I’m getting a talk together for next weekend and thought I’d put some thoughts about Gospel down on the blog in case anyone would like to read and join in on the conversation.
Gospel is a huge word in contemporary discourse, inside church circles, at least. People are naming networking groups after the gospel. I hear a lot of preachers and authors using the term gospel. Sometimes, it seems to be a word that one is compelled to say when they run out of other words. Or, it is a term that is a qualifier, like “gospel-centered worship”, etc.
So, what does it mean? When Will Willimon is asked, “What is the gospel?” he normally responds, “Do you have an hour for me to explain?”
I plan on sharing about the theological idea of “gospel” by using rings around a center (Christ). The rings are in no order of importance, but it is a way to talk about different themes.
The first ring is “good.” The origin of the word “gospel” is found both in Roman culture (the wider setting of the NT) and the OT and extra-biblical literature. “Gospel,” or euangelion in the NT Greek language, represented an announcement of good news. A gospel would be shared around Roman provinces and territories to share about Caesar’s birthday, a battle victory, or the installation of a new Emperor.
At the heart of the gospel then is the value of goodness. Goodness could be subjective, because what may be good for one person could be tragic for another. I suggest that goodness should be examined in whether our good news is good for the world. Jesus may have said, “My kingdom is not from this world,” (John 18:36), as in its origin, but we can conclude that his kingdom is meant to be experienced in this world. As NT Wright suggests, “Jesus’ kingdom may not be from this world, but it is certainly for this world.” Bishop Todd Hunter has suggested that we do church “for the sake of others,” an excellent idea, in my opinion.
So, the question we need to ask our idea of the gospel is, “Are you good?” (And, I hope that we hear, “Not just good for me and people like me.”) It may seem automatic to some, but I hope that we give our gospel a good examen.