Wednesday, 27 November 2013

The Gospel. It's bigger than we think!

What is the gospel? Ask the question and you will get a whole set of different answers. Normally people will quote something like John 3:16 or mention something about Jesus dying for your sins so that God could forgive you and let you into heaven one day. In other words, most people associate the gospel with a salvation message. But while the message of salvation is certainly a part of the gospel and is definately good news to you and me, it is not the gospel. We tend to make things about ourselves but in reality, the gospel is a message about a King and his kingdom. This is why the bible repeatedly refers to it as "the gospel of the Kingdom" and "the gospel of God".

 In order to properly understand what the bible is talking about regarding the good news, let's rewind 2000 years to a little empire called Rome.

Although we think of the word as a Christian term, it has not always been so. Back when the Roman Empire was yielding it's power over others and ruling the world. They were quite fond of the term euangelion which we translate as gospel in our bibles. The Romans used to proclaim euangelion to announce a new Caesar or the birth of a divine heir to the throne. For example, An inscription in the ruins of the Greek city Priene, which dates back to 9BC, declares that “When Caesar appeared he exceeded the hopes of all who received the gospel …" (see here). Like wise, "The birthday of the god Augustus was the beginning of the gospel regarding him for the world." It's also interesting to note that these Emperors also were known by titles such as "Savior" and "Pontifex Maximus" which means "Lord".  Nero even adopted the title "son of god" for himself.

With this in mind, when we see these words in the bible they start to take on a whole lot more meaning to us. Consider the angel in Luke 2:10 who proclaimed "the gospel" to the shepherds. Similarly, Mark 1:1 states, “The beginning of the "the gospel" of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” The word euangelion appears almost 80 times in the New Testament. Men like Paul would eventually die for the testimony of this "counter gospel" that they preached, consider the words recorded in Acts 17:7

"...and they were all acting contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying there is another King, one Jesus."

Paul and the rest of the church were using the word gospel deliberately, as a proclamation of the one true King. The early church was not merely proclaiming a message of fire insurance that would simply take a minute to complete by repeating a prayer after someone else. They were proclaiming that the Christ (anointed one) had died, risen and conquered the principalities and powers of darkness. They invited people to bow the knee to King Jesus and live in a counter kingdom. One that taught us to love our enemies, to turn the other cheek, to seek the well being of others and to turn away from wickedness. This gospel extends beyond individuals to all of creation which will one day be restored. I always used to wonder about that verse that says preach the gospel to every living creature , it never made any sense if the gospel was simply a salvation message.

With a clearer understanding of the gospel, I believe we lay the foundations for a better understanding of the life of Jesus, the cross and the Kingdom of God. All topics for another day...

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