Tuesday, January 31, 2012

What is "The Gospel" Anyway?

In my life in and around the church, and in and around Christianity, I've heard the phrase "the gospel" used many times and in many different ways.  It has sort of become a catch-all word for anything that has to do with God, even in the most oblique way.  The most common way I've heard it used is in the context of "living out the Gospel."  What people generally mean by this is "doing good things for other people."  So "the Gospel," then, must be translated, in this instance, to "good things for others."  I submit to you that this is a gross misunderstanding of what the Gospel is.

First of all, "gospel" is a word that comes from an old English translation of the Greek word euangelion, which means "good news."  So, more than anything else, the Gospel is news.  More specifically, the Gospel is an announcement.  More than that, though, the news (or, the announcement) has to be good.  The announcement that you must "love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength" is news, but it's not particularly good if you're a human being like me.  Classicly speaking (and the reason that the "G" in Gospel is capitatized here, denoting a particular announcement), Christians have defined "the Gospel" as the announcement that Jesus has died to save sinners.  Those six words.  Period.  The phrase "living out the Gospel" makes no sense when "the Gospel" is understood in this way: an announcement of good news.

When you watch your favorite newscast, you can't "live out" the news.  You can react to it, certainly, and knowledge of it may well influence the things you do.  The Gospel is the same way.  It will, no doubt, impact your life.  But that impact is not the Gospel.  It can't be.  It's the impact of the Gospel.  And it should be noted that "the Gospel" itself does not demand a certain response.  It makes no demands at all; remember, it is an announcement.  Hearers of the Gospel, from St. Paul to Richard Dawkins, have recommended responses, but again, these things are not "the Gospel."

The Gospel is that Jesus has died to save sinners.  Do you agree?  If I were to ask you "What is 'The Gospel' anyway?" what would you say?

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