What is the gospel?
The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Mark 1.1
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. Romans 1.16
What is the gospel? What is a gospel? For many of us, the first picture that comes to our minds is something written in a book. And perhaps in addition to that written thing it is something we cherish in our hearts. Is this really what we ought to think of when we begin reading Mark or Romans? I think actually no, the gospel is not something written and not something we just cherish in our hearts. Listen to Origen’s definition of gospel, ‘Gospel is speech announcing events that, rightly because of the benefits they bring, bring joy to the hearer when the announcement is received.’ The gospel is a verbal announcement that is beneficial to the hearers. They didn’t have much for newspapers in print or online back in the 1st century. Instead, news traveled with people who would verbally share it with others. Thus the word gospel really isn’t just something we believe in our hearts or read in a book, but is something first and foremost that is proclaimed like any other good news. Imagine the news when the Allies had victory in Europe or in Japan: that was good news for the Allies and their citizens. This is the sort of thing the gospel is, to the Nth degree: a proclamation of good news, something that brings joy to the hearer when the announcement is received.
This brings us back to the gospels. It is only Mark who actually mentions “gospel” at the beginning of his book, and being the careful readers that we are, we realize that he doesn’t identify his book as a gospel, but as the beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Why do we have it like that? What is Mark’s point? He has written this large book for what purpose? I think it is to narrate the gospel for future generations. Without an authoritative account about the news, there would be much difficulty in passing the account on to future generations. What we call the gospels were written so that the church could hear the news of the life of Jesus and we could then go out and proclaim it ourselves. We don’t get new iterations for every generation, we have four authentic authoritative accounts that are relevant to all generations and all the nations of the world, though every generation of Christians are new ambassadors or news anchors for their time. The accounts of the life of Jesus Christ that we find in the gospels are the cornerstone of our belief, and without them, we would be missing the details of the news.
This is why we as a church have surveyed the gospels every year. They remind us about the life of Christ and the great news that is attached to that. This is why Paul in Romans says that the gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes. The good news proclaimed is powerful to those who believe in it. The life of Christ transforms lives and gives us hope. May we in this season of revisiting the account of the news of Jesus rejoice in the power of the gospel and go out and proclaim it to be heard again.