What is the Gospel?

I’ve been thinking lately on the question of ‘what is the Gospel?’ I’m thinking about it because my theology is still developing (won’t it always be?) and because I’m moving back to Australia soon, hoping to take up a position which will require that I can articulate the Gospel to youth, which means to a soft post-modern audience.

For something which is so central to Christian theology, particularly Evangelical, it is incredible that there are so many different statements of what the Gospel is.

Over at iMonk they are starting a ‘Gospel Week’ and the first post of the week is inviting discussion on the subject of definitions.

With all the definitions floating around it got me wondering, could it be that ‘the Gospel’ cannot be defined outside of a specific context? Could it be that the Gospel is so pervasive that it appears meaningless without a context and that the Gospel always needs to be ‘the Gospel to XXXX’ where XXXX is a person, culture, group, etc. I believe this would, not just allow for, but require that the Gospel speak through a multitude of expressions, including, for example, white and non-white, western and non-western, historical and novel… even verbal and non-verbal.

With this in mind, where I’m at with the Gospel at the moment is this: ‘I came that you might have life, and have it to the full.’

Salvation is from whatever it is that stops ‘full life’. The source of the salvation is the ‘I’ who came, i.e. Jesus (it is a partial quote of John 10:10). But, ‘full life’ is going to be defined, in part, by the individual/culture/group. Without the context, without the ‘you’ of the statement with which to relate the ‘I’, the Gospel is unintelligible and the meaning of ‘full life’ cannot be known.

Salvation is the gift of ‘full life’, given in the relationship between the ‘I’ (Jesus) and the ‘you’ (the world, the individual, the nation, the church, the family…) and becomes the ideal for the relationship (full life) between ‘I’ (self) and ‘you’ (others) from then on.

This is just me thinking aloud.  I know I’m going to have to simplify the language and clear it up somewhat, but let me know if you think I’m on the right track.

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One Response to “What is the Gospel?”

  1. Yesterday the member who preached at my own church advocated what I would term a narrow gospel. For him the gospel is restricted to the death and resurrection of Jesus for our salvation. He went on to say that there are many things said which although good and true are not the gospel, God loves you for example.

    I found myself frustrated and unsatisfied with his position, I prefer yours, particularly as you point towards not a relationship that we might enter into when we die, but a full (and by inference, meaningful and purposeful) life now.

    I favour a generous and broad gospel, where the truth of a loving, redeeming, renewing and gracious God may be revealed in all and any acts of love, from a prayer to a meal to a reaching out to the hurt, lost and lonely by one of God’s people, beginning a journey which at some point will encounter the redeeming work of the cross, but begins well before that point and continues for a lifetime after.

    Bless you John James as you take up the opportunities God lays before you.

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