What is the Gospel?

Listen to the Sermon - April 2018

Good news is first a person.

At TCC we make it a priority to say we are Gospel-centered.  But what is actually the Gospel? In the Gospel of Mark, the “Gospel” (= good news) is defined in essential terms: It is the “Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God” (Mark 1:1).   A few verses later, it’s called “the Gospel of God.” So the good news is essentially about a person, Jesus Christ, who is Himself God, since the Gospel of Jesus and the Gospel of God are one and the same.  Paul will confirm this idea when he says in Galatians 1 that the Gospel is not essentially an ‘it’, but a ‘he,’  a relationship with the living God (see Galatians 1:6).

“…the Gospel is not essentially an ‘it’, but a ‘he,’  a relationship with the living God”

Good news is also a journey from wilderness to promised land.

When Jesus says, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand (= has come near); repent and believe in the Gospel” (Mark 1:14-15), we get another window into what Jesus means when He talks about the Gospel. It is a message  about repentance and believing.  Mark links both repentance (‘to change one’s mind’) and faith in mutually dependent terms.  We cannot claim to believe without repenting and we cannot really repent without believing.  As the stories of Jesus’ encounters with various people unfold in Mark, we quickly realize that to “repent and believe” becomes more a process than an event!  Of course there is a ‘moment,’ a ‘first encounter’ that takes places but the idea of repentance and belief is also a journey, a wilderness wandering toward the promised land (John Bunyan’s classic Pilgrim Progress comes to mind).

We cannot claim to believe without repenting and we cannot really repent without believing…to “repent and believe” becomes more a process than an event!

Good news is so good that we can leave behind even good things for ultimate things.

Repentance, a change of mind, is also a change of action.  When Jesus calls the disciples in Mark 1:16-20, “follow me,” Peter and Andrew,  “immediately left their nets and followed him.” And when Jesus  “immediately” called James and John,” they “left their father Zebedee in the boat.”  To leave behind whatever they were doing becomes a center piece of what the full meaning of repentance actually is: a change of mind leads to a change of action (see the story of Elisha’s calling in the Old Testament 1 Kings 19:19-21).   To follow Jesus invariably means leaving something behind and the change in our thinking invariably brings a change in our doing.  We are embarking on a lifetime journey to follow Jesus and we will always have to leave things behind.  But the good news behind the Gospel/Good News is that Jesus is very patient with His disciples (not known for being the most astute individuals). Paul puts it this way to us: “it is God’s kindness that leads us to repentance” (Romans 2:4)  It is through His kindness and patience that we learn to leave all things behind and follow Him.

In Mark, John the Baptist adds a crucial element to repentance as well. You need to repent in order to receive forgiveness of sin (Mark 1:4). To believe in the Gospel/Him means your sins are forgiven and the act of repentance plays an essential role in that.  Adding to the picture, Paul in Romans says, “I am not ashamed of the Gospel, it is the power of God for salvation for everyone who believes, to the Jew first, and also to the Greek” (Romans 1:16).  The Gospel/Good News is not reserved for a particular ethnic group or culture but reaches the whole world. At the end of Mark, we are commanded to “go into all the world and preach the Gospel to the whole creation” (Mark 16:15).

Good news requires a response: our repentance.

So when we take the Gospel to its core meaning, it is a revelation of the love of God for the whole world, and it must be acted on by our own response of repentance. Through Jesus alone, we receive forgiveness for our sins. Acts 4:12 puts it this way:  “there is salvation in no one else.”  The Gospel of Jesus is not essentially about political salvation (from the Left, the Right or even the Center!); it is not a social movement to make society better; it is not an ideological program to cleanse our culture.  It is indeed the ‘power of God for salvation’, the declaration that in the perfect time of God’s choosing (Romans 5:6), salvation has come to us through Christ (His life, death and resurrection).  Of course the Gospel will have social, political and culture implications, since changed lives will bring about changed behavior aligned with God’s will, but we should learn not to confuse the implications of the Gospel with what/who the Gospel is.

Good news requires a response: our proclamation!

Finally, the real catch for these fishermen is they are both called to follow Jesus and called to “become fishers of men.”  Jesus brings together the call to follow him with the call to proclaim the good news for disciples in every generation, including us today.   It is not enough to say, “I follow Jesus” and that’s it.  If you follow Jesus and understand the Gospel, this call to follow Him also means you will ‘catch people’ through the proclamation of the Gospel to others.

Today, we ‘google’ things many times a day. The original noun ‘google’ is now an action verb.  The same is true with the word “Good News/Gospel.’  We too make it into an action verb: we ‘goodnews,’ we ‘gospel’ people with the proclamation of the message of repentance and forgiveness of sins.