October 21, 2017

My Strange Experiences With An Absent Gospel: Scripture Sources (Part 2)

137The apparent crisis in giving the Gospel its right and Biblically healthy place in evangelical Christian faith exists on several levels.

First, there is the level of scriptural definition. While I can answer the question “What is the Gospel?” it is the Biblical material that should form my definition. Before I give some simple Gospel articulations, what are the Biblical sources of Gospel definition?

Does the Bible give a definition of the Gospel? Or is the Gospel a theme that connects alll of scripture, yielding definitional material and language, but also context, meaning and significance for many other things?

Mark 1:14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”

Then in Paul’s Letters

I Corinthians 15:1 Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. 3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.

In Galatians…

Galatians 3:8 And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.”

The introduction to the entire book of Romans is…

Romans 1:15 So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome. 16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”

Paul sees his entire life wrapped up in the Gospel.

2 Timothy 1:8 Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, 9 who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, 10 and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel,

Many passages seem to be talking about the Gospel, but do not specifically say they are doing so. For example:

Philippians 2:5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

There are other sources, especially in John, that we should include.

If we look at the categories of foundational content and necessary consequence, the Gospel is foundational content. It may be stated in different because it is a thread making its way through the entire tapestry of the Biblical story, but the Gospel- the Good News- is what the scriptures exist to tell us. There are many voices telling the Gospel at different places in the Biblical story. It may seem strange to say that the Gospel was preached to Abraham without mentioning Jesus, that Jesus preached the Gospel as he came proclaiming the Kingdom and Paul heard the Gospel in the tradition of Jesus’ death and resurrection. But this is the case. The Gospel is the foundational content of the message the Bible is announcing all the way through.

As the Bible tells the Gospel, it tells it to each one of us. We are the hearers and responders. We are the nations that are blessed. We are those called to repent and believe. We are the ones asked to believe the testimony of the Apostles. We are the ones who will be willing to suffer and/or experience the power of the Gospel once we have heard and believed it.

Going back to the Gospel-less, often Christ-less content of much evangelicalism, there is the possibility that the Gospel is assumed and we have now passed from foundational content to application.

I do not believe this is the case, because the resulting application and articulation does not build on the Gospel, but on a foundation that often qualifies for Paul’s Galatians 1 warning of “another Gospel, which is no Gospel at all.” Does application always rest on some articulation of the Gospel, or is the Gospel assumed?

New Testament scholars often point out that the basic rhythm of Paul’s letters is explanation of the Gospel- or some emphasis within the Gospel- followed by specific application of the Gospel. If this is the basic movement of the great apostle as he communicated with the early churches, is it outlandish to see this as a kind of healthy example of how Gospel articulation and application should generally co-exist in a healthy Christian experience?

From these scriptures, I believe our Gospel articulation should include:

The Gospel as announcement of what God has done
The Gospel of God
The Gospel as a message about Jesus
The Gospel as the message of Jesus/The Kingdom
The Gospel as God’s redemption of his broken world (covenant story)
The Gospel as the foundation on which our responses- worship, missions, obedience, etc. – exist.

Next, I will build some specific articulations of the Gospel on these various levels.

Comments

  1. In a lot of ways, both the content and ordering of your Gospel list above parallels the structure of a covenant, where covenant is defined as a certain type of ancient near eastern treaty. It’s commonly taught that the Old Testament covenant (say in Exodus) parallels such ancient treaty structures, and really your list follows much the same structure, indicating (as makes sense) that the Gospel itself represents a covenant (albeit a NEW one) between God and humanity.

  2. Thanks iMonk!

    Do you include in there Isa 52:7, from which Jesus and JBap probably got the term “Gospel”? They could have used any word to describe what they were preaching, but they chose the word “Gospel” because of the connotation.

    That would justify your points about the Gospel being about “the message of the Kingdom” and the Gospel being about “God’s redemption of his broken world.”

  3. A minor quibble, a nit I am compelled by my DNA to pick…

    How much does the use of the term “gospel” obscure the message? I mean, let’s say we substitute the term “good news” in every instance we currently use the term “gospel”, both in the bible and in our own speech and writing. Does/would that change the impact and effect of the message?

    • I tend to agree that the word “Gospel” shouldn’t be treated as a mandatory term, but it is used in a technical, quite specific sense. We could list many scriptures about specific things done with or in response to “the Gospel.” So I am OK with saying that the main issue is the foundational content, but there is an anchor in the person and work of Jesus. Unanchored, we start immediately to have problems.

      • Jesus’ own teaching on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:27-32) and later to the other 11 disciples (Luke 24:44-49) shows how “ALL the Scriptures” proclaim the salvation found in Christ. In order for the disciples to gain this foundational perspective, Jesus had to “open their mind” (Luke24:25).

    • Justin,

      I think it’s good to use the phrase “good news” at least some of the time. I think the descriptive nature of the phrase helps us stay on track (is what I’m preaching obviously “good news?”) and keeps us from getting to wrapped up in our own favorite articulations as “THE gospel” like its a magical incantation that only works if worded precisely right. Discussions of “the gospel” inevitably start to get formulaic. We’re trusting a person, Jesus, not merely a particular articulation of something about him.

      We all need to hear all the good things God has done, is doing and has in mind to do through Jesus. It’s all “good” “news.” The point of hearing (or telling) this good news about God’s working through Jesus, as John said, is that, we should trust him, increasingly, and not get too wrapped up in what great things he’s done or is doing or will do technically qualify as “good news.” In the gospels and in Acts, we see lots of people putting their trust in Jesus, but for all kinds of different things he did or said. I don’t think why we specifically started to trust Jesus (what part of all the “good news” about him we heard and sparked our trusting him) is central. Coming to trust him, increasingly, is central.

    • The problem with using “good news” instead of “gospel” is that it is not appropriate to use etymology to define a word. Yes, “eu” meant good and “angellon” meant “news” or “message”. However, usage, not etymology determines meaning. In the New Testament world, “gospel” was often used as a technical term to describe a herald’s message announcing a king’s victory and impending return with the spoils of war. (See Michal Green’s “Evangelism in the Early Church” for a good introduction.) To bring that rich concept over into english as generic “good news” actually obscures the meaning of “gospel” instead of clarifying it. It seems better to me to use the term “gospel” and fill it through our teaching and preaching with its rich biblical content.

      • Lanier,

        Yes. I’m all for getting more of that historical kingly/political usage brought into ours. I’m glad you brought that up. I agree with Wright’s thesis that “Jesus is Lord (of heaven and earth, of the government of God)” is central to the “gospel” announcement. That historical usage, IMO, is key to understanding how Paul saw himself as preaching the same gospel as Christ, but only with a focus on “trusting/receiving the Messiah-King” rather than “entering/receiving [his] kingdom.” Your point is the same with “Christ”–we don’t think of it in political terms, but when Paul preaches “Christ,” he’s preaching Messiah-king and his ‘kingdom’ or ‘reign.’ The combo of those two usages makes it obvious Paul was on the same page as Jesus, only focusing in on the king of the kingdom, and the nature of the “king’s victory and impending return with the spoils of war.”

      • Lanier,

        It also even connects “gospel” with the fairly rare OT “gospel” to Zion that “your God (and not someone else’s) reigns.”

      • But go back a thousand years or so, and English people were hearing 2 words: “god” = good and “spell” = news. No technical term, just a translation of “eu-angelion”. The words mutated and became a single word, a technical term.

    • I think it was when we started using “gospel” as an adjective that it lost its meaning within the culture (and to a large extent, within the church itself)…

  4. Amen! So few churches or denoms seem to embrace and declare all of these as good news (even though the scriptures do). God has a lot that he has done, is doing and intends on doing in and for the world through Jesus. That larger report is perpetually “news-worthy”, and it’s good too.

    This is so much bigger, than the gospel I was given growing up, which was pretty much limited to forgivness/eternity in heaven, which made the first half of the gospels (and the last half of the epistles) really hard to integrate and receive.

  5. Mike, I am not seeing the cross-less and Christ-less evangelical trend you imply. In most of the evangelical churches I have attended, from Pentecostal to Baptist, it is all about the cross and salvation. It is in the non-evangelical, liturgical churches I have visited that I see less ephasis on the cross of Christ and more an emphasis on things like world peace, feeding the poor, church unity and social justice (equality, rights, etc.).

    From my experiences, if accepting the death, burial and resurrection of Christ does not have an incredible impact on one’s life, resulting in outward behavior changes as well as active engagement in one’s behavior, then I would have to ask whether “the gospel” is just another “religious thing” to tack onto a myriad of competing “religious things.”

    • MWPeak:

      I think we’ve had this conversation before. I’m glad that you aren’t seeing this.

      I wasn’t commenting on mainline churches in these posts.

      ms

    • If I might speculate a bit, I think that liturgical churches cover the Gospel implicitly in much of their liturgy, so it is more vital for non-liturgical churches to nail the Gospel in their preaching, since that, plus music, is their only means of communication in their service. It’s hard to miss the Gospel when one says “Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world, have mercy on us” and so forth.

      That isn’t to say that the Gospel is necessarily received adequately by members of liturgical churches, but perhaps that ministers in liturgical churches feel they can routinely skip explicating the Gospel in favor of other topics because they think that part is covered by the liturgical text.

    • Dan Allison says:

      MWP: I have almost the exact opposite experience. My experience of evangelical churches is that I hear everything BUT the gospel — and I won’t repeat here the litany of doctrines, practices, attitudes, and political positions we are all so profoundly weary of hearing. And I don’t quite understand how feeding the poor is in conflict with the gospel.

  6. Paul said that he resolved to know nothing while he was with the Corinthians except Jesus Christ and him crucified (1 Cor. 2:2). At first glance, it seems to us that he talked about other things besides the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. I think that what he was saying was that everything that he talked about flowed out of the truth about who Jesus was and what he did. So, if he talks about marriage, it must be rooted in the cross and resurrection. If he talks about giving, it must be rooted in the cross and resurrection. EVERYTHING flows from the gospel and back to the gospel of Jesus Christ. We miss this regularly and end up with man-centered approaches to what we call the Christian life.

    • When I say the Gospel is foundational content, I don’t mean to say that every topic has to start at the same place or use the same language. There are a lot of ways to communicate and keep the Gospel clear as the foundational message we are building on.

      I appreciate your point, but I’m of the view that Paul’s hyperbole here is for the sake of underlining the Gospel to the Corinthians, particularly that what we say is anchored in the person and work of Jesus. I would take it as metaphor and not as command, personally.

      peace

      ms

  7. Christiane says:

    How strange The Gospel is. You can’t ‘contain it’ in one lesson, or one verse.
    You can’t help but think about Christ as you are saying the twenty-third Psalm, and there you find The Gospel. After Adam and Eve were expelled from Eden, the first act of God was to take pity on them and clothe them, and you have The Gospel.
    Hagar’s weeping in the desert stir’s God’s pity, and you have the Gospel.
    We are unable to widen the lens enough to bring into view all that is known of God’s loving-kindness to His children. And then, He came to Nazareth. . . .

    “Every part of Holy Writ announces through words the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, reveals it through facts and establishes it through examples. ..For it is our Lord who during all the present age, through true and manifest foreshadowings, generates, cleanses, sanctified, chooses, separates, or redeems the Church in the Patriarchs, through Adam’s slumber, Noah’s flood, Melchizedek’s blessing, Abraham’s justification, Isaac’s birth, and Jacob’s bondage.” St. Hilary

    Augustine of Hippo writes from the 5th century:
    “You recall that one and the same Word of God extends throughout Scripture, that it is one and the same Utterance that resounds in the mouths of all the sacred writers, since he who was in the beginning God with God has no need of separate syllables; for he is not subject to time.”

  8. I think going back to scripture to define the term, “gospel”, is a good idea. If the gospel, or “good news” is that “you can have your best life now”, or “you can feel good about yourself”, or “God wants you to be rich”, then Jesus is not the good news; then it would be possible to be both full-gospel and Christ-less at the same time. The gospel, as I understand Jesus’ proclamation, is “I am here. Your wait is over”. Then, the definition of “good news” goes back to the claims Jesus made about himself. If Jesus is not who he claimed to be, then there is no good news, no matter how positive, moral, enthusiastic or self-disciplined we try to be. And, if Jesus is not who he claimed to be, we are left with the law and our own ability to save ourselves. Considering my own sinfulness and brokenness, that is definitely NOT good news!

    • Ryan Fehrmann says:

      I find it also helpful to frame things this way – with Good News, especially when you ask the other question – what was the bad news in the first place that makes the news of Christ good.

      • Jonathan Hunnicutt says:

        I dunno man, too much of gospel preaching is bad news preaching. Too many gospel presentations are 90% bad news, and 10% “ohyeahJesusdiedforyousobelieveinhim.”

        Some preachers seem to get a bizarre joy at relishing in people’s sins. They seem to think that the Holy Spirit is not doing a good enough job at convicting the world, and He needs a little help.

        I was in Hollywood a few months ago, and there were street preachers. And one was giving the gospel according to Anselm, while another had a freestanding metal sign with the ten commandment written on it, and he was going down the list about how we’ve all broken the ten commandments. He was on number three, ranting about profanity.

        And I was like: Are you kidding? You’ve come to the one of the loneliest towns, where everyone is trying so hard to look perfect, but dying on the inside, trying to numb out with all kinds of things, and you have the best news in the world for these folks and you’ve brought the ten commandments.

        I think good preaching should connect us to the bad news that’s all around us, to the bad news that we’re trying to suppress and numb out to.

        To use a crude analogy, gospel preaching picks off the scab the wont heal, so the salve of Jesus can lovingly be put on the wounds to heal. Bad news preaching just makes a whole bunch more cuts and throws the salve at the wounded with brief instructions for how to put it on.

        • That’s good way to put it.

          I tell ya, I hear the “bad news” gospel in every Santa Claus song playing on the radio, as we near Christmas. Santa’s comin’. He’s got lot’s of presents for good girls and boys. Work extra hard, and he will give you something nice! He’s a jolly old fellow, but he’ll give you a lump of coal if you’re bad! Better be good for…oh for goodness sake!!! Just replace “Santa Claus” with “Jesus”, and you have 75% of the preaching taking place any given Sunday.

        • I agree with Ryan and Jonathan.

          Ryan’s point seems congruent with Jesus’ wisdom about “which one of these will love more?”

          Jonathan’s point is WELL taken by me. Its like all those street preachers live with the weird conviction that people feel no guilt unless they are told to do so. Wasn’t Paul’s observation in Romans that all people not just those with the Bible have a law to themselves that they STILL fail at.

          Its no easy thing to pick off someone else’s scab.

          In my experience, most people, if you listen long enough are will express they want to be done with their bad news. THATS a moment not to miss for sure.

          Recognizing a persons OWN expression of the bad news is not easy either. I think Paul was dialed in when he saw the idol to an “unknown God”. Like everyone else they were loud about what they are perpetuating and clinging on to be good: all their gods. But they still admit the bad news: all these might not be enough.

          The first time I read that story of Paul in Athens when I was able to honestly admit what I WOULD HAVE SAID….Holy smokes, I WAS that ten commandments guy. And I didn’t see it.

          God help me.

    • I am groping my way to the understanding that the Gospel is not about being a good person – “do not even the pagans do that?” – but about the good news of salvation through Jesus Christ.

      Which means learning to love God, which is difficult. Easy to say, hard to do.

      • Martha, when we (Lutherans) make the law/Gospel distinction, we are very clear to keep it defined and distinct. The Gospel in its essence is the good news of salvation through Jesus Christ, as you say. And it is unconditional; it has to be, or it is not good news.

        When you tack on the “learning to love God” you are back in the law, which is also good, but it is not the Gospel. Loving God and your neighbor is essentially law and we know that the 10 commandments are summarized by loving God and neighbor. It is certainly commanded and ought to be done, but can only be done in a God-pleasing fashion in view of the Gospel. Love can only be free and uncoerced, uncalculating, joyful and truly in love with its object (unfeigned).

        This true, unfeigned love is inspired by the object of love, in our case by the goodness of God, which we enjoy through the Gospel. ( Loving human beings is different; they need to be loved in spite of how they are.) Even, now as believers this love is imperfect, and we Lutherans stress that we are at the same time completely sinner and completely saint (i.e. saved completely through Christ’s doing, struggling with sin every day and asking for forgiveness.)

        Faith that Paul speaks about is the believing that this salvation for you is entirely accomplished. It is announced to us for believing every day because every day we still struggle with ourselves.

  9. Love this. Thanks for the series, I look forward to more!

  10. L. Winthrop says:

    Ironically, none of your key “gospel” verses come from the gospels. If the Sermon on the Mount is too radical and off-topic, there’s always John 3:16…

    The passage from 1 Corinthians goes on and on after the verses you cite. This context seems to me important (though I don’t claim to understand it), since it connects Christ’s resurrection in some mysterious way to our own resurrection. (The Christus Victor people love these passages.) And all that weird stuff at the end of the chapter about being caught up into the third heaven and so on, just reminds us that we’re not likely ever to understand everything.

  11. I think the easiest way to frame it is that the Gospel is God’s promises. God’s promise to save those who belive and are baptized is great news, especially to those who know God’s law, ie Gods commands that we cannot satisfy.

    [MOD edit]

  12. People have mentioned the “four spiritual laws” several times and I didn’t know what those are, so I found them (I think) at:
    http://www.godlovestheworld.com/
    Is that correct?

    I certainly don’t think this is all that a person needs to know or do to live a “complete” Christian life, but they don’t really look bad to this Catholic girl either. But I didn’t grow up in an evangelical church or family so many of you may know more about how these “laws” were abused in some ways.

    • Pretty deficient:

      1) What God are we talking about?
      2) What does sin actually do? What will God actually do to those who are in rebellion against him, in sin?
      3) Jesus? Lord? Messiah?
      4) Repentence?

      Much better: Two Ways To Live

  13. Good beginning. I love the stark simplicity of Mark’s account of Jesus’ words, “… the kingdom of God is at hand, repent and believe the gospel”. I don’t think I can ever outgrow this. Everyday this is Jesus’ call to me. Whatever our circumstance, this is the beginning confession we need and must never leave. I know the following posts will flush out the way in which we are to understand and live this out which is greatly needed today. But when Jesus Christ says “repent and believe the gospel”, and, “come and follow”, and the NT’s confession “Jesus is Lord”, they are the center, the orientation point, the anchor from which everything else relates .

  14. Yes, Michael, that “Two Ways To Live” website fleshed things out much better than the “Four Spiritual Laws.”

    I think many folks need more definitions within Christianity. What does it mean to “love God?” People know that if you love your children you tend to their needs, you teach them and discipline them. You have joy in their very existence. You can love your enemies by praying for them. How does a person know that they are loving God? We may say that if you are loving people, you are loving God, but others will say that even atheists love people. So perhaps that indicates that some atheists DO love God, whether they know it or not! (This would explain the people in one of Jesus’ parables who seemed surprised to find themselves in heaven,)

    Is loving God spending time in prayer? Is it thanking God for having created us and then saved us? Is it getting up every day and doing the best we can to keep the faith even if burdened? Both the words “love” and “God” can mean so many things to so many people that to hear someone say “I love God” would really have little meaning to the listeners.

    I may have gone off topic again, but not too far as the Gospel message involves conveying God’s love to us and our response to God.

    • Strangely enough, I was just on another blog which lead me to this page at:
      http://www.universalis.com/20091118/readings.htm and a sermon from St. Augustine is there and part of it says: ” ‘What do you mean by love?’ you will ask me. It is that which enables us to be loving. What do we love? A good that words cannot describe, a good that is for ever giving, a good that is the Creator of all good. Delight in him from whom you have received everything that delights you. But in that I do not include sin, for sin is the one thing that you do not receive from him. With that one exception, everything you have comes from him.”

      • OK, here is my last reply tonight. (Kind of answering my own questions.)

        This is from a blog I visit now and again. I hadn’t been there a while but from this entry at:
        http://fatherstephen.wordpress.com/2009/11/20/to-believe-the-truth/ some of what he writes is:

        “The Christian faith uses words – but the force of the words is found in the reality from which they are spoken. A single word from a saint can bring a sinner to repentance. The most correctly stated argument from an unbelieving life may have little effect, none at all, or even be deleterious to those who hear it.

        To believe the truth is to venture onto the holy ground of reality and not the fantasy of well-formed ideas. On holy ground we remove our shoes and remain silent – giving voice to words of praise letting words possess integrity. It is a very difficult thing indeed.

        It is a rare thing to meet a man who believes in God – but it is a life-changing encounter. May God give us all the grace to believe.”

        • “It is a rare thing to meet a man who believes in God – but it is a life-changing encounter. May God give us all the grace to believe.”

          This is what made/makes Jesus so alluring to those in the gospel story and to us today. You know he believes in the Abba he reveals. So coming back to the post, the verses Michael refer to are solid articulations of what the gospel is. But what also speaks to me is the conviction of those who spoke/wrote them. They believed in Jesus and the Good News he proclaimed and they were never the same again. I too often settle for a convenient gospel.

        • iMonk, I think that other blog caught better what I was thinking than what I was going to say. “A single word from a saint can bring a sinner to repentance. The most correctly stated. . . .”

          It may well be true that the preaching of the Gospel is decaying in evangelicalism. I am not competent to judge that. But, the answer is not simply a better intellectual understanding of the Gospel in order that we may preach it better. Certainly that is part of the answer, yet it is but part. Unless the Church begins to behave the Gospel then the most technically perfect preaching of the Gospel is but a sounding gong and clanging cymbals.

          To turn it around, it is not surprising that the farther away that the Church gets from apostolic attitudes, virtues, and love of neighbor, the more one of two things happens. Either the preaching of the Gospel diminishes, for it is too painful to listen to the Gospel point out our inadequacies. Or, the Gospel is slowly pared down to a limited preaching about, and only about, how to be saved right now.

          • This answer captures the essence of this entire conversation. It has been said that the last thing most Christians need is another Bible study. It could be said that the last thing we need is another sermon. The good news in not easy but is also not complicated. This from Neil Cole: “Most Christians are educated beyond their obedience” .

          • Reminds me of a quote from Kierkegaard. Hopefully, not too off track but speaks to the powerful simplicity of the gospel. After all, part of the “divine conspiracy” was to make the gospel so simple a child, or an uneducated person could understand it.

            “The matter is quite simple. The Bible (Gospel) is very easy to understand. But we Christians are a bunch of scheming swindlers. We pretend to be unable to understand it because we know very well that the minute we understand, we are obliged to act accordingly. Take any words in the New Testament and forget everything except pledging yourself to act accordingly. My God, you will say, if I do that my whole life will be ruined. How would I ever get on in the world? Herein lies the real place of Christian scholarship. Christian scholarship is the Church’s prodigious invention to defend itself against the Bible, to ensure that we can continue to be good Christians without the Bible coming too close. Oh, priceless scholarship, what would we do without you?”
            Source: Provocations: Spiritual Writings of Kierkegaard, ed. Charles Moore

          • Father Ernesto,
            Bear with me, i’m trying to be charitable here. But I think it would help me to understand your comments if you would explain to me just what you believe the gospel is. What is Your definition of Gospel, and could you cite some scripture to back it up.
            Grammatically, I don’t understand phrases like “behave the Gospel.”
            Further more what you seem to be advocating here is what us Lutherans would call a confusion of law and Gospel. Imonk is not concerned that there is not enough preaching of the law in Evangelicalism, but not enough gospel. There is plenty of law out there. To be sure there is plenty of vacuity also, sermons on star wars etc.
            The gospel however does not point out inadequacies, it forgives them.

          • Internet Monkey says:

            It has been said that the last thing most Christians need is another Bible study. It could be said that the last thing we need is another sermon. The good news in not easy but is also not complicated. This from Neil Cole: “Most Christians are educated beyond their obedience”.

            True. And the first step to fixing that problem is to put the man in the pulpit in the pew and require the members to “do church.” As long as a paid clergyman or priest or pastor is in charge of the Sunday show or Sunday message, the church meeting will be one mouth and many ears, not a many-membered body with all the members contributing to the edification of each other and the
            building up of the body of Christ by the proper working together of each member according to the gifts and enablements that Christ has given them. The members don’t do what they’re supposed to do because they think the pastor or priest is to do it for them, and the pastor or priest is happy to go along with this body-crippling-and-atrophying delusion because… well, because it pays his salary and gives him authority and self- or ego-fulfillment because he’s thus “serving the Lord.”

            Balderdash.

            Let the members realize that church doesn’t happen and won’t happen unless each of them brings a psalm, a hymn, a revelation, a prayer, a tongue, a prophecy, a sermon, etc., to the meeting. THEN you might begin to see the Body of Christ doing what it’s supposed to be doing and the members behaving the Gospel.

  15. Todd Erickson says:

    The term Gospel (as used) was actually a term from the Romans. if the Caesar conquered a new nation for the Empire, or had a son, or a wedding, or anything significant of that nature, the Caesar’s “Good News” to the Empire was sent out.

    Using the term Gospel for the announcement of the new birth of the Kingdom of God was quite in nature (if directly against the Empire of this world), and is one of many things that Jesus and His Disciples borrowed directly from colloquial use at that time. Much the same way that (although perhaps more stylishly than us) we use popular phrases and symbols for a lot of the Christian T-Shirts out there.

    I’ve generally seen the Gospel as stated directly in Isaiah 61, the coming of the promised King who will bring peace and healing to israel, and since Israel is blessed so that the nations can be blessed, then obviously if peace and healing are brought to Israel, they will also be brought then to the world.

    Or, as the Queen of Sheeba says to Solomon, “You have been blessed by God so that mercy and justice can be brought to the nations”.

    The Gospel is that the way is open for man to be brought back into alignment with God, through Jesus Christ. The death and resurrection of Jesus are the first fruits of the Gospel…but they cannot be the Gospel itself, as Jesus didn’t start telling anybody that He was going to die until the third year or so of His ministry.

    • Yes, in its wider context, the term “gospel” is supposed to carry some irony. You think you have good news?? Well, here’s OURS!

  16. Christopher Lake says:

    I am so grateful to be in a church body which is intentionally “Gospel-centered.” One thing that I misunderstood, as a young Christian (and can still lose sight of today), is that all of our good works are done in the light and joy of our *already having been accepted and loved by God, because of Christ’s perfect work on our behalf.*

    This past weekend, Jerram Barrs, from Covenant Theological Seminary, spoke at our church for a conference on prayer. He shared one insight which has been life-changing for me. Christians can sometimes carry a heavy load of guilt about the quality of their prayer lives. However, if we are trusting in Christ’s perfect life and death on our behalf, then *His* perfect prayer life is credited to us by God!

    Yes, we can sometimes pray sinful, selfish prayers. Yes, we should pray Biblically, according to Biblical principles– even, perhaps, using Biblical models at times (such as the Psalms and the Lord’s Prayer). If we are in Christ though, our weakest prayers are ultimately accepted and loved by God because of Christ.

    We are not perfect “pray-ers,” and we never will be in this life, but if we are Christians, God loves our prayers as He loves the prayers of His own Son, because of the *work* of His Son on our behalf! I am deeply grateful to Jerram Barrs for this insight!

  17. Christiane says:

    Bror wrote to Father Ernesto about not understanding the term ‘behave the Gospel’.

    I have found something in the Orthodox writings that may speak to what it takes in order to
    ‘behave the Gospel’.
    :
    ““Our Lord cries to us in the depths of our hearts,

    “Awake 0 sleeper, rise up from among the dead, and Christ will illumine you”.
    “And you shall be as I fashioned you, a child of light capable of great compassion and love.
    And then I will awaken within you my Holy Spirit.
    You will know the profound love without limits I have for you.
    And your flow of tears will witness to the melting of frozen places within you. The softening of your tear stained face will be an invitation for me to take up my abode in your heart.
    I will remove from you all harsh judgement”

    • Christopher Lake says:

      Christiane,

      What we may be seeing here is the difference between an Orthodox (or Catholic) understanding of the Gospel and the historic Protestant understanding of the Gospel. To a Protestant’s mind, we can’t truly “behave the Gospel” (though some Protestants use language like that), because the Gospel is not *something we do.*

      Rather, the Gospel is what Christ has already done on our behalf for us to be accepted and loved by God. Now, we should live obedient, godly lives *in light of the Gospel,* but that is simply living out the implications of the Gospel. We can’t behave the Gospel or be the Gospel, but we can and should live in light of it. That is the Protestant understanding of the Gospel, which would, by definition, be different than the Orthodox or Catholic understanding.

      • Christiane says:

        Hi CHRISTOPHER,

        You bear the name of St. Christopher, who in our traditions, means ‘the Christ-bearer’ stemming from an ancient legend of a man who carried the Christ across a stream Ior maybe it was a ‘Lake’ ). 🙂

        I have known Protestant people who were immersed in Christ.
        He illuminated them. They were filled with love and compassion for others, so much so, that it was a joy to be in their presence.
        I didn’t think that Christian people could enter into the mystery of ‘Who Christ is ‘ without internalizing His Message, in a way that affects them to the core of their being.
        So that they are able to love God and one another with their WHOLE hearts, and minds, and strength, and being. No holding back. They are called to become a new creation in Him.
        These Protestant people I mention are so very Christ-centered that I sometimes forget about our differences, unless I am corrected and reminded of them, for, of course, the differences are very important , or so I have been told.

  18. Hey Bror, for the Orthodox there is no such thing as separating believing the Gospel from living the Gospel. If you say you believe the Gospel but do not behave like it, then we would say with Saint James that even the demons believe. One cannot truly say that one has believed the Gospel if one has no behavior to back it up. In this we would actually agree with Jean Cauvin’s (John Calvin’s) doctrine of the perseverance of the saints.

    It is possible to behave in a godly way but not be a Christian. It is not possible to be a Christian and behave in an ungodly way. I realize that this needs some definition as to what that means, but, the two go together. At least Jean Cauvin caught the idea. We may not agree with his ideas on predestination and election, but we do agree that those who are Christians behave that way in the long run.

    • It is possible to behave in a godly way but not be a Christian. It is not possible to be a Christian and behave in an ungodly way.

      The Corinthians that Paul was rebuking and exhorting and correcting were behaving in an ungodly way. Yet I don’t recall Paul telling them that they were no longer Christians. In fact, he starts off his first letter to them by telling these same ungodly-behaving Corinthians that God will confirm them to the end, blameless in the day of the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 1:8). And he ends his second letter to them by calling them brethren and giving them a parting blessing that would only be given to Christians (2 Corinthians 13:11,14).

      How do you reconcile the Corinthian situation with your statement that “It is not possible to be a Christian and behave in an ungodly way”?

      Your concluding statement that “those who are Christians behave that way in the long run” somewhat mollifies this, since you now seem to be saying that it’s one’s long-run behavior that shows one’s Christianity. Is that indeed what you mean?

      If so, what about the short run? Do Christians fall in and out of Christ based on their godly and ungodly behavior? Is their salvation or in-Christness something that turns on and off like a light switch, depending on what they’re doing or not doing?

    • Fr. Ernesto,
      You still have not defined Gospel! Nor have you used scripture, except for Saint James which no one is really certain should even be in the cannon, but never the less you twist his words with a pitiful understanding of the Greek. And then you cite John Calvin?!!
      Exactly why? Do you think that is some common ground we might have? I despise the doctrine John Calvin, as much as I am beginning to despise the EO doctrine I’m learning under your tutelage.
      So now agian to be charitable, what do you think the difference between law and gospel is? I don’t have a problem believing that a believer will end up bearing fruit. I have a problem believing the Good new is the same old news that has been written on the hearts of men for centuries, restated to say if you have faith then you better give this man your coat, or you don’t have faith or the gospel. When Jesus says in Luke 24 that repentance and the forgiveness of sins should be preached to the ends of the earth. I believe I have a responsibility to tell people what they should be doing in love for their neighbor, and then let them know the Gospel, that their failings in that department have been forgiven.
      But if you have to “live the gospel” to be saved than the gospel is not gospel, it is just repackaged law. What did Chirst do for us on the cross again?

      • Bror Erickson:

        The [Eastern] Orthodox Church does not seem to have a place for assurance of salvation. I.e., one never knows even at the time of one’s death if one is going to be with the Lord. And the Church continues to offer prayers for the departed to enhance their (hoped for) theosis and purification after death. Some believe in a series of “toll booths” that the dead must pass through after death. See, e.g.: http://www.orthodoxinfo.com/death/prayer_dead.aspx

        One’s salvation is tied in with one’s works/deeds/behavior. I guess that’s “Good News,” but when under the Old Covenant the act of committing adultery was a condemning sin, but under the New Covenant simply the desire to commit adultery is a condemning sin, I’m not sure how trying to conform to the seemingly-stricter commands of the New Covenant is “Better News” than living under the Old Covenant. YMMV.

        • It isn’t just the EO that suffer that disease. I get it from all directions. “You can’t preach that! It’s just too easy. Your congregation will be encouraged to sin. Justification by faith alone?!”
          I get it from the mormons, from the Catholics, from the Baptists, pentecostals, EO, and Jw’s who are all busy arguing with eachother, over how much they have to do, and perhaps whether it applies to justification, or sanctification, but they all assure me they need to do something to be saved, and if I preach what I do my congregation will be full of sinners.
          And I praise God that my congregation is full of sinners, and pray for more to come! I find though that my congregation is not unique for the presence of sinners. But it warms my heart no end when I hear them confess that their sins are forgiven, that is confess the gospel. At that point I know I have done my job right by them. And though they are a bunch of sinners, who know the gospel well, I marvel at how willing they are to serve their neighbors, and show them the love of God. It’s amazing, I don’t even have to use law on these people. I say we should donate to the food bank, or the pregnancy resource center, and they do! They do so knowing it has nothing to do with their salvation. Amazing people.
          See the problem is you can’t live and bask in the light of Christ if you don’t know it. I don’t know how you would ever “behave the gospel” or “live out the gospel.” But you can’t love your neighbor as yourself, or as Christ has loved you, if you don’t know that Christ loves you. If you haven’t been touched by the love of Christ, that is the complete forgiveness of sins, then you can’t really love at all. “we love because Christ first love us.” Everyone is worried about deead faith, they should be worried about dead works. Preach the gospel! I believe that is the admonition.

      • Bror Erickson:

        The [Eastern] Orthodox Church does not seem to have a place for assurance of salvation. I.e., one never knows even at the time of one’s death if one is going to be with the Lord. And the Church continues to offer prayers for the departed to enhance their (hoped for) theosis and purification after death. Some believe in a series of “toll booths” that the dead must pass through after death. See, e.g.: http://www.orthodoxinfo.com/death/prayer_dead.aspx

        One’s salvation is tied in with one’s works/deeds/behavior. I guess that’s “Good News,” but when under the Old Covenant the act of committing adultery was a condemning sin, but under the New Covenant simply the desire to commit adultery is a condemning sin, I’m not sure how trying to conform to the seemingly-stricter commands of the New Covenant is “Better News” than living under the Old Covenant. YMMV.

      • Bror Erickson:

        The [Eastern] Orthodox Church does not seem to have a place for assurance of salvation. I.e., one never knows even at the time of one’s death if one is going to be with the Lord. And the Church continues to offer prayers for the departed to enhance their (hoped for) theosis and purification after death. Some believe in a series of “toll booths” that the dead must pass through after death. See, e.g.: http://www.orthodoxinfo.com/death/prayer_dead.aspx

        One’s salvation is tied in with one’s works/deeds/behavior. I guess that’s “Good News,” but when under the Old Covenant the act of committing adultery was a condemning sin, but under the New Covenant simply the desire to commit adultery is a condemning sin, I’m not sure how trying to conform to the seemingly-stricter commands of the New Covenant is “Better News” than living under the Old Covenant. YMMV.

        • Sorry for the triple treat! My browser went into suspended animation, so I reclicked on the Submit button. 🙂

      • From Eric’s link:
        “the holy Church calls upon us to make a commemoration on this Saturday, that the saving grace of the Holy Spirit wash away the sins from the souls of all our forefathers, fathers and brethren, that have reposed throughout the ages.”

        Do we have anything in the Bible that tells the church to pray for the departed so that the Holy Spirit will wash away sins of the forefathers? No we do not. Is that the Gospel announcement? No it is not. Rather it is contrary to it. Does the Spirit wash away sins or the blood of the lamb, the bitter suffering and death of Jesus Christ? Is He enough? Which will we rely on? Which will we believe in?

        This constant mention of the Christian life that everyone wants to see in himself and others reminds me of something in C.S. Lewis. Yes, we want to do God’s will and we want to see others doing it, too, but we must guard against despair and hypocrisy.

        Senior devil writes to junior devil (Screwtape letters, #2):

        “I have been writing hitherto on the assumption that the people in the next pew afford no “rational” ground for disappointment. Of course if they do—if the patient knows that the woman with the absurd hat is a fanatical bridge player or the man with squeaky boots a miser and an extortioner–then your task is so much the easier. All you then have to do is to keep out of his mind the question ‘If I, being what I am, consider that I am in some sense a Christian, why should the different vices of those people in the next pew prove that their religion is mere hypocrisy and convention?’ You may ask whether it is possible to keep such an obvious thought from occurring even to a human mind. It is, Wormwood, it is! Handle him properly and it simply won’t come into his head. He has not been anything like long enough with the Enemy to have any real humility yet. What he says, even on his knees, about his own sinfulness is all parrot talk. At bottom, he still believes he has run up a very favorable credit-balance in the Enemy’s ledger by allowing himself to be converted, and thinks that he is showing great humility and condescension in going to church with these ‘smug’ commonplace neighbours at all. Keep him in that state of mind as long as you can.”