I'm trying to finish up today a piece for Catalyst, a Methodist journal for pastors, on the gospel. I've been delighted to write two dictionary articles on "gospel" for the Global Wesleyan Dictionary and the InterVarsity revised version of the Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels. So I've written the first half of the article, which gives my sense of how the content of the word "gospel" might have developed from John the Baptist to the second century. Now comes the most important part for pastors--how do we appropriate this rich history?
I don't think I should write out the whole second half here, but I thought I would use the blog to help me organize my thoughts. It seems to me that there are at least four key appropriations:
1. Gospel as the good news of God's kingship
The cornerstone of the good news for John the Baptist and for Jesus was ultimately the good news that "our God reigns." God is in control of things. Despite how things may look, God wins.
2. Gospel as the good news of Christ's kingship
But Jesus the anointed one stands at the heart of God's reign. God the Father reigns on earth through Jesus, whom he has enthroned as cosmic king of the universe. This is good news because Christ is the Savior of the world who brings peace to conflict and the blessings that are usually associated with the good news in the New Testament. This is good news because it means the defeat of the forces of evil in this world, which are ultimately subject to his authority. This is good news because it means life from the dead, both ultimately and in our mortal bodies.
3. Gospel as good news for the poor and dis-empowered
In Luke especially, the gospel is a social gospel--it means sight for the blind, liberty for the oppressed, and good news for the poor. It means that Christ's servants are not only interested in empowering the individuals who are weak, but in changing the structures of society as we are able into good news for all.
4. Gospel as the redemption/reconciliation of the world
The good news means the redemption and reconciliation of the world. We see this first in the gospel as the reconciliation of Israel in the ministry of John the Baptist to Paul's good news for Gentiles. It is the entire story of redemption culminating in a coming day when God will set everything right.