What is the Gospel? part 1

“After some days Felix came with is wife Drusilla, who was Jewish, and he sent for Paul and heard him speak about faith in Christ Jesus. And as he reasoned about righteousness and self-control and the coming judgment, Felix was alarmed and said, ‘Go away for the present.  When I get an opportunity I will summon you.’” Acts 24:24-25

What does the Gospel mean?  What is it and how can we clearly understand it?  This is a relatively huge question, yet strangely simple.  At the same time, very few of us (I would venture to guess) could explain it clearly and succinctly in a way that is actually “good news” to non-believers.  And while I will explore this much more in later posts, I want to just briefly talk about one aspect here.

In the above verses, Paul is explaining to Felix about faith in Christ.  Notice first, what he does not say.  He does not seem to spend most of his time trying to get Felix to understand grace and how faith in Christ is a free gift that just needs to be accepted, that God has a wonderful plan for his life if he would only trust him.  This is the “gospel” that the Church, in large scale though not all, is presenting to the world.  While these things are true, they are never the thrust of Paul’s discussions in Acts.  He certainly mentions the grace to believe.  But most of the time, the good news involves repentance, righteousness, and preparing to be in right standing for the judgement to come.

At the Areopagus, Paul states that God “commands all people everywhere to repent,” because there is a judgement coming.  (17:30-31).  At Lystra, when the followers of Zeus wanted to offer Paul and Barnabas sacrifices, Paul maintains that they are only men, and that “we bring you good news  that you should turn from these vain things to a living God…” (14:15).  That was good news to them; that all that they were serving were vain, dead idols, and that the “living God” had called them to repent and serve Him.  Now this is certainly grace, and only by grace are they offered that call.  But it still requires repentance, and that was what they most needed to hear. (Additionally, see Acts 26:12-23)

I have heard from many Christians, and even struggled with myself, the observation that there seems to be no real difference between their lives and those non-believers around them.  This is an incredibly important and telling statement and I strongly believe it comes from a lack of understanding and mis-teaching of what the Gospel of Jesus Christ is and what it means for our lives, eternally and today.  That is the task we are tackling in our church, and one I think many Christians need to address.  The Gospel is simple, yet far-reaching and all encompassing in our lives, and demands much more than we are often led to believe.

"Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." John the Baptist taught repentance for the sake of the coming kingdom, and Jesus held him as the greatest of those "born of women," and Jesus' message was the same.  If this was John's, Jesus', and Paul's gospel, shouldn't it be ours as well?

“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” John the Baptist taught repentance for the sake of the coming kingdom, and Jesus held him as the greatest of those “born of women,” and Jesus’ message was the same. If this was John’s, Jesus’, and Paul’s gospel, shouldn’t it be ours as well?

I’ll be addressing this topic a lot on this blog, as it’s incredibly important, and misunderstanding abounds, much to our detriment.  But for now, let’s ask ourselves these questions.  What effect does the Gospel in which I believe really affect and change my life?  Is my life radically different than those around me?  If we begin honestly with these questions, we may find that there is something amiss.  And maybe it’s time we reevaluate our understanding of the “Good News”, the Gospel of Jesus, and the Kingdom he established.

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