS for the guilty.

        • beon, with all due respect, I don’t think I’m trying to “completely obfuscate the forgiveness of sin won by Christ on the cross.”

          Point three says: It calls all people to turn from their own wisdom and ways that fight against God and his blessing (in other words, sin), put their trust in Jesus for forgiveness and new life, and join his new community of faith, hope, and love.

          So here we have a clear call to repent from sin and a call to trust in Christ for forgiveness.

          However, I think you may have a point in saying that I could strengthen my statement with clearer language on what Christ’s finished work accomplishes. I will work on that.

    • Beon, I will be a little stronger. Christ has died for the forgiveness of our sins is not the Gospel. It is only a part of it. The reductionism of the Gospel to that message is what has helped to incapacitate the Church.

      • The elimination of that gospel form the church is the source of the church’s incapacitation. I spent a quarter of a century in various churches and never heard the gospel, because the American church seems to loathe the very thought of the forgiveness of sin. Sure, they’ll tell you to set yourself on a course of self improvement, but they’ll be damned before they tell you you’re a sinner in need of a savior.

    • Fr. Ernesto says:
      May 21, 2010 at 9:10 am
      Beon, I will be a little stronger. Christ has died for the forgiveness of our sins is not the Gospel. It is only a part of it. The reductionism of the Gospel to that message is what has helped to incapacitate the Church.

      beon:

      And I’ll be a bit stronger still. There’s a group in Plano, TX (near Dallas) that teaches that the Gospel is “Christ’s death, burial and resurrection.” Period. The pastor/leader says this ad infinitum ad nauseam, if you’ve had the (mis)fortune to watch his TV broadcasts. Here is his/their Website:

      http://www.doyledavidson.com/

      And here is “the rest of the story”: http://exposedd.wordpress.com/

      Apparently Mr. Davidson finally convinced “Prophetess” Kathie to leave her husband for him. (Doyle used to post his love-letters/rebukes to Kathie on his Website re: why she was to be his wife.)

      Why am I posting this? Because a group that reduces “the gospel” to a pat formula/mantra like this group does is on the way to becoming a cult, if it’s not already there.

      • And he sounds like a mess. Your point?

        To try to me make me look bad, by trying to weakly associate my view with an public adulterer, rebeling against the teachings of Christ, and soiling His holy name? Nice Going.

        While the gospel includes other promises, like “God’s promise to bless all nations through the seed of Abraham”, that doesn’t mean we can now ignore sin and the cross. These gospel formulations which exile the cross into irrelevancy are not cutting it.

        If you listen to some of the deceivers I’ve heard, it’s more important that Christ healed the lame man, than that he died on the cross. You can’t get through much of the new testament without getting pushed back to the cross. God did do other things through Christ but the cross is primary. It is not just one of many things Christ did hear and there. If you read Paul, you might even guess that its so important, that until someone understands the cross, nothing else matters:
        “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.”(1Cor2)

        And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.(1Cor15)

        Christ sweat blood begging the Father to “Let this cup pass.” This wasn’t some incidental act of human empathy. The forgiveness of sin WAS accomplished in the cross, and if it wasn’t then you are still under the wrath of God for your sins.

        Paul reminds us that the righteousness won on the cross for us by Christ, truly makes us righteous before God. “And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.”(Gal2)

        The grace of God is so firmly linked to the death of Christ, that Paul equates a missing cross with the total nullification of God’s grace, and the elimination of any hope of righteousness for men.

        This is because it is through Christ’s work on the cross that we are reconciled to God. And that is why it is such GOOD NEWS.
        “All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself…For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.(2Cor5)”

  19. “The gospels are the story of how God’s Son inaugurated God’s Kingdom through His work and through His death.” ~ N. T. Wright, April 16th, 7:00p.m. message at Wheaton College

  20. The Gospel: Good news, not simply good advice.

    Isaiah 53:6 “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”

    2 Corinthians 5:21 “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

  21. Maybe instead of concisely defining the Gospel and describing what one thinks are the most important or most-encompassing or lowest-common-denominator parts, one should first list ALL the things that the Gospel is and then see how to word one’s “concise” definition so nothing is left out or overlooked or downplayed.

  22. You added:

    Christ’s finished work atoned for sin, defeated the powers of sin, evil, and death forever

    Yet He is still waiting for [all] His enemies to be made a footstool for His feet. (Hebrews 10:13), the last of which will be death (1 Corinthians 15:25).

    Forever defeated, but not yet vanquished?