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Before we consider how the “Word of the Cross” (eg. 1Cor.1:18) relates to the Apostles’ message recorded in Acts (ie. “Jesus is Lord”), we need to think about the content of “the gospel.”
Now, everyone has some idea about this. The Greek word for “gospel” is “euangelion“; it’s made up of two parts: “eu-” meaning “good,” and “angelion” meaning “news.” So, “Gospel” means “Good News,” right? It’s the good news about Jesus dying for our sins, about our being saved by faith alone in him alone.
We need to be careful at this point about not falling for the idea that the meaning of a word is determined by its history. For example, the word “decimation” originally meant “reduced by one-tenth.” Now it means almost complete destruction!
In any literature, the meaning of a word is found by observing its actual use. What may we say about the euangelion group of words?
In New Testament times, Christians’ Bible was the Greek translation of the Old Testament – the “Septuagint.” The basic meaning of the word euangelion is “news.” The context tells us whether or not it is received as good news , and in most cases it is. (When a man brought news of Saul’s death to David, he thought he was bringing good news, but it was bad news to David. And it ended badly for the messenger – see 2Sam 4:10f.)
In the New Testament, euangelion refers to the content of the message preached by Jesus and his apostles, the gospel about God’s Kingdom. Eg. Mk.1:14-15, “…after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.'”
This kingdom-message includes the fact of coming judgment by the King. In Rev.14:6-7, John sees and hears an angel flying overhead bearing “an eternal gospel.” The angel says, “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come, and worship him who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water.” This also is a part of the marvellous news of God’s Kingdom: it’s good news to some, bad news for many.
What is the gospel? It is the message from God, centring on King Jesus, about all that his Lordship means for the creation. The actual detailed content of the message will vary, according to the circumstances. We must not reduce the gospel to a few trite statements, or limit it to what makes people feel good!
Please let’s have your bouquets or brickbats in the comments below!