Fruits of the Gospel (2): What IS the Gospel?
The word, Gospel, comes from old English, "god-spell" (meaning, "good-news": "god" in old English means "good"). The old English word, "god-spell" was the word that translated the Greek word used in the Bible, "euangelion" (meaning, "glad tiding"). It's the word used in the Greek world when a wonderful news was to be proclaimed. For example, if a soldier runs overnight to tell the people in the city that the battle has been won, it is a glad tiding (euangelion). Another example is when a new baby king is born: it's an euangelion for the entire kingdom.
So, when the Biblical writers were recording the events of Jesus' life and later describing it to others, they used the term often reserved for new birth of king or the end of a bitter war. Just as new king and end of war represent new hope and joy, the life of Jesus Christ was a great euangelion (gospel) to them. It gave them a new, deeply found meaning and joy in life. It answered all the questions they had up to that point. It finally gave them what they had been waiting for, and more. It put things in perspective, with a new sense of hope and strength in life. You see, it was the greatest news they could hear. And it was HERE for them!
So, the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the good news about who Jesus is and what he did. And, this goodnews of Jesus Christ is the ultimate power of God for the salvation of whoever is willing to believe, for in this gospel the righteousness of God is finally fulfilled (Rom 1:16-17).
Just to unpack this truth little bit,
1. The news of the life of Jesus Christ is a good news to all because in it is the power of God's salvation. The salvation people had been waiting for is found in the person of Jesus Christ. The good news isn't just that Jesus brought God's salvation to us, but he WAS the salvation. He didn't come to tell us how to be saved, what we needed to do to obtain this salvation. Rather, he simply gave himself for it. He became the salvation for us, and THAT is the goodness-ness about this good news.
2. Why? and how? Because, the righteousness of God is revealed/fulfilled in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In his death, our deserving death was rightly fulfilled, and in his resurrection, we were rightly given a new spirit. This was how we were justified and made righteous before God.
And, so, to put it differently, the essence of this good news of Jesus Christ is ultimately about his death (why he died) and the fact that he was resurrected after his death. In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul speaks of "the gospel [he] preached" and by which the Corinthians were saved. To Paul, it's no more and no less than the coming of Jesus Christ as the one promised by God who accomplished this promise by dying sacrificially and later being raised from dead to represent resurrection of all those who would believe and trust in him.
Again, the goodness-ness of this gospel isn't just what Jesus brought (salvation of God) but HOW he brought it (freely for us, through his own death).
Let me close our discussion by sharing a story that Jesus told in his time, in order to teach his people this unexpected nature of God's salvation. How what was good about this news wasn't just what was possible but HOW it was possible.
Matthew 20:1-16 tells a story of workers being paid by the one who hired them. One is hired early in the morning and worked the whole day. Some others were hired mid day, and some only in the last hours before the end of the day. When it became the time to receive their wages, the workers (especially those who worked the most) were astonished to find out that they all received the same amount! Granted, it was the exact amount the workers who labored all day expected to receive. The problem wasn't he received less than what he expected but that others who worked less received the same as he did. You see, the sense of justice and what he felt he deserved quickly kicked in and overshadowed the initial gratefulness of having been hired for a fair wage.
The point of Jesus telling this story? What God has in store for us (his love) is such a good news that we can only receive it freely. We can't work for it. It's not about what is fair and just.
You see, the goodness-ness of the gospel of Jesus Christ wasn't just that something good happened but how this good thing happened. It happened so unexpectedly, so unimaginable, and so utterly unfairly. It wiped away ALL our sins, yes even the sins of those who sinned more than we did, even those whom we as a society can't forgive. But, in wiping away even the greatest sins of all, all my sins are also washed away completly.
Furthermore, all our sins are wiped away without us doing anything to pay for them. Yes, those of us who have honestly tried to pay for them, or even those who are not even trying to pay for any of it. We say, those don't deserve it! But, only when we accept God's free salvation for ALL people, even those who we think don't deserve it, we are able to receive his free salvation for ourselves.
Again, it's not only what we receive from Jesus Christ that is good news but HOW it is made possible for us.
May this truth deeply take root in our soul, so that it may bear the fruits consistent to what is sown for us freely.