Wednesday, September 13, 2006

What The Gospel Is Really All About

This evening I just read the best article I've ever seen on the Gospel. Thank you David Field for reformatting Derrick Olliff's article The Gospel: The Return of the King and publicising it on your blog. The article expands on some of the themes I mentioned in my earlier posts on the gospel HERE and HERE, but takes it much deeper. Without discarding the traditional evangelical understanding of the gospel, he shows that in its original context the term embodied so much more than is usually appreciated. It isn't really fair to quote from Olliff's conclusion without giving all the scriptural evidence leading up to it, but I'll do that anyway just to wet your appetite.

We should therefore see that the gospel is not, “You will be saved if you repent and believe in Jesus.” This conditional is a consequence of the gospel, but it would be significantly reductionistic to say that this equals the gospel. The gospel is far more objective and broader in scope than this. First, it is more objective because the gospel is not a conditional. It is first and foremost an historical fact. God made certain promises in the OT regarding His return to His people, His kingly reign, and the incorporation of the gentiles into the covenant, and the gospel is the proclamation that those promises have been fulfilled – Jesus is Lord (i.e., “Our God reigns,” Is. 52:7).

Second, the gospel is broader in scope because it is not just about the possibility of salvation coming to individuals. It is first of all about the arrival of God’s kingdom, Christ’s coronation as King of heaven and earth, and His victory over the ultimate enemy – sin and death. It is because of this universal, all encompassing, victorious kingship that we can then talk about some specifics such as the salvation of individuals. But we cannot reduce the kingdom to those specifics. Moreover, even when talking about salvation, we should see that the gospel is first of all about salvation in a “communal” sense. For example, the fact of a specific gentile’s salvation is an application of the broad gospel truth that God has brought salvation to the gentiles and incorporated them as fellow heirs into the same body (Eph. 2:11-22). But if we were to say that the gospel is “you [an individual] can be saved,” we would have truncated a general and historical fact down to a specific, individualized conditional….

Thus, the most direct and compact definition of the gospel is that it is the proclamation that “Jesus is Lord.” A fuller definition of ‘gospel’ would look like this: the promised new age and kingdom of God has arrived, because Jesus is the Messiah-God who has come to reign as King over all by conquering the old ruling tyrants (the worst being sin, death, and the Devil) via resurrection, redeeming His covenanted people, and bringing the fullness of the covenant to the nations. The heart of the gospel proclamation is this dynastic transfer. We can go on to discuss certain consequences of this truth such as the salvation of specific individuals and we can also discuss specific aspects of that salvation (e.g., regeneration, justification). But it would be significantly reductionistic to limit the gospel to these specific applications or consequences.

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