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by J.R. Buckley The word “gospel” is most literally translated “good news,” although it is also synonymous with “truth” in some circles (e.g., “that’s the gospel truth”). As a follower of Christ, I believe the Gospel is both good news and truth. But what is the Gospel? Within the fundamentalist and evangelical environments where I grew up and spent much of my early adulthood, our gospel was centered on the bad news of human depravity and the good news of Christ’s death and resurrection, which saves us from hell if we believe and give our lives to Jesus. “Sharing the gospel” was highly encouraged and, in the case of one course I was required to complete in college, mandatory. If you weren’t “sharing the gospel” or “witnessing,” you were somehow a lesser Christian than those who were doing this on a regular basis, and probably a much lesser Christian than the people who went to the mall each week handing out “Gospel” tracts or walked door-to-door “sharing the gospel” with complete strangers. So how does the above version of the Gospel compare with the version actually found in the New Testament? When we encounter John the Baptist in the beginning of Matthew’s account, his message is simply, “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” After John was arrested, Mark records that Jesus went out, “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.’” Now would be a good spot to stop and reconsider the question of what the Gospel actually is. The fundamentalist/evangelical version I cited first is not found in John’s or Jesus’ gospel. They bear no resemblance to one another; what we have here are two very different gospels. Some key differences are worth pointing out here: ● Although forgiveness of sins was an element in John’s original gospel ministry, and eventually Christ’s, neither Jesus nor John were trying to convince anyone they were sinners; yet people followed them and were baptized. ● The original gospel message wasn’t that Christ died for our sins to save us from hell, which makes perfect sense in context. At this point, Jesus was still alive and had just begun his earthly ministry, so the formula followed by today’s street witnesses wouldn’t have held up. The original gospel message was simply to repent, for the Kingdom of God/Heaven is at hand.
In order to fully break down the meaning of Jesus and John’s gospel message, I feel obligated to provide a more complete translation of the word “repent.” I’m not a Greek scholar, but thanks to the Internet, I have learned that the original word we translate as “repent” is μετάνοια, or “metanoia.” When broken down into its components, “metanoia” literally means “to think differently after,” or “a change of mind.” 1
jrbuckley.In light of this. my conclusion is one that some may find controversial at first. schools and shopping centers across America). it would seem that Jesus and John were calling upon their followers to engage in deep personal reflection and partake in a radical spiritual transformation as a response to the nearness or immediate presence of God’s Kingdom. or perhaps to ready themselves for its arrival. or the kids who went door-to-door (which I will reiterate is very consistent with the gospel that is preached in churches. The Gospel has been hijacked. (original version and entire series can be found at lowerthoughts.com) 2 . When I compare this message to the hijinks displayed by Kirk and Ray in the YouTube clip I linked to above.