By Joel Wentz
At Missio Dei Church, our vision is to elevate and embrace Jesus as our only hope, and to contribute to the wellbeing of the Portland Region, through a movement of the Gospel that enlivens spiritually and personally, and engages socially and culturally.
The question “What is the ‘gospel’?” is at the core of what it means to claim Christian belief and membership in the church, and yet, the term at the center of this question - Gospel - is easy to overlook, to make assumptions about, or to simply misunderstand. The purpose of this short article is to provide clarity on what the term “Gospel” means, as we understand it at Missio Dei Church. As someone considering membership in the local body of Missio Dei, it is crucial for you to know both that the Gospel is foundational to our belief and practice, but also what precisely we mean when we say “the Gospel.”
In the New Testament, the Greek term that gets translated into the English word “gospel” is euangelion. This word is a compound term, combining the prefix “eu,” which simply means “good,” with the term “angelion,” which means “message.” (Incidentally, the term “angel” is derived from this Greek term for “message,” as Angels are God’s “messengers.”) Thus, the simplest way to translate the word euangelion is “Good Message,” “Good Tidings,” or more familiarly, “Good News.” This is at the heart of what Christians believe. The Gospel is, before anything else, profoundly good news for humans. This is the good news Jesus was proclaiming at the very beginning of his earthly ministry, when he declared “The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God has come near; repent and believe in the euangelion.” (Mark 1:15, NRSV)
Imagine a time in which you received wonderful news. Good news, or a good announcement, disrupts our lives in the best way. A dear friend was deeply ill and has suddenly recovered, your spouse has been looking for a job for 6 months and suddenly an opportunity opened up, the couple who could not get pregnant finds out they are expecting, or you receive a completely unexpected gift. These are all examples of how good news interrupts our lives, effectively saying “you thought your life, or your reality, looked like [my friend will never recover, we will never find a job, we will never have a child, etc.], but actually your reality is good, or at least so much better than you imagined. If these examples of earthly-based good news produce such a powerful sense of joy and relief in our hearts, then how much more should the reception of the eternally-true pronouncement of Good News from our Father in Heaven produce in us assurance, hope, faith and love?
But what precisely is the content of this Good News pronouncement? Centuries of Christian tradition have reflected on this question, but we believe that the core of the Good News is simple: God has acted decisively in Jesus to make salvation available to humans through faith. News, whether good or bad, always points to an event, to something that has happened. The Gospel, therefore, is a declaration that points to an event in history, the action of God, which Christians believe culminated in the crucifixion of Jesus under Pontius Pilate in the first century, his resurrection three days later, his enthronement at the right hand of the Father in heaven and the outpouring of his Spirit on the church, which has continued to be the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit, proclaiming this Good News for millenia.
The implications of this Good News are profound, and the stuff of deep theological interpretation. Matters of human sin, the Trinitarian being of God, the incarnation of Jesus and atoning work of Christ on the cross, the role of repentance and ongoing sanctification of humans, how the end of all things will unfold and how the afterlife will be experienced are merely a few examples of such implications (you can see our specific understanding of some of these matters of Christian doctrine in the document Theology and the Church, which goes into more detail on many of these issues). While the study of such matters is important, and can be genuinely edifying for the Christian life, the implications of the Gospel should never be confused with the Gospel itself: the pronouncement that God has acted to save us, and that this is Good News for us, because we are not able to save ourselves.
Missio Dei Church seeks to be a community built upon this Good-News-foundation. As such, we endeavor to consistently elevate the name of Jesus as the one through whom God acted in history, prayerfully seek the enlivening of human hearts as they receive the transformative Good News of the Gospel, and engage our surrounding community with this Good News so that others can experience the salvation of God. (see the MDC mission statement at the beginning of this article for the use of this terminology)
As someone considering membership in our community, know that this understanding of the Gospel is at the center of everything we do, and that just as salvation from God is a gift, so too is membership in his church (the body of Christ). Should you commit to membership in our body, we pray you may do so joyfully, as we seek to live upon the truth of the Gospel together.
Some Other Scriptures that use the term “euangelion”:
And this [euangelion] of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. (Matthew 24.14)
After much discussion, Peter got up and addressed them: “Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the [euangelion] and believe. (Acts 15.7)
For I am not ashamed of the [euangelion], because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. (Romans 1.16)
I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different [euangelion]— which is really no [euangelion] at all. (Galatians 1.6-7a)
And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the [euangelion] of your salvation. (Ephesians 1.13)
For we know, brothers and sisters loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our [euangelion] came to you not simply with words but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and deep conviction. (1 Thessalonians 1.4-5)
Then I saw another angel flying in midair, and he had the eternal [euangelion] to proclaim to those who live on the earth—to every nation, tribe, language and people. (Revelation 14.6)