About Jesus  -  Steve Sweetman

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The Gospel


Is there just one gospel?  Are there a number of gospels?  Are there many aspects of one gospel?  These are questions we as Evangelicals might want to think about.


I think we have some Evangelical traditions to rethink when thinking of the word "gospel".  I've been associated with the Evangelical world since birth, which at times, prided itself as not being traditional.  The fact of the matter is that Evangelicals have traditions, some of which should be rethought.


The tradition among Evangelicals concerning "the gospel" is that there is one gospel and that is the gospel of salvation, meaning, the teaching that states how an individual comes to personal salvation.  The point I'm about to make is that this definition does not fully represent the concept of gospel as stated in the New Testament. 


The Greek word "euaggelion" is translated as "gospel" in the New Testament.  In the first century Roman world the word "euaggelion" came to mean any news or information that is good.  Like many other words found in the Bible,"euaggelion" was not a religious word.  Jesus, as well as first century Christians, merely applied this word to fit its many New Testament applications.  For example, in John 14:16 Jesus told the disciples that He'd ask the Father and the Father would give them the Holy Spirit.  Even though the word "euaggelion" is not found in this passage, what Jesus promised was good news.  It was "euaggelion".   There are countless examples in the New Testament where Jesus or someone else passes on some pieces of good news where "euaggelion" is not specifically written into the text but what is stated in terms of being good news.


Evangelicals have packaged up our English word "gospel" into a nice concise, but limited, concept which states the process by which one is saved.  The New Testament doesn't present the gospel in this simplistic package.  "Euaggelion" is used in the New Testament in a much wider way.   For this reason, I think we as Evangelicals tend to miss the full meaning to the gospel.  


"Euaggelion" is directly associated with the following in the New Testament.
- the gospel of the Kingdom - Matthew 4:23
- the gospel of Jesus Christ - Mark 1:1

- the gospel of grace - Acts 20:24

- the gospel of God  - Romans 1:1

- the gospel of His Son - Romans 1:9

- the gospel of Christ - Romans 1:16

- the gospel of peace - Romans 10:15

- the gospel of the uncircumcision and circumcision - Galatians 2:7

- the everlasting gospel - Revelation 14:6


Beyond the above direct associations, the word "gospel" is also associated with "my (Paul's) gospel (Romans 2:16) and "our" gospel (2 Corinthians 4:3).  Beyond this, the word "gospel" must be understood in its context.  For example, "this gospel" as used in Mark 24:14 and elsewhere must be understood in its context.


I think I can safely say that the word "gospel" as understood by its New Testament usage applies to more than just how one gets saved.  There are numerous pieces of good news the New Testament teaches apart from how one gets saved.  Depending on the context of "euaggelion", to whom "euaggelion" was directed, and, the time in which "euaggelion" is in referred to, will determine how we should understand the specific good news being spoken of in any given passage. 


Galatians 1:6 and following is a key verse that needs to be studied when thinking of "one gospel".  Paul spoke of the Galatians turning to a different gospel.  He then qualifies what he meant by saying that this different gospel isn't really a gospel at all.  In other words, reverting back to law was not good news.  The aspect of the gospel Paul was specifically speaking to in Galatians 1 concerned the gospel of the grace of Jesus that the Galatians were turning from. (Galatians 1:6 - 7)  It should be noted that no where in this passage does Paul specifically say there is "one" gospel.  You might suggest that the words "another gospel" and "the one I preach" states that there is one gospel, and that might well be right.  That being said, I don't believe Paul was making the point that there is one gospel.  His point was that his gospel, the one he preached, differed from the one the Galatians were thinking of adapting.  Think about it this way.  A boy has a bag full of balls.  He pulls one ball out of his bag and asks his friend, "Do you want this ball"?  It's not that they boy only has one ball.  It's that he has one particular ball in his hand that he is offering his friend.   


I conclude that our over simplistic Evangelical gospel as we apply it to getting saved doesn't fully represent the New Testament "euaggelion".  There might well be one gospel, but that one gospel is associated with many pieces of good news items, some of which we have realized, some of which we are in the process of realizing, and, some of which we will yet realize in the future.  The gospel concerns a wide rage of things other than personal salvation.   I guess whether you view the gospel as one gospel with variety aspects, or, more than one gospel, it's your choice to figure out.                                                                                 


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