Just being real here, I was always confused by the word, “Gospel.” It was—and is—such a “churchy” word, and I never truly grasped what it meant.
The reason for my confusion I suppose, is that in modern Christianity it can mean so many things.
At its core, the word gospel comes from the same Greek root word where get “evangelism.” But what does it mean?
You probably know, “gospel” means “To announce good news; declare, bring (good) glad tidings.” This comes from Strong’s Concordance, which also says gospel can mean “a good message.”
But somehow, we’ve gotten a bit off track over the centuries. For instance, we’ve heard someone say, “That’s the gospel truth!”
I guess if we are saying, “This is good news of glad tidings, and truthful, too,” the phrase works.
Yet most of the time, someone saying, “Gospel truth” is talking about something they believe is a fact. As an example, “I saw Ricky steal it; that’s the gospel truth.” I’m not beating up on anyone here (I’ve probably used the phrase myself), but “gospel truth” doesn’t always fit with the meaning of “gospel.” Because Ricky stealing may be true, but that’s not good news at all.
Is this a big deal? Perhaps it is.
Because if we take a word which means “good news or glad tidings,” and use it in a different context, we’ve distorted that meaning, even if just a little. This matters because once we lose the meaning of a word (dictionaries have now adjusted the meaning of “gospel” because we’ve so changed the original definition), we lose its power.
This isn’t about being the grammar police. I’d be lousy at “grammar policing” if I tried.
But if we want to find the 1stFaith of those who first proclaimed the good news, we need to know what we are saying.
When Jesus says, “Preach the gospel of the kingdom,” he is exhorting his followers to tell the good news. And the good news is that there is a kingdom to come; a kingdom where there is no death, there are no tears and where people live joyfully together. It is a place where goodness rules the day; without crime, hopelessness or fear.
This is danged good news. Oh yes, and it is true.
Just an observation here, but I believe we—in modern-day Christianity—sometimes miss the good news.
When those first followers talked about the good news (yep, I’m inserting “good news” in place of “gospel” for clarity’s sake), this was not only good, but revolutionary. Many Jews (except for the Pharisees) and Gentiles did not believe there was life after death.
But the good news was different. The good news they shared told people if they followed Jesus Christ, they would experience resurrection. They would one day be raised from the dead and experience life in the age to come.
For a people thinking death was the end-all, this was not just good news, but stunningly exciting news.
This was the focus of Paul, Peter, James, John and all those first followers.
Today, “good news” is translated as “gospel” in most of our Bibles. This isn’t worth fighting some theological war of words. But still, I need to remember they—those first followers—saw their mission as telling great news for a hurting and struggling world. They couldn’t keep it to themselves.
Their “good news” perspective was effective, and changed the world. If I want their effectiveness, perhaps I need to think less about “THE GOSPEL” and more about the good news.