The Multifaceted Word "Gospel"

Recently I began teaching an exegesis class on the Gospel according to John for GoldenGate Baptist Theological Seminary and the Salt Lake Baptist Association.  GGBTS has a Contextualized Leadership Development program in which non-seminary trained leaders in the local church can take seminary type classes from professors that have completed their Master of Divinity Degree.

Before jumping into exegesis of John, we spent our first week wrestling with the word “Gospel” and how this word has a multifaceted meaning.  For many of us this word means the basic Gospel message; Christ’s life, death, and resurrection to bring us salvation.  To others it elicits thoughts of the first four books of the New Testament and the record of Christ’s life found there.  So how are we to think about this word “Gospel”?  What we think about the word “Gospel” will have major implications as we dive into the Gospel according to John or any other of the New Testament Gospels.

Paul in Romans 1:1-6 gives us a very thorough description of the “Gospel of God” he has been set apart for, rooting his Gospel in the prophecies of scripture about Christ, Christ’s life, and how Christ’s life effects us through grace.  The Gospel can be seen as something proclaimed such as in 1 Thessalonians 2:2.  Mark records the Gospel to be about the life of Christ in Mark 1:1.  Matthew records the Gospel to include the idea of God’s restored reign when he speaks about “Gospel of the kingdom” in Matthew 4:23.  Finally, Isaiah likes to think of the Gospel as good news to the afflicted in Isaiah 61:1.  As a quick survey of the word in the Bible shows us, this “Gospel” word may be bigger than we often think.

I have included a great video featuring my New Testament professor at Southern Seminary, Dr. Jonathan Pennington, discussing this very word “Gospel.”  This is a promotion for his upcoming book on the Gospels called Reading the Gospels Wisely.  I had the privilege of hearing the material in this book in lecture form and have read pieces of it.  I highly encourage you to put this book on your wish list; it is on mine.  The content in this book has been invaluable to my development in thinking about the “Gospel” as recorded in the “Gospels.”

Dr. Pennington understands the Gospels to be “theological, historical, virtue-forming, biographical narratives that retell the story and proclaim the significance of Jesus Christ, who is the Restorer of God’s reign.”  The Gospels are theological because they are teaching us about Christ, and pushing us toward belief in or against Jesus.  The Gospels are historical because they record the actual historical events of Christ’s life and ministry.  The Gospels are virtue-forming since Christ is presented as the Son of God to be emulated by His followers.  The Gospels are biographical in the sense that they most closely resemble biographical writing, yet with several differences.  Finally, all these aspects of the Gospel are presented in the sweetest literary genre of narrative.  True stories that speak to our heart about the most important message ever proclaimed: The kingdom of God is a hand in the person of Christ, repent and believe the Gospel!
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