Disclaimer: About This Blog

THIS BLOG IS: my personal journey of how I am rethinking some of my spiritual beliefs.
THIS BLOG IS NOT: intended to point fingers at people who I think are wrong.
I do not believe the final judgement will be based on how many correct answers we get on a theology exam. I believe many people throughout history have had genuine relationships with our Lord and Saviour Jesus, despite holding questionable beliefs and practices. I make no claim to having it all figured out or being your judge. If we end up disagreeing over these topics I pray we can find a way to demonstrate grace.

Friday, October 23, 2009

What is the Gospel?

The word Gospel gets used a lot in Christian circles... but do we know what we mean when we use the word?

John Piper:
"What's the Gospel?
What’s the gospel? I’ll put it in a sentence.
The Gospel is the news that Jesus Christ, the Righteous One, died for our sins and rose again, eternally triumphant over all his enemies, so that there is now no condemnation for those who believe, but only everlasting joy. "

Question: "What is the true gospel?"
Answer: The true gospel is the good news that God saves sinners. Man is by nature sinful and separated from God with no hope of remedying that situation. But God, by His power, provided the means of man’s redemption in the death, burial and resurrection of the Savior, Jesus Christ.

Gospel means good news.

And yes I agree that the above statements are good news.

Gospel also refers to a style of music, and of course 'the gospels'... usually referring to 4 books that tell the good news story of Jesus.

But I keep asking... What was the Gospel that Jesus preached?

Matthew 4:23 (NIV)
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 (NIV)
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.
Matthew 11:5 (NIV)
The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor.
Matthew 24:14 (NIV)
And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.
Mark 1:14-15 (NIV)
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!"
Mark 8:35 (NIV)
For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it.
Mark 10:29-30 (NIV)
"I tell you the truth," Jesus replied, "no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life.
Luke 3:18 (NIV)
And with many other words John exhorted the people and preached the good news to them.

Luke 4:16-20 (NIV)
He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. And he stood up to read. The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:
"The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him,
Luke 4:43 (NIV)
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 9:6 (NIV)
So they set out and went from village to village, preaching the gospel and healing people everywhere.
Luke 16:16 (NIV)
"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.
Luke 20:1 (NIV)
One day as he was teaching the people in the temple courts and preaching the gospel, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, together with the elders, came up to him. (NIV)

Is it worth wondering what the good news message was that Jesus preached as he traveled from town to town?

I'm pretty confident he wasn't preaching the gospel message of his death and resurrection... I think there was a different core good news message He must have been preaching.

And what are we to do in response to Mark 16:15 (NIV):
He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.

What good news message are we commanded here to share with the world?

Are we commanded here to share gospel music with everyone?
Are we commanded here to share the 4 gospel books with everyone?
Are we commanded here to share the good news related to Christ's death and resurrection?

Considering the larger context of how gospel and good news is most frequently used in the gospels... I think we're commanded here to share the good news of the kingdom of God.

Related Posts:


Anonymous said...

are you suggesting, jon, that the cross and all that was accomplished there is not the center piece of the good news o the kingdom? that jesus didn't ultimately have the work of the cross on his minds when we preached the good news?

if not, how's that different than madonna touching lives in africa, adopting babies, building schools, etc.?

Anonymous said...

The kingdom of God is summed up as the reign or rule of God in our lives, starting in the present and going into eternity, right, Jon?

So, if God is reigning in our lives...then I think it is clear the GREAT news is that Jesus is the "Door" to this kingdom...right? He is the way, the truth and the life.

So, how is He the Door or the Way to this Kingdom of God?

For God so loved the world that he sent his only son that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. Isaiah 53:5

Which brings us back to square one of the points others quoted in regards to defining the "good news" gospel.

Any thoughts, Jon?


Jonathan said...

Hi Steve,

Thanks for your interest in these questions.

I'm not able to jump ahead yet and to figure out all the implications of this. I'm sure there is a relationship between the gospel message that Jesus came preaching, and his work on the Cross... but that isn't all clear to me yet.

... and sorry I'm not following the connection between my post and Madonna's good deeds in Africa. Yes, Jesus did good deeds, but I'm not implying the good news message was just about doing good deeds.

I'm just not sure if the traditional definition of gospel based on 1 Cor 15:2-4 is the only or best way to view the gospel. Maybe there are many good news stories that are related. For example consider how 1 John 1:5-7 is organized. Is John saying Jesus blood is the central message here?

"This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin." (NIV)

Can I ask how you would answer these questions?

What do you think was at the core of the good news message that Jesus preached? Do we have any clues to summarize what he preached about in the verses I listed in my post?

Do you think the 'good news' in Mark 16:15 that we are commanded to preach is the same good news message that Jesus was preaching?

God bless!

Anonymous said...

Hey Jon,

My thought process was sort of like this as I read your post: if the cross isn’t central or the centerpiece of the good news of the kingdom (“I'm pretty confident he wasn't preaching the gospel message of his death and resurrection... I think there was a different core good news message He must have been preaching.”) then it would seem to me (and this is maybe were I miss-read you) that the message of the good news of the kingdom is primarily (operative word here) about helping the poor, feeding the hungry, healing the sick, etc. If that’s the primary focus, than Jesus could very easily be viewed simply or even more tragically, only, as a good, moral dude who did a lot of good things – kind like Bono or Madonna or any other person doing really good and helpful things in our world today. Without Jesus’ work on the cross being central to the gospel message, lot’s of people might be helped but in the end still die in their sins and separated from God – that’s a problem and would render Jesus’ coming to our world useless.

Is John saying Jesus blood is the central message here? I think so, and I think it’s absolutely consistent in the context of these verses and with the context of mankind’s need of redemption from sin which is primary theme throughout the entire bible. Jesus is absolutely holy and without sin (light) and the only way we can have fellowship with this holy and absolutely pure God is if we too live and walk in that same holiness / light. Our living like that (or even more importantly, our being like that) depends solely on Jesus’ cleansing and purifying us from our sin, making us holy… which is a result of the work of the cross and was totally accomplished on the cross (Romans 5:6-11).

The reason for Jesus coming to this world is really clear: “She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins. All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel (which means, God with us).” The accomplishment of this amazing love and grace towards mankind from God was the work of the cross, and I think that this was the triumphant message of hope and redemption and good news that Jesus proclaimed as He lived out His life 2000 years ago: God’s going to make a way for you to be right with Him, for your sins to be dealt with, once for all – and he’s going to accomplish it through me (John 12:27-36). It’s a gospel of mercy (God to man) and good news about the glory of who God is (2 Corinthians 4:1-6)… and the centerpiece of it all and the only way it’s possible, is the work of Jesus on the cross.

As to a clue about what Jesus’ good news message might have looked like, I think the discourse that Jesus’ had with Nicodemus sums it up clearly - John 3:9-21 (with a clear reference to the work of the cross here).

Now, once we’ve experienced and tasted of God’s mercy towards us, then our natural response will be that we too will be people of mercy in how we live our lives: mercy in our proclamation of the possibility of forgiveness of sins and right relationship with God through Jesus and His work on the cross and mercy in our actions by meeting peoples needs, feeding the hungry, caring for the poor, healing the sick, etc.

Carry on Jon… mercy on ya!

Jonathan said...

Hi Steve,

Thanks for clarify what you thought I was thinking there. :) To clarify further, I don't think the good news of the kingdom is primarily about helping the poor, hungry, sick, etc. It is a message to those waiting for redemption that God's kingdom or reign is available. The Jews were waiting for a messiah to save them from Roman domination. Jesus was saying His kingdom was present... not an earthly kingdom but something much greater. To be part of this redemptive kingdom one must die to self and allow God to rule in their lives. It's more than just doing good deeds, and also more than just believing truth claims. It's submitting to the will of the Holy Spirit He would leave with His followers. (and that Holy Spirit will likely prompt towards having compassion to those in need, as well as holy living, and spreading this good news)

I guess 1 John 1:5-7 can be read different ways depending on which 'box' one is trying to fit it in. If I try to fit it with the good news of the kingdom of God message it would go something like this: God is light (powerful, truth revealing, holy). We can have fellowship with him, but if our actions don't line up with our living we are not living truthfully (or in the light). If we live by His truths (under guidance by His Holy Spirit) we can participate in the kingdom of God, be in fellowship with God and others....and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.
(Yes, the work on the cross is part of the message... but not necessarily central... God's power/truth/holiness is central)

You said "The reason for Jesus coming to this world is really clear". However here are a number of reasons listed in the gospels:

To preach the good news of the kingdom of God - Luke 4:43
To speak the truth - that he is king - John 18:33-37
Seek and save the lost - Luke 19:10
To save the world - John 3:16-17
To give life - John 10:10
Do His father's will - give eternal life - John 6:38-40
To be a light - John 12:46
To give His life - John 12:27
(full verses listed here: http://jonjourney.blogspot.com/2009/09/why-did-jesus-come.html)

I think we both would agree with all these... it's just where we place the emphasis or priority.

Yes, we could prioritize this list and say Jesus came to give his life to save the world, which was his fathers will, being a truthful light and preaching the good news of the kingdom of God.

Or, we could prioritize it like: He came to shine light on the truth that He is King. A servant King who would give His life to save the lost of the world. This was the Father's will - to give eternal life.

Considering how frequently the words gospel and good news were on the lips of our Jesus, I'd like to give priority there.

But maybe we’re just debating semantics again. :)

God bless.

Anonymous said...

Good thoughts Jon... and I agree with the stuff you've said. I believe the Scriptures would point our minds and hearts, specifically in regard to our living in the light, living in holiness, etc., to the fact that all those things are absolutely contingent on the work of the cross. Our ability to submit to the control of the Holy Spirit, our ability to walk in holiness, our ability to live like Jesus, our ability to be involved in advancing the Kingdom of God in our everyday life, our ability to experience every spiritual blessing (Ephesians 1:3-14) is possible only because of the work of the cross. Otherwise it becomes an act of our own efforts, our own ability…

Jon, it may well be a case of semantics here, but it does seem to me and comes across to me (and if my perception is wrong here, please forgive me) as though you are trying to minimize the work of the cross in Jesus’ earthly, pre Golgotha life, when that’s the primary reason He came, and I’m sure was foremost on His heart and mind, and foremost on His lips as He wandered, preached and ministered in the Galilean villages. I think the enemy wins every time we minimize the most important and pivotal event in the history of the world, a work that has changed and transformed lives throughout the ages, a work of Almighty God that will be sung around the throne of God in eternity (Rev. 5:11), a work that calls us to embrace and live out the attitude of the One who sacrificed all on that cross (Phil. 2:5-11), and that, honestly, concerns me.

So Jon, as you spend time in the scriptures (and I’m thrilled that you are – keep it up brother!), let me simply encourage you to hold high the glories of the cross and all the implications that find their life because of the work of Calvary.

Jonathan said...

Thanks Steve, I'll keep your concerns in mind.

I don’t see Jesus good news of the kingdom of god being a works based salvation message, it all starts with God’s love and grace, and the power of the His Holy Spirit.

I am not trying to minimize the work of the cross. My only agenda here is to filter my faith through the life and teaching of Jesus. I'm trying to sort out what His core message was. I fear some traditions have taken the Pauline letters, which are easier to work through and create systems of beliefs, and then try to fit Jesus words and life with those beliefs. I'm trying to start with Jesus life and teachings, and sort out how the rest can fit with that. And I’m confident it will fit. The disciples first observed Christ’s life and teachings, and then understood how His death fit with what He had taught and lived.

Yes, one reason Jesus came was to die on the cross … but it wasn't the only reason. He had a message to give before the cross. He referred to that message as the gospel, and it may be right for us to consider that message as well.

If we take a look at Matt 10, it starts with Jesus sending his disciples: "As you go, preach this message: 'The kingdom of heaven is near.' Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons.". They were sent out preaching the same message Jesus preached (pre-cross). What was at the core of that message the disciples shared? If people had accepted that message would they have been saved? As we read Matt 10 a lot of it sounds like advice to Christ followers from all generations... but have we stuck to the same message or have we focused mostly on a different description of the same good news story?

But I don’t want to minimize the work He did on the cross at all. It is how He dealt with our sin problem. I want to define gospel the way Jesus and His disciples did, but I don’t want to ignore the cross. I don’t think it needs to be one or the other.

Jonathan said...

Just to follow up to this discussion. How the cross relates to the good news that Jesus Reigns has become clearer to me since re-reading Romans 6. Here's a post on it.


Brian Johnson said...

Hi Jon,

I created a British website about the gospel as it is preached in evangelism. See it here: