I remember a time when I was desperate. Actually, I remember several times in my life where desperation overcame me. My life was in total disarray. No sense of normal was possible.
We all agree to have desperation in common, if we were totally honest.
Regardless of the desperate circumstance, relief eventually comes. Either the finances change or the illness regresses. Desperate circumstances never last forever, unless we just cannot grasp a solution.
The term gospel is a word associated with the Church. For some this word might bring to mind a Church experience. For others, the word gospel is the category of music to listen to in iTunes.
Yet the term gospel is clear and precise.
The gospel is good news. But to understand fully the emotion of hearing this good news, let us look at the original context of this word.
From the earliest Christian traditions the word gospel meant the merciful rescue of a desperate humanity through the work and life of Jesus Christ. The contrast of the good news in comparison to the desperation of the situation causes the one rescued to feel extreme joy.
The Greeks used the term gospel for favorable political or military news. The Romans used the term to proclaim the birth of a future emperor, or of his coming of age or accession to the throne. Jewish culture in the Old Testament referred to gospel as a military victory or deliverance…or even the destruction of an enemy.[i]
The history of salvation centers on the concept of the gospel. Without the victorious redemption from a desperate circumstance, there is no good news. There is no Savior.
The Apostle Paul speaks of the Church:
“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” [Ephesians 2:10, ESV].
The good works that Christians are called to complete involve the good news, the gospel. Christians are made by grace and thus do not choose to work for the gospel. This grace is most abundant when it is given to people who were not asking for it to begin with. This is what makes grace so valuable. People never ask for grace. God gives it and those who receive it are happy to do whatever He asks.
The purpose of the granting of grace is to build something that only God can build. He does this through the work of individuals made new, or regenerate. To regenerate is to be born anew, literally to become a new person. Yet the individual is never a new person in Christ alone. The work of other Christians, or the Church, is that good work destined by God for new people in Christ to accomplish. The Good Works of the Good News is to preach that Good News so that others may participate in the joy.
Carl F.H. Henry was the first editor-in-chief of Christianity Today. He states about the gospel,
In this body of humanity the kingdom takes visible form. Its members are light and salt in the world through a lifestyle conformed to the coming King’s standards, through global confession of Jesus as the Christ, and through vocational mission that consecrates talent to God for human good.[ii]
The vocational mission Henry speaks of is the good works God prepares for all Christians to confess Christ. Yet the good works are centered on the spread of the gospel. If a desperate person has joy after being rescued from the difficulty, would that person not want everyone to know about it? I would.
Likewise, the Church is made by God through grace by gifting his mercy upon individuals. Each and every person who embraces this grace joins others in doing good works. But let us understand that these good works or Carl Henry’s “vocational mission” is for the purpose of voicing the Good News. The gospel is a herald of joy, of victory, destruction of bondage, a rising of a great leader, or favored person.
Has someone done a Good Work for you recently? Christ was there if that work was accomplished by the Church.
What kind of Good Work are you doing and with whom are you doing it? What Good News is heard by those to whom the Good Work is rescuing?
[i] Carl F.H. Henry, God Revelation and Authority, Volume III. Crossway Books; Wheaton, Illinois ©1979, 1999, p. 63.
[ii] Ibid, p. 69.