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What is the Gospel? The Centrality of the Gospel (Part 1)

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– The Gospel as Christian World View –

The Gospel has become one of those things that could mean several things to several people. If you would like to prove that, just read few sentences that people write or say that have the word ‘gospel’ in it. If the gospel is a sort of fuzzy word that means different things in different context, then the gospel becomes nothing. If something all of the sudden means everything, it losses its meaning. We must resist the temptation to make the gospel as something faddish. That is going to domesticate it and the glory of the one who is revealed in and through the gospel. For example, is life in the Spirit the gospel? is having faith the gospel? is the call to a holy living the gospel? No! These are the absolute necessary entailments of the gospel. These are what a genuine gospel produces in us! If we say to have faith is the gospel, then we have faith in faith. It is meaningless. Remember the gospel is news. it is a content, a proclamation that we have come to believe. So what is the gospel? After having examined closely for some time now (this original article was written back in 2010) what we mean when we say the ‘Gospel’, usually means one of following. It’s either used too loosely, almost like a cliché, to implicitly mean the basic core of the Christian faith. As a result, the Gospel can not possibly be qualified as the over arching reality that covers our whole Christian existence (that which is big enough to meet our daily needs by itself) But the Gospel of Christ is that over arching worldview through which we see all of life. Second, sometimes we used the word gospel to mean the cross almost divorced from everything else, such the kingdom. It is impossible to separate the kingdom from the cross. Christ preached the good news saying ‘the kingdom of God is at hand’. However this kingdom is a saving, redemtive kingdom. Hence, cross work is integral to kingdom work.
As a preliminary remark, let me also suggest that getting the gospel right demands that we understand God as truine. The gospel is in direct continuity and solidarity with the work of the truine God (Ad Intra/ Ad Extra). That is to say, the gospel is good news about the work of our Lord Jesus Christ. As such therefore it is not first and foremost about the Father or the Spirit. However this gospel is what the father promised through the prophets in the holy scripture to be accomplished through the Son and applied by the Spirit. Therefore, just as there is one God, there is one redemtive act of the one God. Just as there are three person in the one God, the gospel is what the person of the Son accomplished as the Father ordained through the Holy Spirit. We shall examine this later when we expound (Rom. 1:1-4). My point here is modest. To get the gospel right is to get God right. To get God right is to get the gospel right.

Therefore what we usually call “The deep things of God” have turned out to be anything else but the Gospel. For most of us the gospel, accurately understood, is the beginning of the Christian life and believers should then graduate to the more “deep things of God” as quickly as possible. This point of view does not measure Christian growth primarily by how much one is progressively seeing “the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 2 Cor 4: 4 ” or by how much one grasped the bottomless-depth of the deep mystery of the Gospel, to which Paul prays:

that you may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth” (Eph 3: 14-19).

of the Gospel which is :

“…the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but has now been disclosed to his saints. (Rom 16:25-26, Col 1: 26).

To which the Apostle Paul was commissioned to:
impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory (1 Cor 2: 7).

That is:

“to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory….This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel. (Col 1: 27, Eph 3: 6)”.

And all that was done by:

Christ [who] brought life and immortality to light through the gospel (2 Tim. 1:10).

Paul then concludes boldly:

“I am not ashamed of the gospel for it is the power of God for salvation… (Rom. 1:16)”

This is just to sample what the scriptures testify about the Gospel. The fact of the matter is that the gospel is the mystery of God, which was kept secret but has now been gloriously revealed at the coming of Christ Jesus, in his person and his works (who he is and his miracles, death, resurrection- respectively).

Regardless of the testimony and the evidence of the scriptures, we are constantly minoring on what the New Testament locates at the foreground, that is the gospel and majoring on what the New Testament places at the background. To prove this one needs to rewind a bit back, so as to reflect to what have always been the most exciting topics that have been recycling amongst us. I can spot more than a dozen with out much straining of my brain. We’re persistently seeking the missing “key” for victorious living. Several keys have been discovered and then once more replaced by new ones. Methods and techniques are taught and cherished with out realizing that we have geared towards legalism long time ago. Our hearts are looking for the next to “do-list” with out recognizing that is the old self-righteousness (self help) being recycled as new- imported from the back door.

The aggravating question is: “how can I be transformed in conformity to the Image of Christ?” The answers given are diverse, Method after method, technique after technique, movement after movement… I have been involved in few of those “around the corner solutions” to the transformed life. Some of us suggest if the church once more were to be reorganized and realigned change would come . Still for others, the solution lies with small groups and follow ups. All of the above have their own proper places in the kingdom of God; but none of them is remotely close to what the New Testament mandates through which the transformed life is to be mediated. In other words we are confusing the means with the end. Without deep understanding of the gospel, everything else is simply a mere act. With all of our probing of the options at hand, the elephant in the room remains unresolved. With all of our techniques and methods, we are still unchcanged. The lingering question remains the same: “Isn’t then the Gospel powerful enough to transform us from inside out? Is not the Gospel the power of God…is not the word of the cross powerful enough to bring about transformation apart from our petty techniques?

On the other hand surveying Paul’s own use of the word –gospel– proves to us that we are on the wrong and yes the Gospel is all that we need, that which can’t be over emphasized enough in every context of life:

  • The Gospel of God
  • The Gospel of the Kingdom,
  • The Gospel of Christ,
  • The Gospel of peace,
  • The Gospel of your salvation,
  • The Gospel of our Lord,
  • The Gospel of God’s son,
  • The Gospel of the glory of the blessed God,
  • The light of the gospel of the glory of Christ,
  • The Gospel of grace…

For Scripture, the Gospel is that all-encompassing reality for the Christian. It’s the big tent that holds and covers everything! It is the sky that drips life and light. We can never graduate from the Gospel. We can never out-know the depth and the mystery of it.

“Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.”

Therefore my own personal call and journey have brought me to this conclusion. Above all, what we need to do is to set aside enough time to get to know the Gospel of the glory of the blessed God (1Tim 1: 11). And come in term with it until we locate our Christian existence around the gospel as the center and source of motivation for everything that we do in this life. So I write this to you, in the words of Peter:

“Beloved, I now write to you…in both of which to stir up your pure minds by way of reminder”

So What’s the Gospel: The good news of the Kingdom

Behind every invention there is an innovator. An innovator creates something in order to resolve a difficulty. Therefore, behind every invention not only there is an innovator, but also a predicament. So to better understand an invention one needs to grasp what the machine is created to resolve. That’s the logic of the invention. Let me give another example, probably that’s one closer to our discussion. Behind great leadership, usually there is not one who is born to be a great leader. Great leaders are shaped by the crisis they were called to resolve. Therefore behind great leadership there is a Story. A story of crisis, pain, suffering, sacrifices…

In the same vein, therefore, to know what the Gospel is all about and how it works, we need to know what the Gospel is here to resolve. This story then provides us a context to see why the Gospel is a good News. Unless we understand this context (what makes the good news –good news) the Gospel would mean very little to us. The scripture is best understood as a story.

It is a story of the one true God who created the heavens and earth and everything in it. He created mankind in his own image to rule creation on his behalf by precisely submitting themselves under his sovereign rule. This story however had a twist. An evil figure appears in the story changing the minds of the first humans to rebel against this holy creator, who pronounces judgment on all creation as His holy retribution. Regardless, the story continues with a good news! The creator God didn’t abandon his humans whom He created in his own image and his creation. He gave a promise through which a seed of the woman would emerge as one who will ultimately reverse God’s judgment. The story continues to progress in that now the creator God calls one man Abraham through whom this Creator God will bring to pass his promise for the whole world. This man is so blessed by the creator God that he became a great nation, Israel. This nation, of the line of the seed of the promise, finds themselves under an evil oppressor, who is identified with the serpent of the old, Pharaoh! He attempted to destroy the Seed and crawled on its belly to do the same thing he did in the garden with the first Humans! This evil was defeated by the creator God as he discloses himself to this Holy and unique nation. He delivers them through His might acts in Egypt and discloses Himself to them in the wilderness! They now know the personal name of this creator God, through His servant Moses. His name is Yahweh! “The I AM”. Israel receives his Self-disclosure in the form of the Law (Torah). Though Yahweh chose them to be His own covenant people, yet Israel rebelled against Him. They worshiped a calf, the created, than the blessed creator, Yahweh Elohim. They abandoned the Covenant. Even though He gave them a covenant of Kingdom though David, yet his descendants continued to rebel against Him. Yahweh abandoned them to exile, like He did to the first Humans out of the Garden. However the promise yet again began to work. Yahweh gives a new promise, a promise of a New Covenant! Through this story emerges one Man, under the reign of King Herod, born under a virgin and under the Law. They named him Jesus, for He saves his people from their rebellion! Under Pontius Pilot They crucified Him, yet he died bearing the sins of his people in his body on the tree, carrying the curse of the first humans in the Garden. After they crucified Him and buried Him, Yahweh, His father, raised Him through the power of the Holy Spirit. The story now gets a new twist. This risen Lord is now ruling from Heaven! His royal court is in the right hand of the most-high God, who was one with the one who judged the first humans. He commands now everyone to repent and be saved before He returns to rule the whole world under the iron rod of his sovereign kingdom! For it is Yahweh’s, his father’s pleasure that all tongue confesses and every knee bows down to the power of his Son’s name for the glory of his own name. Now He awaits to return to judge the living and the dead, the powerful and the weak, the rich and the poor, and the kings and peasants. “…..He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children. But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.” Rev 21: 5-8


Therefore the story of the Gospel presents the story of Creation, the Fall, the Promise of Redemption (Israel and Jesus), and the consummation (End). This is the story of the scripture, the story through which our redemption story emerges. This is the Story of the the Gospel of of the glory of Christ, who is the image of the glory of the blessed God!

Let me then first give you the definition and work our way into the definition.

The Gospel, as we will look at, is the announcement of the inauguration of God’s long awaited kingdom through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ as the fulfillment of the scriptures, in light of God’s eternal purposes, resulting in the salvation of human beings and culminating in universal judgement and transformation of the new heaven and earth!

As faithful stewards of God’s holy Word, as one who rightly divide the word of truth, we should first examine how “gospel” is presented in both testaments in the progress of God’s self-revelation in Salvation History. The second post focuses on the use of the word -gospel- in the Old Testament and the third on the New Testament. Keep on reading!

© 2013 – 2015, Samson Tilahun. All rights reserved.

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One thought on “What is the Gospel? The Centrality of the Gospel (Part 1)

  1. This is an in depth study of the Gospel to its very core while maintaining high standard. I don’t expect Sammy to further simplify the study report so as not to affect its standard of quality-I enjoy both the message and its high level standard. However, I expect him to avail himself ( as he always does) to answer questions for further clear understanding of the content. For instance, one could easily take the fruit ( the outcome) of the Gospel as part of the gospel itself. Also understanding the Gospel in relation to the Triune life is not just of paramount importance but indeed necessary. Sammy has dealt with this part, but it could be an important area for potential questions from his students. I pray that we all understand it though it is part of God’s infinitely deep things.

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