The Gospel (Part 2): Which one?

I want to eventually write some posts on what I believe the gospel message is (any time now :-)). But I thought it might be good to talk about a few related things first to warm us up a bit to the topic. In this post I would like to hear your thoughts on whether or not you think there is only one gospel for all churches in all ages to preach and believe and defend, or whether you think that the gospel needs to be adapted by the church for different times and places. So for a start, I have to two questions for those that are interested in commenting:

  • In one sentence, how would you describe the gospel message that you first heard and believed when you became a Christian, and in another sentence how would you best describe the gospel as you understand it (differently?) now?
  • What are some of the other brands/emphases/types of the gospel message that you have observed or come into contact with in your life that you disagree with in some way?

I look forward to hearing all your different stories and experiences!


10 thoughts on “The Gospel (Part 2): Which one?

  1. Hmmm. I was brought up in a Christian home, and was taught the Bible “from the days of my youth,” so I can’t really give you an answer to your first point. I was brought up to know the whole Bible, not a specific aspect or part of it.
    How would I describe the Gospel in one sentence? Probably as the angel in Rev 14:7, who said:
    “Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come: and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters.” (AV)
    I’d add: Worship God, who sent his only Begotten Son (through whom all things were made!) to suffer and die on the cross so that all who repent and believe on him might obtain foregiveness unto eternal life, in his glorious presence.

    Teaching that I’ve come across that contradicts the Biblical teaching, or presents an incorrect 1-sided view:
    –> a message that talks only about God’s love and completely ignores his holiness, righteousness, justice, etc. What reason do people have to repent – change their present manner of living – based on this message?
    –> the idea that you can become a Christian – declare yourself a servant of the Lord Jesus Christ – and carry on living life without any changes that reflect you are serving a New and Holy Lord. Yet Christ told his followers that the mark of their love for Him was to be seen in their obedience to Him and all He taught.
    –> the idea that if you become a Christian, God will make all your material problems in this life (wealth, persecution, etc) go away. Yet we are warned that the life of a Christian in this world may well become even harder as a consequence of persecution – we are told to build up treasure in Heaven, not on earth.

    • Hi Ken. Do you mean that your understanding of the gospel hasn’t changed much since your childhood? What I was trying to get out from my question was the difference between what you first believed when you received the Spirit and what you believe now. I have found that God has often introduced me to whole new worlds in his Word as I have grown older (especially in the last few years). I have realised that there is quite a difference between covering the width of the scriptural facts and covering the depths of the Truth in Jesus.

      I agree with you about the one-sided preaching that we hear today. Where have you come into contact with this? Have you been in churches like this or had friends who believe these things? I have been in a lot of churches in my short life so far, so I have come across some crazy stuff. I was once in a church where we listened to a psychadelic non-verbal worship song playing on a sound system while the pastor narrated a vision that we should all meditate on. He was barefoot, wearing a Hawaian T-shirt and managed to insert the f-word into his 10 minute sermon. The main focus seemed to be that we should feed street children. I guess that would be another form of message we see out there where people are focussing on the needs in the local community like feeding, clothing and housing the poor. I have heard that the Catholics are very good at that compared to many Protestant churches. I find that we Christians often battle to reconcile our view of ‘the gospel’ with social justice issues like fighting abortion laws and building orphanages.

      Interestingly, your description of the gospel seems quite strongly biased towards the cross and repentance. Would you say that this is because of the Christian church you grew up in?

  2. “What are some of the other brands/emphases/types of the gospel message that you have observed or come into contact with in your life that you disagree with in some way?”

    That worshiping God means getting giddy through rhyming jingles where we spill our contentment and commitment to him, for ever and always – rather than standing in awe of him, quietly. When we sing like we have Job’s caliber of faith though we’ve never been tested like him and daily fall easier than him.

    That the corporate gathering of the body is a good time to close your eyes and have the closet worship you should have had during the week. That now is the time to block out all those who have just gathered around you. This is so backwards!

    And more to the point (of the question):

    That God wants to save us so we can go live in heaven with him.

    That attending an established church building means your probably a good Christian – and that one not so organized or that doesn’t own/rent a building is something to worry about.

    Gospels of over-righteousness are also very frustrating to encounter and iconic, I think, of the “do not taste, touch, eat” crowds of the past. I happen to like tobacco and alcohol and don’t like that other “churched-folk” might look down on me, though their hearts may in fact be way off the mark. I guess it’s the needle-plank routine of this over-rightous bunch. I think there are many good things to be redeemed and to be thankful for that we’ve cast aside in the name of holiness – which is often, I’m afraid, more a mask of 1950’s boot-strap righteousness. On the flip side of this, I love Christians who can “dine with sinners”, though I know these are few and far between – just as real Christians are.

    Sorry for rambling.

    • Hey Kris. It is really sad when the Good News produces bad news like that. It can leave one feeling angry and isolated from other believers. Sometimes I feel like the way church has been run for centuries (with a teacher or pastor in a one-man ministry model) has caused a lot of the spiritual disease we see today (even in ourselves!). I am becoming convinced that God has given apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers (or pastor-teachers) to equip the saints for all the time until He comes, and unless we get all our daily vitamins and minerals from these extremely varied sources regularly we are going to have malnutrition. Seriously, when pastors rule the roost, there will be lots of happy bleeting sheep but a shortage of confrontation on hypocrisy by prophets. Equally when you have teachers ruling the roost, there will be lots of grass for the sheep to munch on and a gate doubly bolted closed to protect them from the goats but no evangelist to emphasize that those on the other side of the fence are also hungry. I’m spitting out atrocious metaphors at a rate, but you get my drift. Maybe the hypocrisy and self-righteousness you talk about wouldn’t be as prevalent if we had apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers in our churches? As my one good friend says, when God gave us the five fold ministry, there weren’t any redundant folds. When one emphasis is missing, a Christian community will lack massively (and probably not know or feel it). Again, sinners will be sinners. This is just one of the things that could have fed the types of ‘gospel’ that you have encountered. I would be interested to hear if you think that this is relevant.

      So what was the Gospel that you first believed in then? You grew up a Baptist, right? And how would you describe the one you teach\share\live now? Probably a little more Wrightian I imagine 😉

  3. In one sentence:

    Gospel #1 God sent his son, Jesus, to die on the cross for my sins (but death couldn’t even beat him) so that if I believe this, I can go to heaven and be forgiven.

    Gospel #2 I’m not sure I could do this in a sentence, concerning how I understand it now. It’d take a lot more thought, that’s for sure.

    My sociology professor once told me I didn’t understand anything he taught me unless I could re-explain to him the topics and concepts in a way a 3rd grader could understand. So here’s the gospel in a sentence for a 3rd grader:

    It’s a true story about the Greatest Person Ever making the worst of relationships, between himself and his creation, good as new.

  4. The gospel that I responded to back in the day was that: I had to be born again to have access to God (for some reason I wanted access to God).

    The gospel that I live in today is that: in Jesus I can be fully reconciled to God, and so become a working part of the kingdom of his will and heart.

    On what I believe to be false gospels: There are too many flavours; but in principle these are “selective” gospels. Gospels which are easily described in one sentence ( ;op ) because they do not have the capacity for the many facets touched on in the Word.

    • Please dont take this as nit-picking in a negative sense. I think it’s fun to think about this: you mentioned that you want to live for and be a part of God’s kingdom which is characterized and guided by his “will” and his “heart”?

      I wonder, what really is the difference between these two things? I feel that so many times in Scripture we hear about God doing things for his pleasure and will. And I think the answer to my question lies largely in how we English speakers hear “will” as it is translated from the Greek.

      So what is it that you think of when you read God’s “will” in the NT?

      • Hi Lylelife! Thanks for the question, although I might answer it in my own way…

        The reason why I choose to use this expression is that it relates to our experiences of God’s kingdom:
        Sometimes we feel like servants; God just communicates his will to us, and we have no insight about it but do it because we believe that God is good and trustworthy.
        Other times we experience the kingdom like sons when God shows us something of how he feels. We then have a sense of intimacy with our father, and we experience something of God’s heart in our own while doing his will.

        In reality the servant and the son are the same thing, but we often initially don’t undertsand that. I use the “will and heart” expression especially because many children of God only expect to experience one or the other. I believe this is a serious mistake which really grieves the will and heart of God ;o)

        I look forward to talk again!

        • 🙂 I see. I like your thinking, and indeed: both “will” and “heart” do communicate these two facets of our relationship with God.

          The reason I ask is cause in the Greek, these words that are commonly translated as “will” and “desire” (Eph 1.4) are both, in fact, closer to the concept of wishes/desires/wants/etc. than what “will” connotes to me personally – which is something more regal, definitive and needn’t be fueled by emotion.

          That said, in the Greek at least for this “will” word, the servant aspect wouldn’t necessarily be indicated through this word – for both reference the more son-like/relationshipesque quality.

          Sorry to bother you with this tedious stuff, that’s just part of the problem for me I guess with dealing with theology in English and Greek. Semantics! A pain in the butt sometimes!

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