What is the Gospel? (Part 1)

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In Scot McKnight’s excellent book, “King Jesus Gospel” he asks a question that is so simple but so profound – Did Jesus preach the gospel? This is an intriguing question because we typically think of the gospel as the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus that gives us future hope in heaven through our promised resurrection. But during Jesus’ ministry these things were not on the table in such a nice, neat package. That either means Jesus didn’t preach the gospel, as we define it, or the Gospel isn’t defined as we define it (it is bigger and inclusive of more things than the above summary).

The temptation is to say he didn’t teach “the” Gospel (as summarized above) as we understand it today rather Jesus just preached “Gospel” (lacking the definite article). So what is THE Gospel and did Jesus preach it?

The Bible itself tells us that Jesus taught the Gospel. I will dive into the Greek in a future post but for now let’s look at a thumbnail of what we have.

Matt 4:23 & 9:35 – “Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and every disease and sickness among the people.”

Mark 1:1 – “The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God.”

Mark 1:14-15 – “After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. ‘The time has come,’ he said. ‘The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!'”

Clearly, Jesus preached the gospel (good news). He did so without preaching it as we are accustomed to hearing it and he did that because his Gospel included more things than what we often include in our understanding of gospel. What were the components of Jesus’ gospel in these verses (we will cover more later)?

  • It had something to do with healing
  • It had something to do with Jesus being Messiah
  • It had something to do with Jesus being the Son of God
  • It had something to do with the kingdom of God.
  • It had something to do with repentance

Before I go any further, I want to establish the idea that Jesus did preach the Gospel and that anything Jesus includes in the Gospel should be included in our understanding of the Gospel. That means Jesus’ circle of what is included as Gospel was both wider than ours (included things we don’t include) and, ironically, more narrow than ours (including some very specific items we often overlook or leave out). This means we include things as Gospel that aren’t and that we miss things as Gospel that are.

What are some things that we include as gospel that aren’t? Wright and McKnight both talk about our obsession with individual salvation –  dying and going to heaven as the great gospel hope. That is close but doesn’t quite give the same emphasis as the biblical gospel. What are some things the New Testament (Jesus) includes as Gospel that we don’t? We often miss his being Messiah and how important that is in continuity with the Old Testament and we also miss the fact that when Jesus taught about the kingdom (often in parables) that he was preaching Gospel. So take the contents of the parables and put them in the circle of what is included in the Gospel. We also don’t associate healing with Gospel but Jesus did. I want to talk more about that in the next article.

What are your thoughts on this? What implications does this have on our message and ministry?

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