Thursday, September 1, 2011

Helpful Gospel Definitions

Over the past few years Trevin Wax has been doing a series of blog posts entitled "Gospel Definitions". In them he quotes various authors/scholars stating what the gospel is. Here are some that I find particularly helpful:

C.H. Dodd

“The Gospel” Summarized in 6 Parts

The Age of Fulfillment has dawned, the “latter days” foretold by the prophets. (Acts 3:18-26)
This has taken place through the birth, life, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. (Acts 2:22-31)
By virtue of the resurrection, Jesus has been exalted at the right hand of God as Messianic head of the new Israel. (Acts 2:32-36)
The Holy Spirit in the church is the sign of Christ’s present power and glory. (Acts 10:44-48)
The Messianic Age will reach its consummation in the return of Christ. (Acts 3:20-21)
An appeal is made for repentance with the offer of forgiveness, the Holy Spirit, and salvation. (Acts 2:37-41)

F.F. Bruce

The basic elements in the message were these:

1. the prophecies have been fulfilled and the new age inaugurated by the coming of Christ;
2. he was born into the family of David;
3. he died according to the Scriptures, to deliver his people from this evil age;
4. he was buried, and raised again the third day, according to the Scriptures;
5. he is exalted at God’s right hand as Son of God, Lord of living and dead;
6. he will come again, to judge the world and consummate his saving work.”

Michael Bird

“Taken together we can infer from I Corinthians 15:3 – 5, Romans 1:1-4 and II Timothy 2:8, that the gospel is both about the person and work of Christ.

“God promised in the scriptures that He would renew creation and restore Israel. The gospel is the good news that God has made these promises good in Jesus, the Messiah and Lord. Jesus died and rose for the purpose of atoning for sins, and through faith in Him and His work believers are reconciled to God.

“The new age has been launched and God has revealed His saving righteousness in the gospel so that He justifies and delivers persons from the penalty and power of sin and death.”

J.I. Packer

“I formulate the Gospel this way: it is information issuing in invitation; it is proclamation issuing in persuasion. It is an admonitory message embracing five themes. First, God: the God whom Paul proclaimed to the Athenians in Acts 17, the God of Christian theism.

Second, humankind: made in God’s image but now totally unable to respond to God or do anything right by reason of sin in their moral and spiritual system. Third, the person and work of Christ: God incarnate, who by dying wrought atonement and who now lives to impart the blessing that flows form his work of atonement.

Fourth, repentance, that is, turning from sin to God, from self-will to Jesus Christ. And fifthly, new community: a new family, a new pattern of human togetherness which results from the unity of the Lord’s people in the Lord, henceforth to function under the one Father as a family and a fellowship.” (44, emphasis added)

Friday, May 13, 2011

Gospel Meals

“And as he sat at dinner in Levi’s house, many tax-collectors and sinners were also sitting with Jesus and his disciples—for there were many who followed him” (Mark 2.15).

My church loves food. This is a good thing because I love food too. Years ago we started a ministry called “fellowship lunch” (which is essentially an enormous pot-luck (providence?)) that takes place about once a month. There is something about food, something about table-fellowship, that we know is right. When we are sitting down, eating and fellowshipping we know in our bones that “this is the way things were meant to be!” Why is that?

The Gospel of Mark points us in the right direction. Mark, like my church and like me, is obsessed with food. In Mark 2 Jesus eats with tax collectors and sinners, in Mark 6 Jesus feeds 5000, in Mark 8 Jesus feeds 4000, in Mark 14 Jesus is eating when he is anointed and later is eating with his disciples when he inaugurates the Lord’s Supper (a meal we celebrate again and again), and there is also a meal in the extended ending of the gospel in Mark 16. As if that weren’t enough, he includes an entire “bread section” spanning from 6:33-8:26 in which the word bread (greek. ortos) occurs no less than seventeen times. That’s a lot of food!

Through these meals Mark clarifies for his readers who Jesus is and what he came to do. God’s plan and promise was to send his Messiah (i.e. the liberating-king) to Israel to establish his new society and rescue his people from the evil that enslaved them. This plan was, all along, not just for “righteous” Israel but was meant for the entire world; Jew and Gentile alike, righteous and unrighteous.

When God came he would set his people right and set his world right so that there would be a renewed people under the rule of God’s king in God’s place. Sinners would be healed and God’s people would have fellowship with him and with one another. When this happened it would be an enormous celebration. And the point is that in Jesus all these things are coming true.

This is what the cross and resurrection is all about. Jesus gave himself so people could be liberated from their sin and brought safely into his kingdom. His body, the bread, and his blood, the wine, are given to make all things new. Now all who give up their lives for Jesus participate in the life of God’s new world. The party has begun. The feast is taking place. Jesus calls out to the world and says, “Pull up a chair. It’s on me.”