I still have an exciting announcement which I want to make (well, it’s exciting to me…), but it will have to wait until after I am done with this current series on the gospel and evangelism.
In two previous posts (here and here), I introduced the idea that to properly proceed in our mission to others, we need a proper understanding of the gospel and evangelism. In this post, I will discuss briefly the content of the biblical gospel. But first, let me give some background.
About two years ago, I published an article called The Gospel is More than ‘Faith Alone in Christ Alone’ in the Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society. In the article, I challenged two of the more popular definitions of the gospel. First, that the “gospel” is equated with nothing more than “believe in Jesus for everlasting life.” There are some who think that this is the entirety of the gospel message, and those who ask others to believe more than this are adding to the gospel. I argued that the gospel is way more than such a pared down message.
A second view I argued against was that the gospel could be limited to a set number of theological propositions. Depending on who you read, most Christians have between five and ten propositions which they say constitute the entire gospelm, all of which must be believed for a person to receive eternal life. This view is based primarily on a faulty understanding of 1 Corinthians 15. Generally, they include the following in their gospel definition:
-the deity of Jesus
-the death of Jesus on the cross for our sins
-the resurrection of Jesus
-the necessity of faith in Jesus to receive eternal life
Against these two views, I argued that the biblical gospel is pretty much everything related to the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, including the prophecies about Him, and the ongoing empowerment for life with God that we receive as believers. I wrote:
This gospel contains everything related to the person and work of Jesus Christ, including all of the events leading up to His birth, and all the ramifications from Christ’s life, death, and resurrection for unbelievers and believers (p. 50).
Understandably, I received a lot of criticism from various groups for questioning their traditional teachings and practices regarding the gospel. One primary criticism was that my idea was new, and nobody else was saying such things as I had written. This is a weak argument, but interestingly, since I wrote the article, is seems that nearly every book I read has ideas which parallel the content of my research. One book in particular really helped my thinking. It is Transforming Mission by David Bosch, and it is now one of the top three most influential books I have ever read. He shows over and over that the gospel is not only a set of facts or propositions to be believed, but is information about how these beliefs will change our lives and how we interact with others.
Gospel of Faith, Love, and Hope
Let me provide a few quotes from Bosch which show this, and then I will close this already-too-long post with a few summary ideas.
“The good news is that the reign of God, present in Jesus Christ, has brought us all together under judgment and has in the same act brought us all together under grace. And yet, this does not mean that the gospel is an invitation to mystical introspection or to the salvation of individual souls, climbing out of a lost world into the safety of the church. Rather, it is the proclamation of a new state of affairs that God has initiated in Christ” (Bosch, 148).
The gospel of the early church “was practiced not as a stratagem to lure outsiders to the church but simply as a natural expression of faith in Christ” (Bosch, 49).
Similarly, salvation is way more than just “entrance into heaven when you die.” Salvation involves all aspects of life and living. It is a full redemption. “Whatever salvation is…it includes the total transformation of human life, forgiveness of sin, healing from infirmities, and release from any kind of bondage. …It does not have only a ‘vertial’ dimension” (Bosch, 107).
What is the Gospel?
The most basic definition of the “gospel” (Gk. euangelion) is “good news.” But that is not really what the biblical gospel is. Based on my years of studying this issue, and especially on my reading over the past few years, I am more convinced than ever that the gospel is message for all people about all the temporal and eternal benefits available to us through Jesus Christ.
Certainly, the message of eternal life is central to the gospel. However, what we Christians often neglect is that there is more to the gospel – much more. The biblical good news also tells us about how God wants to rule and reign over all aspects of life, how there is nothing beyond the scope of redemption, how there is hope for the future, a source of joy and gladness to be had, true community to be experienced, and peace to be introduced. It is good news for the poor, the lonely, the hurting, the despised, the neglected, the abandoned, the abused, the slandered, the outcast – indeed, for all who are suffering mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually.
The gospel is more than “believe in Jesus for eternal life.” The gospel is even more than “Jesus died on the cross for your sins, was buried, and rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, so that all who believe in Him might have everlasting life.” These are the “bulls eye” central tenants of the gospel, around which everything else has power and significance. Without the truths of the death and resurrection of Jesus, there is no gospel, but the gospel is way more than a message about justification and how to get eternal life. If we limit it only to that, we are proclaiming a partial gospel at best.
The full gospel is full-orbed in the claims it makes about our present life and eternal existence, and what Jesus wants to do with both.
Now, if this is true, what does that do to our “evangelism”? I will address this question in the next post.
Randy Siever says
Nice job. These paragraphs in particular were helpful:
“The gospel is more than “believe in Jesus for eternal life.” The gospel is even more than “Jesus died on the cross for your sins, was buried, and rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, so that all who believe in Him might have everlasting life.” These are the “bulls eye” central tenants of the gospel, around which everything else has power and significance. Without the truths of the death and resurrection of Jesus, there is no gospel, but the gospel is way more than a message about justification and how to get eternal life. If we limit it only to that, we are proclaiming a partial gospel at best.
The full gospel is full-orbed in the claims it makes about our present life and eternal existence, and what Jesus wants to do with both.”
Can’t wait to read the next piece on evangelism!
Jim Johnson says
Excellent post! Thank God that He doesn’t operate the way that is depicted in many presentations of the gospel.
So if I read this right and I do believe your correct here, how would one share the Good News?
Would it be like the disciples that Jesus sent while He was here only with an expanded message? Would the concept of the Messiah be present in the discussion?
BTW, liked Mosaic Arlington but needed something closer to home for personal reasons.
Jeremy Myers says
My post later today or tomorrow should give some ideas of how to share the good news….
I’m glad you are back to blogging! Keep writing!
Antonio da Rosa says
Do you have a particular group of person in mind, or could you give some examples of who believe that the gospel is only “believe in Jesus for eternal life”?
The reason why I ask is that such a statement is the truth of how one comes to the beginning knowledge of God and His Son Jesus Christ (cross reference Jn 6:47 with Jn 17:3). But those who take that statement as a sufficient declaration of the condition for appropriating eternal life (such as those affiliated with the GES) surely do not believe that this alone is the gospel!
So I ask, because I have never heard someone (you were around GES much more than I) who claimed that this statement under consideration, and this statement alone is the gospel.
Now as to the content of this post, I am on board. Evangelism is preaching the things concerning the Lord Jesus Christ and the Kingdom of God and all which those things entail. A powerful inducement to believe in Christ is the abundant life of meaning and purpose He alone can give, and the crowning experience of life as His intimate companion in the world to come, not to mention the obvious fact that through this faith one escapes the corruption of the lake of fire.
I am awaiting patiently for your next post.
I hope that sometime soon we can catch up. I don’t ever want to and I hope I never did give the impression that I had ought feelings or such against you since you left the GES. Truth is that I am a busy man, working two jobs, and raising a family.
Anyway, I do hope that all is going well with you and the fam.
Antonio da Rosa
Jeremy Myers says
Thanks for the comment. I look forward to connecting more with you as well in the future!
In answer to your question, please know that I have nothing against GES, Bob, Zane, or anyone else. They all played a large role in my theological formation, for which I am eternally grateful.
So first, let me admit that the primary person I am critical of is myself. I, for one, was a person who used to think that the gospel was nothing more than “believe in Jesus for eternal life.” I am probably in print on my website about that somewhere. So I am first and foremost correcting myself.
Second, I could be wrong, by my impression was that the average GES person, when they talked about “the gospel” thought primarily of “believe in Jesus for eternal life.” This was from countless emails, phone calls, and letters I received while at GES.
Third, even Zane’s famous 2 part articles on “How to Lead a Person to Christ” seems fairly clear that the gospel is “believe in Jesus for eternal life.” There are a few places where he says that to get people to this point, we have to lead them through the whole gospel, but he does not elaborate.
Finally, did you ever hear Bob Wilkin’s debate with Darrel Bock entitled “What is the Gospel?” Bob argued that it is “faith alone in Christ alone.” Considering recent articles by him, I believe he has now changed his view, and would probably approach a similar debate in a very different fashion. You can read a transcript of his debate here: http://www.faithalone.org/resources/debate.pdf
Hope that helps!
Antonio da Rosa says
The “gospel” has come to be known as “what must be believed to receive eternal life”. This is tragic.
Thanks for your work in this area.
Your free grace theology friend,