Sunday, April 5, 2009

What is the Gospel?

Over the last couple of years now I have come to wonder why so many preachers in sermons will use the phrase "the gospel" as a kind of tag summary about any passage they happen to be preaching on.
It's almost like every passage they speak on whether it be some chapter that is talking about Christian living eg life by the spirit, Galataians 5:16-26, or wives and husbands raltionships Eph 5:23-33 or speaking of the second coming from 1 Thess 4:13-18 that you hear this christian sound bite that this is "the gospel" dropped into the sermon.
Has the term "the gospel" become so widely used that it's in danger of loosing it's meaning? Indeed do we know what the Bible means when it talks of "the gospel"? When the term is used by Mark is it different to that used by Paul?
Are pastors using the term as some generalisation to gain assent from the listeners to accept what they are saying? Is it that we need to remind ourselves to be like the Bereans who in Acts 17 checked everything that the apostle Paul said against the Sciptures? And he was an apostle, not some guy who happens to be up the front preaching.
Should not pastors work harder at giving application from the text that the text itself implies, so that in the hearers life the rubber hits the road?

Just recently Darrell Bock moderated this panel on March 20, 2009, for the Christian Book Expo in Dallas. There's a video courtesy of Tangle on the Christianity Today site worth watching though it is long. The first 35 miutes give an interesting insight on what they see as the problem and how they understand the gospel.
The panelists are:
Richard Stearns, President, World Vision International and author of The Hole in Our Gospel (Nelson) •Mark D. Roberts, Can We Trust the Gospels? (Crossway) •Tullian Tchividjian, Do I Know God? (Multnomah) •Justin Taylor, The Supremacy of Christ in a Postmodern World (Crossway)

As evangelicals they are asking or addressing the question what is the gospel which is certainly a question doing the rounds at the moment. Have a listen, but be discerning, I will say somethings about what they have said next time.

For the present I want to point out something so many Christians and sometimes pastors fail to understand when looking at the four gospels.

Some pastors use parralel bibles on the Gospels incorrectly. they use them when preaching on some passage to work up a "story" on what a particular passage in one of the gospels is saying by ripping off all the bits that have apparantly the same event or parable or teaching and putting them together. This is sloppy hermeneutics.

We need to remind ourselves that each gospel has a specific teaching point as a whole. They are not mere chronological histories telling the life of Jesus, they are teaching specific doctrine, they have a particular point to teach and that is mostly guided by the specific audience they were directed at. That is why there are four gospels and not one. If they were merely chronolgical histories of the life of Jesus then you would need only one!

One of the best commentaries I have read on getting to grips with this is David Gooding's 'According to Luke' IVP 1987.
I was fortunate to have a great Old Testament lecturer at Moore Theological College whom I have come to appreciate even more after writing a series of Bible studies in Luke's Gospel. Barry Webb taught us to appreciate not just the exegetical niceties of the text but to look at the connecting literary structure and themes found throughout a particular book. It's no wonder as he did his PhD I seem to remember at sheffield in England. Thanks Barry.

Have a good read,
God bless

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