Broadening Our View of Gospel and Salvation

The term for gospel as a noun only occurs in Matthew and Mark about a dozen times. It doesn’t appear in Luke or in John. It doesn’t show up again until Acts 15:7. The verb form (to preach or proclaim the good news) does show up a few times in Luke and the early chapters of Acts but never in John. When you read what all of these verses have to say they almost never talk about having our sins forgiven. What they mostly talk about is the kingdom, the resurrection of Jesus and Jesus as Lord.

In Scot McKnight’s book “King Jesus Gospel,” he asks a riveting question, Did Jesus preach the Gospel? The Gospel writers say he did. Mark chapter one has this mentioned directly twice. Luke 4 is another chapter where Jesus directly says he has come to preach the Gospel. I am quite sure it was N.T. Wright at this point who has pointed out that yes Jesus preached the Gospel but not as we most often define the Gospel – individual forgiveness of sins so we can die and go to heaven. Instead, Jesus preached the Gospel as the in-breaking kingdom with himself as the anointed king of that kingdom and Lord or master. So when you read the Sermon on the Mount you are reading Gospel.

In Acts 15:7 Peter says that when he preached to Cornelius and his family he preached the gospel/good news to them. Go to Acts 10 and read Peter’s speech to the Gentiles. He does mention forgiveness of sins and he mentions many other things as well because the Gospel is more than just the forgiveness of our sins. The gospel is about whole life transformation that conforms us to kingdom living or life in the kingdom of God.

Why have we boiled down the gospel to something much less than the sum total of what the New Testament itself calls Gospel? I believe it is because we go to the scriptures for what we don’t think we can provide for ourselves. Most of us are fairly affluent by worldly standards. We aren’t impoverished. We aren’t destitute. We aren’t anywhere close to where Jesus’ Palestinian, Roman occupied and oppressed, audience was in the first century. They understood Gospel as liberation from all that enslaved and oppressed them. Because we are so affluent we skip over all that we don’t think we can fix ourselves to the part we know we can’t do anything about – our sin. So we don’t see the gospel as having anything to do with our illnesses, our attitudes, our mental state, or our treatment of others. We don’t see the gospel as having anything to do if we lack peace, even though the gospel is called the “gospel of peace.” We don’t connect any of those dots because we have not picked up on the fact that in the Bible itself the Gospel covers so much more than forgiveness (did you know the word forgiveness only shows up 14 times in the New Testament and forgive a few dozen? I would have guessed more and nearly half those times are about how we are to forgive others. If that is all the gospel is about you would think it would be mentioned more). What is more, even the word forgive is about being set free. See if you can spot the word, even though it is not translated as forgive in Luke 4:18-19,

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
    because he has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
    and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
19     to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Here is where it is in those verses,

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
    because he has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
    and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
19     to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

The Spirit of the Lord is on Jesus to proclaim the good news and look what is listed (forgiveness/release from sin is not on the list): the good news is for the poor, freedom for prisoners, healing of the blind, and set the oppressed free! The Gospel message has something to do with forgiving sins, Peter himself says that in Acts 10 and Paul does elsewhere as well but it is so much more wholistic than that because so much more of us needs set free than just our soul from sin because we are enslaved to more things than we would like to admit. Forgiveness is the release from those burdens, not just sin.

The truth of the matter is, so much less is under our control than we would like to think. Secondly, we are enslaved and oppressed in far more ways than we would like to admit. The Gospel message of deliverance from more than sin is a message that we need to understand, live and share with others. When we do this the gospel message will be as relevant and compelling as ever.

One Response to Broadening Our View of Gospel and Salvation

  1. Dwight says:

    Great thoughts,
    Jesus didn’t preach the Gospel, as much as He was the Gospel.
    They saw Jesus as not preaching a way to be saved, but rather as being the Savior.
    This was put forth in John 1 in that Jesus was the “light” and John bore witness to the “light”
    Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.
    Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life”.
    The gospel wasn’t a methodology or system, but a person.
    There weren’t many points in the plan of salvation, but the one point in the being of Jesus.
    God was always to be the deliverer, Jesus was the deliverer in the flesh.
    This is why the apostles taught Jesus and Christ crucified.

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