Jesus preached the gospel of God’s kingdom arriving in him. God was fulfilling his promises in Jesus by reclaiming the world as his rightful domain through the deliverance of his chosen people. Paul preached Jesus as the mysteriously revealed Messiah and Lord, through whose death and resurrection God acted to save the world. Jesus saves by ushering in the new age, offering himself as a sacrifice for sins, exposing the evil powers and basic principles that enslave humanity, unveiling the depth of God’s love as well as the image of authentic humanity, etc.
In the Roman world “gospel” announced political victory or accession to the throne. It celebrated the beneficent reign of a new ruler. The “good news” was that Augustus now reigned as emperor, and this news was good because it meant stabilized taxes, better roads, pirate-free seas, and the possibility of a fair trial. (Or so the story went.) Similarly, “gospel” in the Old Testament announces God’s victory first of all, and subsequently the blessings attached to God’s reign.
Put all this together and the gospel is the declaration that Jesus of Nazareth is the world’s true and rightful Lord, who became king by overcoming all rivals through his death and resurrection. This news is good because Jesus is good, because his reign means forgiveness of sins, reconciliation with God, liberation from bondage, peaceful unity between races and factions, hope of transformation now and glory in the world to come.
This is the gospel. Let it live.
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NOTE: In light of my 30th birthday and in honor of the guys who have all the fun, I’ll be offering thirty reflections in thirty days starting December 19th. Today’s post is #7 (see the so-far list here). The only rule is that I have 250 words to make my point. After that just stop reading. Thanks for making my blog part of your internet experience.