WHAT IS “THE GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRIST?”

by: Pastor Rob Helton

Many Christians don’t know what the Gospel of Jesus Christ is. I know that’s a bold statement, so let me explain.

I grew up learning that the Gospel of Jesus was the “good news” that Jesus died on a cross so that I could go to heaven. That’s true (sort of), but the Gospel is more than that…much more!

The word “gospel,” in the first century world had a very specific application. In the Roman Empire, “the Gospel” was the official announcement of the birth or coronation of a new Emperor. (I’m indebted to N.T. Wright, Scott McKnight and other good historians for this information.)

This new Emperor would be given the official title of “Lord.” So, in Rome, “the Gospel” was the proclamation, the announcement, the “good news,” that a new Caesar had been crowned “Lord.”

Imagine you live in a Roman province in the first century. One day an emissary of the Roman government arrives in your town, stands in the court square, unrolls a scroll and begins to read. “Hear the gospel of Rome! Caesar Tiberius (or Caliqula or Claudius or Nero) has been crowned Lord!”

When the New Testament writers used the word “Gospel,” they were hijacking it from the political world of their day. Essentially, they were proclaiming the truly good news that a new Lord had been crowned…and his name was Jesus.

Both Peter and Paul made the highly controversial and politically charged claim that the titles of “Messiah” (the Jewish title for God’s anointed king) and “Lord” (the Gentile title for Caesar) now belong to Jesus. Read Acts 2:29-36 and Philippians 2:9-11.

So, to believe the gospel of Jesus Christ is to believe that Jesus is Lord. To share the gospel of Jesus Christ is to invite others to believe that Jesus is Lord. He is not waiting to be crowned Lord someday. He is Lord now!

In a world that operates under the misguided perception that presidents, dictators and demagogues are the “lords” of the world, I think we must proclaim the gospel that is true to the scriptures, the gospel first preached by the apostles, the gospel that is more than a Star Trek, “beam us up,” gospel.

We must proclaim that, “God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.” (Acts 2:32-36) We must proclaim that “God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:9-11)

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