The word gospel means, simply, good news. In Christianity, the gospel is Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection which makes it possible for us to be reconciled to God and restored to wholeness. It is the promise of death’s defeat and resurrection. When we cry out “This isn’t the way it’s supposed to be!” it is the hope that it isn’t and that, one day, all things will be restored. It is the anticipation of God’s dwelling being with people and the removal of death, tears, mourning, and pain. That’s the good news – the gospel.
Most people think of the gospel as a noun. It is a thing. You hear about it. You receive it. You believe it. You share it. The gospel is something you can hold on to, put in your pocket for another day, or give away much like bacon (why you would put bacon in your pocket OR give it away is a mystery, but I digress…).
But in 1 Corinthians 15:1 Paul makes a very interesting statement. In our English translations it doesn’t seem so interesting. The NIV translation simply says, “I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you…” Nothing interesting there, but the Greek is quite different. The literal Greek translation of this phrase is, “I want to remind you of the gospel I gospelled.”
Or, the good news I good newsed.
“Gospel”, in this case, is both a noun and a verb. Not only is it a thing, but it also something you do.
Something you live.
Something you embody.
The world needs us to. For far too long we have reduced the gospel to making a one-time decision to deal with out sin. Dallas Willard refers to this as a “gospel of sin management.” Jesus, in his death on the cross, atones for our sin so that we can go to heaven when we die. This is what we have reduced the gospel to.
But if this is the gospel, then we have to ask, did Jesus preach the gospel? Yes, Jesus did talk about his death and he did talk about rising from the dead three days later. But he didn’t connect this to the forgiveness of sins. He connected it to the greater story of what God was doing in creation by connecting the death and resurrection to the scriptures – the Old Testament. It is in the Old Testament that God promised that justice would roll, that every person would sit under their own vine, that shalom would be established, and God would dwell with his people. This is the idea of the kingdom of God
Which is exactly what Jesus preached. Jesus preached that the kingdom of God was at hand, it was near. He even preached it had come upon us. The kingdom of God is where the rule and reign of God is established. Jesus preached more than just getting our sins taken care of; he preached that the consequence of sin no longer had authority over our lives. So he told the paralyzed man to pick up his mat and walk. He gave the blind man his sight. He preached good news to the poor. He fed people when they were hungry. He told prostitutes their identity wasn’t caught up in what they did. He told the dead girl to wake up. And he forgave sins.
In other words, he gospelled.
And so should we.
If we only preach a gospel of sin management or that we get to go to heaven when we die then tell, how is that good news for the girl caught in the sex trade? How is it good news to the man who riddled with rage? How is it good news to the couple whose marriage is falling apart? How is it good news to the high school boy who is just trying to fit it? How is it good news to the individual oppressed by a system full of injustices? If it is just about managing sin, how is it good news in this life?
The gospel that Jesus, Paul, and the apostles preached was a gospel that was good news after we die and now. It was good news that healed, restored, and gave up. The blind see, the deaf hear, the dead rise, the poor are given justice, the leper touched, the sinner forgiven in this kingdom upon you gospel.
Good news now.
So, what does it mean for you to gospel?