Thursday, March 18, 2010

Euangelion - Revisited and Clarified

My March 10th, 2010 blog entry - "The Gospel is the good news about Jesus, right?" - presented an idea that a lot of people seem to have trouble with; a more complete definition of the word "gospel". Rather than being simply "good news", the more complete definition of the original Greek was "a reward given to one who brings good news of victory".

Though I have not gotten any response on the blog itself (is anybody out there?) the presentation of this idea in other settings has led to what might best be described as "mixed reviews". Some become confused, others annoyed. But actually, this idea is not so radical as it might seem.


So how does this information change our thinking about the gospel? Before addressing what changes, it might be good to mention some things that stay the same.

Some things that don't change

-> The gospel is still about Christ's Kingdom, Christ Himself and God's grace, purchased for us at Christ's cross.
-> The gospel is still from God and for sinful man.
-> The gospel is still the power of God unto salvation for those who will receive its message. (This should be a major motivator in our desire to fully understand what the gospel is.)
-> The gospel is still revealing the righteousness of God.
-> The gospel is still the message of Christ, the faith (system of doctrine) once and for all delivered to the saints.
-> The gospel is still to be learned from the Bible (generally) and the New Testament (especially).
-> Last but not least the gospel is still good news.

This last point seems to need extra emphasis. Some equate a statement that the original word for "gospel" meant more than just the good news as the equivalent of saying that it is not the good news. But this is not the case at all. Earlier blog entries have already stated that good news is the central idea in the Greek word "euangelion" and that without good news there could be no "euangelion".

So we see that this expanded definition of the word "gospel" does not change our thinking on what the gospel is about, who it is from, who it is for, what it does, or where it is found. It does not even change our most basic ideas of what the gospel is - good news.

Something that does change

The thing that does change is our concept of the word itself.  The word gospel should convey at least two (and probably three) ideas in addition to "good news".

An additional idea inherent in the word gospel - Victory

The word gospel should convey the idea of victory. The original meaning of "euangelion" was good news of victory. Victory is one of the things that makes the message of Christ good news. Yet the main emphasis (sometimes the only emphasis) of modern Christendom is escape (salvation). Escape from the penalty of "eternal (ongoing-RW) destruction away from the presence of the Lord and the glory of His power" (2Th 1:9) is definitely the best news I can ever imagine hearing.  This wonderful news of escape is taught and emphasized, as it ought to be. But victory should be emphasized, as well.

As Christians we are involved in warfare.  It is a spiritual warfare but warfare nonetheless.  Why would anyone who is involved in actual warfare settle for escape when victory is possible? The gospel does more than "get us off the hook". It empowers us for victory - and it does so in a number of ways. I will have more to say about this in future blog entries.

For now, I will simply propose that the word "gospel" should convey the idea of victory, in the very same way that it conveys the idea of good news.

A 2nd additional idea inherent in the word "gospel" - Reward

As with the idea of victory, the reward of faithfulness to the gospel makes the good news good. But the entire idea of reward being connected with the gospel seems to be overthrown in the "faith-alone by grace alone" culture of modern Christendom.

I can hear the objections echoing all the way back through the ether, "Our salvation is not a reward it is a gift!" This is like arguing that "We aren't redeemed by Christ we are justified by Him!" even though the Bible says both.  If the scriptures say that our salvation is a gift in one place and a reward in another - and the scriptures do - it ought to be OK for us to speak in either way without hearing objections.

Returning to our idea of the reward being connected to the gospel, what is good, exactly, about being mocked, persecuted insulted and slandered for righteousness sake? If anyone thinks that these things are rewards in themselves they'd do well to consult with the apostle Paul, who had some experience with persecution. His thinking on the matter was that, if there was no resurrection and our hope in Christ is for this life only, we are most pitiable of all men - 1Co 15:19.

Persecuted for righteousness? Hardly anyone in today's Christendom seems to think we are even capable of righteousness! And many have never done one thing out of loyalty to Christ that would draw anyone's mildest disapproval, let alone actual persecution.

When the Lord's church and its people begin to do more of the things necessary for victory (subject matter for future blog entries) we will also learn of the persecution that comes with it. Those who have been there, suffering loss because of their loyalty to Christ, take great comfort in the fact that their loyalty to Christ's gospel comes with a guaranteed reward.

What is the reward that awaits those who fight the good fight and run their race, finishing the course? It is the crown of righteousness that will be awarded on the last day to all who have truly loved Christ - 2Th 4:7-8.

The idea of reward is built right into the word that the New Testament scriptures use in reference to the message of and about Jesus Christ.  That word is - in our language - gospel (euangelion in the original). And when we hear the word gospel the idea of its reward ought to be very apparent to us.

A 3rd additional idea inherent in the word Gospel; it is a message to be shared.

The gospel is no mystic secret to be guarded, nor is it a product to be marketed, nor is it treasure to be hoarded.  It is a message to be shared.  The reward just spoken of is to be received by those who bring the message of good news.

We might best understand the idea of the gospel (the euangelion) as a message to be shared by contemplating a related Greek word - "euangelizo". This is the verb form of the exact same word from which we derive our word "gospel" (euangelion - the noun form of the word).

Euangelizo means to evangelize, to spread the good news. As a matter of fact, in looking at the word "euangelizo" you can easily see that by changing just two letters - the second and last - you have transformed "euangelizo" into "evangelize".

You might also have noticed that by lopping off the prefix ("eu") and the suffix ("izo), euangelizo is transformed into the word "angel".  Angels were - among other things - the special messengers of God send into the world upon special missions or with special messages.

Those who have embraced the euangelion of our Lord Jesus Christ are also on a special mission - to share the special message of the gospel with the lost world. As a matter of fact Christians are the only messengers God has sent on this special mission.

I am, by God's grace,
Rich In Christ

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