Poster image by Outreach Media.
on a mini-theme following the last couple of posts, i thought it's worthwhile revisiting the topic of the gospel, and what it is. the april edition of the briefing had an article by D B Knox which deals with this precise question, and here's a few quotes...
The news of the New Testament is not that there will be a judgment [the certainty of which has been known from Old Testament times], but rather that this judgment is imminent; the kingdom of heaven, the rule of God -- that is, his judgment -- is at hand. Action is called for from the hearer.Briefing editor Tony Payne then reflects:
The gospel was the news that God had fixed the judgement day when he would judge the world in righteousness, and he had appointed the judge, Jesus, whom he had sealed in this office by the resurrection from the dead and by his exaltation to the throne of God as Lord. He was king and judge, and not only king and judge, but saviour from the consequences of the judgement of God on sinners. For God in his graciousness had sent his son Jesus to be the saviour of the world, so that all who call on him for salvation, all who recognize his lordship and seek his help, will receive that salvation, which consists in the forgiveness of their sins and justification in the eyes of the judge.
So the news is not only of the judgment but more significantly, of salvation in that judgment.
While few of us would (presumably) be satisfied with a gospel that was simply 'Come to Jesus and have all your problems solved', we are often sorely tempted to preach an attractive Jesus who connects with people's aspirations, hungers and needs. Want real and satisfying relationships? Want the freedom to live authentically? Want to find purpose and meaning in life? Want a new story to live by? Want to find resources for dealing with suffering and pain? Want to be a better dad? Come to our special dinner/course/breakfast, and we'll show you how.
Now these sorts of things do go along with being a Christian believer (along with persecutions, being hated, and constantly battling the relentless assaults of the world, the flesh and the devil). And surely there is nothing wrong with telling people about these things, especially in response to accusations that the Christian life is the opposite (that it is a life-denying, joyless slavery, for example).
But apologetics is not the gospel, nor are the benefits of becoming a Christian the gospel. The gospel is an historical announcement about the coming kingdom of Jesus, the crucified and risen Christ, who will soon bring judgement, and who now calls on everyone to repent and flee to him for forgiveness of sins while they may. It is a message, as Knox says, that "overleaps cultural divisions and requires no cultural interpretation" because it directly addresses the conscience of the hearer. Judgement is coming in Jesus Christ; you are guilty; salvation is available through this same Jesus; what will you do?