I recognise I have been quite poor at keeping up on my series on evangelism and the gospel. Such is reality, but I wanted to go ahead and launch into the third installment of this series.
The first post was merely setting the scene following a pastors meeting in which I recently participated. From it, I have wondered whether we really grasp what the gospel (or good news, evangel) is and what it means to evangelise (or make the good news known). Not that our understanding and ways today are totally irrelevant or wrong, but rather that a) they might not be as ‘biblically founded’ as we first thought and b) we might need to reconsider how to make the good news known in our world today.
The second post was a look at the gospel in the Gospels, or the gospel proclaimed by God’s Messianic-Kingly Son, Jesus. Jesus proclaimed the good news that the kingdom rule of God had come near. And the fact is that this was absolute good news to the Jews (well, if they understood the full ramifications of such a message). But Jesus came proclaiming an evangel, a gospel, that God’s rule had come near. And subsequently, God’s people could now be set free.
Though they saw the temple, though they were in the Abrahamic promised land, they still viewed themselves as in exile under the oppression of Rome. The were awaiting another exodus, another redemption quite like that which came under Moses and that which came near the close of the Hebrew Scriptures.
And interestingly, when Jesus proclaimed the good news, he never really mentioned anything about the cross, the resurrection, a personal relationship with God, forgiveness of sins, etc. Now, that sounds offensive to some, but those specific aspects of God’s work in Christ are not found directly alongside Jesus’ proclamation of the gospel. Still, having noted such, we cannot deny such things as part of the good news. The rest of the Gospel(s) give us the complete story, and the rest of the New Testament lays out how these are important and part of the gospel proclamation, i.e., Paul in places like 1 Cor 15:1-3.
But I would argue that the gospel foundationally, or centrally, starts in the proclamation that God’s kingdom has come to set his people free. And how that is established and worked out is continued in the story of Jesus’ ministry, death and resurrection.
Only last night was I reading near the end of N.T. Wright’s book, What Saint Paul Really Said, of which I came across these words:
Paul’s gospel must, I believe, be reinstated at the very centre of the church’s preaching. The gospel is not, as I have stressed, a set of techniques for making people Christians. Nor is it a set of systematic theological reflections, however important. The gospel is the announcement that Jesus is Lord – Lord of the world, Lord of the cosmos, Lord of the earth, of the ozone layer, of whales and waterfalls, of trees and tortoises. (p158)
This is striking to ponder that, while also communicating the central facets of the cross and resurrection (and all the benefits of such), Paul was ultimately concerned with communicating the lordship (or kingship-kingdom) of Jesus Christ above all other Lords, or all other Caesars. The Jews wanted release from captivity. Here was their king, Messiah Jesus, who was Lord. Caesar was not! Here was their King who had been anointed by the Spirit, proclaimed the good news, and came to see the oppressed set free, the broken hearted liberated, and the diseased healed (Luke 4:16-19, quoting the Messianic passage of Isa 61).
Are you catching the excitement of such good news?!
Thus, I would articulate it that the cross and resurrection, as a real and integral part of the proclamation of the good news, would not be good news if Jesus was not King-Lord. We cannot even entertain the fact of the gospel if Jesus had not established and proclaimed God’s rule. I cannot see the lasting reality of the message of the cross and resurrection if Jesus was not now reigning over all. But the good news is that God has installed his King on Zion (Ps 2), that our God does reign (Isa 52:7), and because of this great truth, the cross and resurrection can be proclaimed as the good news that it is.
At this point, I realise I only built on my last post, elaborating just a bit more. But you can catch my passion for the king and his kingdom, and the gospel as proclaimed by the king. In the next post, I hope to examine some of the rest of the New Testament. Perhaps some of the preaching in Acts, as well as some of the statements of Paul like that of Rom 1:16-17 or 1 Cor 15:1-3.
But here is a major point to make thus far: If we do not understand the gospel (the evangel), then I am not sure we can properly evangelise. Such is extremely difficult! And if we do not recognise the foundational element of the coming king and kingdom of God in Jesus Christ as central to the gospel proclamation, then I believe we won’t have a proper starting place to make the gospel (the evangel) known to both God’s people and the world.