Wednesday, 13 March 2013

The Gospel

Fascinating thoughts about the meaning of the Gospel: firstly, from the Chinese Church of Boston!!

Luke 2:8-14 The Angels

"The angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. 12This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."

The angels provide a heavenly perspective on earthly reality. From a human perspective, the powerful Roman emperor was ‘savior’ and ‘Lord’; his birth and victories in battle constituted ‘good news’; he ruled ‘all the people’; his reign brought ‘peace’ to the world: all these affirmations appear in Roman political and religious culture.

Luke takes these same terms and ideas, from the Old Testament prophets – particularly Isaiah – to affirm them of Jesus. He, not Augustus, is savior, lord, messiah; his birth and his victory over sin and death are good news; he comes to rule all the people in peace. The newborn baby – not the powerful emperor – reigns supreme and beneficent. Glory to God, not to the emperor! Salvation comes not to the politically powerful, but to those whom this God favors. This is grounds for worship: that God favored you, without any compelling reason, but solely by his gratuity.   Frank Viola in his post Rethinking the Gospel (so worth reading, including all the comments which are illuminating and helpful) says: "As a young Christian, I was taught that the gospel is a plan—”the plan of salvation.” Some Bible teachers used to frame that plan into “Four Spiritual Laws” and “The Romans Road.”

In the first-century Roman world, however, the word “gospel” was used to describe the announcement that a new emperor had taken the throne. “Heralds” would be “sent” throughout the Roman Empire to announce this “good news.”

Their message was, “We have a new emperor. His name is Tiberius Caesar, adjust your life and bow the knee.” Interestingly, the Roman emperor was also called “Savior” and “Lord” and was regarded as the one who would establish “peace” in the Empire.

In addition, the Roman emperor was expected to bring justice, peace, prosperity, and blessings to the world. He was also called “Pontifex Maximus” which means “chief priest.” The Romans also believed that when an emperor ascended into heaven, he was enthroned as being divine. Thus the emperor (at his death) was also called “son of God.”

Consequently, when the apostles (“sent ones”) used the term “gospel” and declared that Jesus was now the Lord and Savior of the world, it was a direct affront to the Roman hierarchy, especially Caesar (see Acts 17:7, as an example). The believing Jews no doubt connected the gospel-preaching of the apostles to Isaiah’s prophecy—a proclamation that God Himself was now reigning in the Person of Jesus (see Isa. 52:7).

If you examine everywhere the term “gospel” is used throughout the New Testament, you will discover that it’s always bound up with the Person of Jesus. (His work is united with His Person. While people regularly separate His work from His Person, you can’t separate His Person from His work. The same is true with His teachings. See Jesus Manifesto for a detailed discussion on this point.)

In His preaching and teaching, Jesus consistently pointed to Himself. Read the four gospels carefully sometime and count the number of times that Jesus speaks about Himself. You will have no doubts that His message—His gospel—was Himself. Paul, Peter, John, et al. preached the same gospel as did Jesus. Their message was also Christ.

In short, the message of the gospel is Jesus Christ as Lord (=world ruler), Savior, the fulfillment of the entire Old Testament (including the Adamic commission, the prophets, the priests, the kings, the sages, the temple, the sacrifices, the land, the Law, the promises, and the entire story of Israel), and Jesus as the Resurrection and the Life.

The gospel is also bound up with the eternal purpose of God in Christ—which is not separate from Jesus—or as Paul calls it, “the mystery.” Romans 16:25, Ephesians 6:19 and Ephesians 3:7-11 associate the preaching of “the mystery” and “the unsearchable riches of Christ” with the gospel. This point is often missed among those who teach about the gospel today, for the eternal purpose (“the mystery”) gets very little air-play in evangelical circles today—even though it’s at the heart of New Testament revelation.

The gospel, then, isn’t a postulate; it’s a Person. Properly conceived, the gospel is the proclamation of Jesus—His Life, Story, and Work—reaching back from the Old Testament story of Adam, the patriarchs, and Israel to the New Testament which announces His first and second appearances.

Jesus of Nazareth is the good news."

Ed at inamirrordimly talks eloquently about this:
How Jesus Announced the Arrival of God’s Kingdom The politically charged message “Jesus is Lord” and even the phrase “Gospel” were appropriated from the Roman Empire. The “gospel” was an announcement from the Roman Emperor, who was known as “the lord.” Jesus took hold of these common phrases used by the powerful and offered a remixing of that word according to his own message.

While Jesus certainly depoliticized these words from their Roman usage, he didn’t necessarily move completely away from the public and political realm. Jesus didn’t launch a political party, but he also wasn’t unconcerned with the issues of his day. He just addressed them through the message of God’s Kingdom coming.

When we speak of God’s Kingdom coming, we’re not just talking about the cross, although it was an essential part of it. The message throughout the New Testament of God’s Kingdom and Jesus as Lord was spoken directly counter to that of the Romans even though the Kingdom of Jesus was different from Rome in just about every way.

The Gospel addressed the powers of our world, but it didn’t address these powers on their own terms.

What This Means for the Gospel

To say that we want to “only” focus on the Gospel and then speak of personal salvation and a personal relationship with Jesus Christ only captures part of the picture. The Gospel literally proclaims freedom to captives, but it’s not a politically organized freedom. There is both a spiritual element to this and a physical reality of freedom.

We can both pass along spiritual and physical freedom to each other, living as if the Kingdom of God is truly present and among us—because it is. We can give generously to one another because God’s Kingdom has come. We can pray for emotional or physical healing because God’s Kingdom has come. We can treat the least as the first because God’s Kingdom has come.
Our opportunities for living in the Kingdom of God and embodying the Gospel’s message, Jesus is Lord, are all around us:

When a single mother encourages an overwhelmed new mother, the Kingdom comes.
When a family delivers a meal to those who can’t provide for themselves, the Kingdom comes.
When a child offers a pile of her clothes to those in need, the Kingdom comes.
When the most fearful and insecure Christian prays with confidence for a friend in a dark place, the Kingdom comes.

The Gospel isn’t about standing around the cross for the rest of our lives.

The Gospel sends us running down a dirt road in the early morning hours to find an empty tomb.

The Gospel fills our rooms with fire and wind, giving us words we would never find on our own.

The Gospel gives us confidence to lay hands on a friend and to pray as if God can actually do something.

The Gospel steadies our minds in a chaotic world because Christ has overcome the world.

The Gospel breaks our hearts for those suffering from the consequences of their pasts.

The Gospel is incarnation, God among us, God broken for us, God risen for us, and God forever in

The Gospel is too big to keep it inside of ourselves or to be confined to a dark Friday morning outside of Jerusalem. The Gospel of our Lord started with the arrival of God among us, and it continues every time we live in the freedom and peace that our Lord’s presence brings.

The Gospel is freedom, hope, peace, healing, and salvation. It has everything to do with confronting the powers of our world, whether that’s an abusive church, an abusive government, or an abusive relationship.

Every time we live as if the power of evil has been defeated, every time we mend the broken, every time we tell the powerful they can’t bully the weak, and every time we tell the fearful and lost about our wounded healer, we proclaim the Gospel of Christ’s Lordship over every power in this world.

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