Recently, I have read an article from InternetMonk — “Misplaced, Taken for Granted and Ignored: My Strange Experience with an Absent Gospel.” This is the Part 1 for a four-part series. In Part 1, the author lamented about the lapse of preaching Gospel in the sermons and the diminished understanding of it.
Quoted from this article … “This isn’t just a failure to hear the Gospel in the terms and definitions I prefer. No, it is an ever lowering articulation of the Gospel, a replacement of the Gospel with other concerns and, perhaps most distressing of all, a replacement and confusion of the Gospel-centered mission itself.”
The other concerns the author means are, e.g., moral issues, behavior change and political causes. Then, the moralism, legalism, cultural religion and shallow sentimentality preached by the prosperity preachers and/or the culture warriors.
In Part 2, the author presented his sources from the Scripture (Bible Text) to define “Gospel”.
In Part 3, the author pointed out four different Gospel articulations — “Announcement”, “God”, “Jesus” and “Kingdom”. They are not definitions or creeds. These articulations summarize and balance the content of the Gospel as the author understand it. Here is him talked about “Kingdom”:
“Kingdom: The Kingdom of God was announced and established by Jesus and it continues in human history by his authority and power. Salvation comes into history as the Kingdom of God takes root in the world. The Kingdom of God is the beginning of the new heaven and the new earth where God’s righteousness lives and salvation is experienced. Jesus invited all persons to come into this Kingdom, to live in its new realities and to work for its inevitable triumph.”
Matthew identifies Jesus as preaching the same message that John the Baptist had delivered prior to Jesus being baptised by John, namely repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near, which Matthew refers to as the good news of the kingdom (9:35) —a phrase from which the term gospel derives (gospel is derived from the Old English for good news)—and then goes on to preach, teach, and heal, throughout Galilee. (Wikipedia)
In Part 4, the author pointed out that there are other Gospel appropriate Gospel articulations might center around grace, sin, judgment, community or love.
After reading this article, I did an exercise through my learned class in Saddleback Church recently – “Bring the Bible to Life: Part Two, Digging Below the Surface”. Here, a Bible research tool was used – “Blue Letter Bible”. I tried to get as much as I can from this Bible study on what “Gospel” is.
Here are my research results from the Blue-Letter-Bible:
There are two Greek words in the Bible that translated to “Gospel”: εὐαγγέλιον (euaggelion) and εὐαγγελίζω (euaggelizō).
The word εὐαγγέλιον (euaggelion) has a Strong’s Number of G2098 and occurs in the Greek concordance of the King James Version 77 times in 74 verses. The usages of it in the Bible are:
1. a reward for good tidings
2. good tidings:
- the glad tidings of the kingdom of God soon to be set up, and subsequently also of Jesus the Messiah, the founder of this kingdom. After the death of Christ, the term comprises also the preaching of (concerning) Jesus Christ as having suffered death on the cross to procure eternal salvation for the men in the kingdom of God, but as restored to life and exalted to the right hand of God in heaven, thence to return in majesty to consummate the kingdom of God
- the glad tidings of salvation through Christ
- the proclamation of the grace of God manifest and pledged in Christ
- the gospel
- as the messianic rank of Jesus was proved by his words, his deeds, and his death, the narrative of the sayings, deeds, and death of Jesus Christ came to be called the gospel or glad tidings
The word εὐαγγελίζω (euaggelizō) has a Strong’s Number of G2097 and occurs in the Greek concordance of the King James Version 61 times in 52 verses. The usages of it in the Bible are:
to bring good news, to announce glad tidings
- used in the OT of any kind of good news
— of the joyful tidings of God’s kindness, in particular, of the Messianic blessings
- in the NT used especially of the glad tidings of the coming kingdom of God, and of the salvation to be obtained in it through Christ, and of what relates to this salvation
- glad tidings are brought to one, one has glad tidings proclaimed to him
- to proclaim glad tidings
— instruct (men) concerning the things that pertain to Christian salvation
Before I started this exercise, I checked Wikipedia on the description (usage) of “Gospel”. A gospel (from Old English, gōd spell “good news”) is a writing that describes the life of Jesus. The word is primarily used to refer to the four canonical gospels: the Gospel of Matthew, Gospel of Mark, Gospel of Luke and Gospel of John, probably written between AD 65 and 80. So, this is the first definition of “Gospel” — the first four Books of the New Testament.
In Christianity, the good news or evangelism (from Koine Greek euangelion– also translated as “gospel”, “glad tidings” and variants) is the message of Jesus, the Christ (the Messiah), specifically his atoning death on the cross and resurrection, the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost as “helper” (paraclete), and the resulting promise and hope of salvation for the faithful. This definition of “Gospel” is described in the Bible. It relates to the saving acts of God, centred upon the person of Jesus and his substitutionary death on the cross and resurrection from the dead. Its context is the storyline of the Christian Bible as a whole, which tells of the creation of humanity, humanity’s rebellion against God, and how people from all nations are restored to relationship with God through the person of Jesus. A key theme of the Christian good news is that God offers a new life and forgiveness through Jesus. Jesus’ teaching of the good news also relates to the coming of the Kingdom of God (Mark 1:14-15), see also second coming.
The above studies pointed out that the meaning of “Gospel” includes the life and mission of Jesus that can be found in Book of Matthew, Book of Mark, Book of Luke and Book of John.
Here are Bible verses that Jesus himself talked about preaching “Gospel” to the poor:
“The Spirit of the Lord [is] upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord.” (Luke 4:18-19).
“Then Jesus answering said unto them, Go your way, and tell John what things ye have seen and heard; how that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, to the poor the gospel is preached.” (Luke 7:22).
“And it came to pass afterward, that he went throughout every city and village, preaching and shewing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God: and the twelve [were] with him,”(Luke 8:1).
Gospel of Luke (Luke 4:18-19) portrays Jesus’ ministry in his first sermon. Jesus used Old Testament (Isaiah 61:1-2) to announce the purpose of his mission in the world is to bring the changes in economic, political and social justice to the people.
First, Jesus proclaimed the anointing from God for him to preach the good news to the poor. That is, he announced that his ministry is to bring change in the circumstances and the institutions that kept people impoverished.
Next, Jesus announced his other purposes of his mission:
• to heal the brokenhearted; recovering of sight to the blind;
“The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them (Matthew 11:5).
• to preach deliverance to the captives; to set at liberty then that are bruised; to preach the acceptable year of the Lord;
“Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.” (Mark 1:14-15).
It is Paul the Apostle used the term εὐαγγέλιον gospel when he reminded the people of the church at Corinth “of the gospel I preached to you” (1 Corinthians 15:1). Paul averred that they were being saved by the gospel, and he characterized it in the simplest terms, emphasizing Christ’s appearances after the Resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:3 – 8).
Then, we should not limited “Gospel” to the individual’s salvation. Jesus’ mission is not only to bring salvation to the individual but also to call for the public awareness (repent) of bringing changes in the economic, social and political status that was unjust and impoverished people. The moralism, legalism, cultural religion and shallow sentimentality preached by the prosperity preachers and/or the culture warriors are totally different from Jesus’ preaching. They had ignored the poor and the sick. They had blind-folded their eyes in order to not see the injustice.
In Taiwan, the lapse of preaching Gospel in the sermons is not much different from America, particularly within the main-line churches in the large cities. The economic and the political systems favor the rich and the educated. Therefore, the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. The vicious cycle of poverty, inferior education and broken family relationship continues in the poor country sides.
In this desert-like environment, there are oasis existing. For example, Village Gospel Mission as one of the forefront missionary groups in calling for “Gospel” in the remote, poor country-side villages. They bring helps in children educations and cares for the poor, the sick and the elderly. Their sacrifices and determinations are admirable. By living with the poor and serving them with compassion as the great commandment from Jesus “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” and “Love your neighbor as yourself ”, they bring the “Gospel” to the poor.