Recently we sat down with a ministry couple we have a deep appreciation for. We all expressed concern that the gospel we were taught isn’t the same gospel Jesus preached. Then a few days ago, I was invited to speak on the urgency of the gospel. Those words “urgency of the gospel” instantly sparked this thought:
Our most urgent need is to understand what the gospel actually is.
We’ve all heard that the gospel is simple, something to the effect of “Jesus lived a sinless life, died on our behalf, and rose again so we could inherit eternal life”.
I don’t disagree with any of that. But that version of the gospel can’t be all there is.
Before we go any further, please hear me. I’m not saying what Jesus did was lacking in any way. His death and resurrection accomplished exactly what they were intended to. I’m saying the message we’re preaching is incomplete. It includes good news, but not the best news there is.
How do we know there’s more to the gospel?
Because Jesus preached the gospel long before He ever spoke about his death and resurrection.
What gospel did they hear?
Here’s a related question. The Bible refers to the gospel of Salvation, the gospel of God, and the gospel of the Kingdom. Are these distinct gospels, or facets of one gospel?Also, Jesus promised the gospel would be accompanied by miraculous signs and wonders everywhere it’s received. Other parts of the world see these more than we do, but I don’t know anyone claiming to experience them at the level Jesus promised.
We need a deep, broad, tough-minded conversation about what the gospel really is. Part of the challenge is several passages tell us the good news is proclaimed without explicitly saying what it is.
We know God wants us to accept the gospel and bring it everywhere. We also know He hides truth in plain sight throughout scripture, and in the word ‘gospel’ itself.
(First I should clarify, the word ‘gospel’ isn’t a Hebrew word, and doesn’t appear in English translations of the Old Testament. In the New Testament, we see the same Greek word sometimes translated ‘gospel’ and sometimes ‘good news’. And there’s a Hebrew word consistently translated “good news” throughout the Hebrew scriptures. So while we can’t look at the same word across the Old and New Testaments, we can compare parallel terms across the whole Bible.)
Ancient Hebrew characters represent both a sound and a meaning, like Egyptian hieroglyphics. We’ll look at בשר, the Hebrew root word most often translated ‘good news’. Since Hebrew is read from right to left, the first character is a ב, which originally looked like this ב. It depicted the floorplan of a tent and meant ‘house’, or the household or family that lived in the tent.
The next character is the ש. It looked like this שand represented the two front teeth. It symbolized being pressed, stretched, or straightened. To understand this one, imagine a piece of chewing gum. Your teeth press into it, and if you hold one end between your teeth, you can stretch it out and straighten it.
The final character is the ר. It originally looked like this רand represented a human head in profile. It symbolized the head,chief or authority.
These characters combine to form a word picture that reveals insights into the gospel. First, it’s about family. Second, it involves a process of pressing, stretching, and straightening. Finally, it’s about a ruler.
We see each of these confirmed several times throughout the Bible. God’s people are called his family and his household. The gospel is primarily about families, communities, entire people groups, not individuals.
People who wholeheartedly accept the gospel are pressed, stretched and straightened as they’re conformed to God’s image.
And the gospel is about a kingdom. Several passages referring to the good news also describe aspects of God’s kingdom or remind us that He reigns. (That’s one reason we don’t talk to our kids about salvation in terms asking Jesus into their hearts. We talk about acknowledging Jesus as their king).
Knowing who’s enthroned is the best news ever. But there’s more good news embedded in this word.
The truth is, the gospel isn’t a thing.
This Hebrew root word that gets translated “good news” is actually a verb.
Let that sink in for a minute.
It doesn’t just mean “good news”. It means “to bring good news”
This blew my mind, but it should’ve come as no surprise. It’s completely consistent with Hebraic thought. And it’s so like God. God never sends just words. When His word goes out, it’s paired with creation and action.
The gospel is described as the power of God. It brings salvation, but that’s not all.
The gospel isn’t just a message.
It’s a way of life.
The good news about Jesus’ death and resurrection isn’t the best news until we bring it with practical justice. The good news about inheriting eternal life isn’t the best news until we invite people into an experience of family, a kingdom reality here and now.
The good news isn’t the gospel until we bring it.
How does this change your definition of the gospel? Read mine and share yours in the comments…