Christians are very familiar with the term “the gospel”, and are aware of the need to share “the gospel”.
But what is our understanding of the term?
We think of it as “the good news” – but what is the news that is good?
I’ve been trying to think of some of the ideas I’ve come across during the decades since I first came into contact with “gospel” preaching Christians.
At various times I’ve accepted several of these ideas – or at least parts of them. Other’s I’ve heard but have never accepted.
To what extent have we REALLY tried to grasp what the Bible says about “the gospel”?
How was it preached by Jesus and the early church?
What was preached by Jesus and the early church that could be described as “the gospel”?
1) Receive Jesus and escape hell
2) Come to God, He has a wonderful plan for your life.
3) God’s eternal, righteous Kingdom is accessible
4) You are going to hell if you don’t accept Jesus
5) God wants to prosper you – turn to Him.
6) Join God’s mission to turn this world around.
7) God loves everyone so much He wants to be their friend.
8) Come to God as you are, God loves you anyway.
9) If God has chosen you as part of His elect – you’ll be saved.
10) Repeat this sinner’s prayer and you’ll be saved.
There are probably many other examples, but those given above probably give a reasonable taste of the various messages that have been presented as “the gospel”. Some of those statements contain part of the truth, others are far from the truth, but I believe only one gets close to the real heart of the gospel. I’ll address that later.
From a personal level, I suppose my initial interest in the gospel message came about through a desire to avoid hell. At the time I thought I had nothing to worry about because I’d grown up with a belief in God and I thought that was enough to make me safe. Then somehow a school friend who’d recently become involved with a Pentecostal church managed to convince me of the need to ask Jesus into my life through the reciting of “the sinner’s prayer” – so a few of the phrases listed above played a part in my introduction to Christianity.
However, while those messages served a purpose, they didn’t exactly set me on a path to a strong Christian faith. They put ME at the centre, and I don’t recall myself ever considering that maybe God should be at the centre of the gospel. That the gospel was more about HIS intentions for the whole of His creation, than about keeping me as an individual out of hell.
If I now had to choose which one of the above statements best expresses’ the heart of the gospel, it would be the third: “God’s eternal, righteous Kingdom is accessible”. That’s the message John the Baptist preached in preparation for the introduction of Jesus, and that is the message Jesus preached from the beginning of His ministry: “the kingdom of heaven has come near.”
Jesus later spoke of the “gospel of the Kingdom” being preached in the whole world as a precursor of the end.
But the end of what?
The end of this world’s disconnection from, and its rejection of, the Kingdom of God; when “The kingdoms of the world […] become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah”.
The purpose of the gospel is to proclaim the good news of God’s coming Kingdom, and the fact that we (mankind) can be part of it. That the corruption, the hypocrisy and the injustices that pervade every aspect of the world’s Kingdoms will be brought to an end.
The gospel is the good news of the Kingdom; GOD’s Kingdom, the Kingdom of Heaven.