Simplifying Gospel Terminology

Gospel Terminology


As the 2020 Presidential elections quickly approach, the US political war is intensifying. Sometimes, I consider my wife lucky that she's not a US citizen and can't vote. But then again, she's got her own political hands full with UK politics bringing an election even faster as Brexit hangs in the balance. These political issues give everyone something to debate, complain about, and place hope in. While terminology like healthcare, taxes, economy, military, and morality take center stage for many people, these are small things compared to the political unrest that is going on in many other parts of the world. These issues are truly important. All of your worldly problems at some point probably come down to politics! Why can't the other side just stop being so selfish?! Well, I have good news... I have the solution! And not just your problems, but the problems of the whole world. Yes, I am literally talking about world peace. The solution I'm talking about is the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Now before you think I'm going to get too political in this blog, let me just clarify, I'm not talking about aligning your vote to the religious side of the debate. And no, I'm not talking about fighting for certain moral issues on either side of the political spectrum, like pro-life or socialized medicine. I'm not really talking about your vote at all. The solution to all your political problems is to leave this government behind and join a whole new one. That is what the Gospel is all about! Let me explain...

What is the Gospel Anyway?

You've probably heard the Gospel translates to "good news." But you might be surprised to know it’s not good news about salvation, nor eternal life, nor the Church. It includes all those things. But first and foremost, the Gospel is about something different.

The Bible as we know it today is made up of 66 different books spanning thousands of years. It is a remarkable collection, because every single one of those documents has something amazing in common. They are all centered around the same thing. And the climax of the whole Bible is when that one thing finally arrived. After thousands of years, that arrival was Good News! So what is that thing?

From cover to cover, the whole Bible is about the Kingdom of God. Going back to Genesis, God promises a great nation that would know God. The rest of the Old Testament is about that nation forming, building a culture, religion, and government, but then ultimately failing. During that failure, the prophets tell of a coming King who will restore this kingdom. Then, after a long silence, that promised King shows up. His name is Jesus, and He taught about what his Kingdom would be like through the use of parables. These parables help us discover that Jesus came to build not a political kingdom as expected, but a spiritual Kingdom. It was for this reason that the failing of that first Kingdom was always God’s plan so that this new Kingdom would be open to all nations, not just the one he chose in the beginning. Jesus achieved victory over all his enemies through his death and resurrection and gave his first followers spiritual authority. The rest of the New Testament is about how those followers prepare for the imminent arrival of Jesus' Kingdom by his overthrowing of the old Kingdom, which is prophesied about in the final book of Revelation.

God's Kingdom

What does a spiritual Kingdom of God really mean? Well, think about a natural kingdom. It's a territory that is ruled by a king. In a worldly kingdom, that territory is made up of geography. But in a spiritual Kingdom, that Kingdom is made up of spirits — the people that the King rules over. So those who are obedient to Jesus are the people that are part of his Kingdom. Those who aren't obedient are in rebellion against the King. Those who have sin in their life are not submitted to the King and are not part of the Kingdom. That’s why Jesus is such a big deal. He’s King because he's the one who defeated sin! When we place our faith in him as our King and our leader, we are able to overcome sin as well. Since Jesus, humanity has, for the first time ever, been able to submit to the King by being free from sin!

What is your problem with politics? Inequality? Wealth disparity?  Too many taxes? Lack of healthcare? Lack of justice for evil? Poor environmental controls? Lack of morality? A weak military? Lack of rights and freedoms? Something else? Every single one of you political complaints is caused by someone else's selfishness. Am I right? Selfishness is another way of saying sin. In God's spiritual Kingdom, selfishness and sin is defeated.

This Kingdom has the most equality: the last shall be first. This kingdom has the best economy: opportunities to give everything to the poor and trust in generous father for our needs. This Kingdom has the best public healthcare system: free healing and resurrection to eternal life! This Kingdom has the best justice system: forgiveness to those who want it, and eternal punishment to those who don’t. This kingdom has the best environmental policy: a whole new heaven and earth. This kingdom has the best military: absolute defeat of all evil spirits and authority over them. This kingdom has the ultimate freedom: we are no longer slaves to sin!

So the Gospel is the Good News that the Kingdom of God has finally arrived! And with it, the opportunity for us to be part of this Kingdom through obedience to the King and freedom from sin. How do we enter into this Kingdom? That is the message of the Gospel and that is what we will understand.

Gospel Terminology

Have you ever really thought about how the Gospel works? How does it actually get us into the Kingdom? How does it actually help us obey the King? I grew up in the church and thought I had a pretty solid understanding. But when actually pressed into explaining it, the Gospel became less and less clear. Ever since a church leader asked me as a little kid to explain what I meant by “asking Jesus into my heart,” and I struggled to answer, I realized I had a muddied understanding of the Gospel, and things didn’t get much clearer as I got older. I’ve heard so many different explanations and Bible verses over the years, it’s difficult to know how they all fit in together, or if they’re even saying the same thing. Let me show you what I mean. There are so many different buzzwords we associate with the gospel. For example:
  • Atonement
  • Baptism
  • Belief
  • Blood of Jesus
  • Born again
  • Confession
  • Conscience 
  • Discipleship
  • Faith
  • Forgiveness 
  • Freedom from slavery
  • Grace
  • Holy Spirit
  • Justification
  • Mercy
  • Name of Jesus
  • Propitiation
  • Repentance
  • Righteousness
  • Sanctification
  • Sinners’ prayer
  • Tongues
  • Trinity
  • Unity with Christ
What does all this terminology really mean? How do these concepts work together? Which are actually biblical, and which are made up to help us gain understanding? There are plenty of Gospel explanations that use some of these concepts, but I’ve never heard one that explains them all.

Recently, these questions about the Gospel have plagued me. So, for the last year and a half, I have dedicated myself to praying, studying, and understanding what the Bible has to say about all of this. And most of that time has been dedicated to unlearning most of what I’ve been taught. And with a clear mind, I’ve had new insights into the simplicity and awesomeness of what the Bible has to say about the Gospel. I’ve spent my last few blog posts setting the stage, and I want to spend the next few sharing the beautiful, powerful, and most of all simple Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Simplifying the Gospel

As we go forward in this series, we will explore all of this Gospel terminology and how it fits together. As we explore them more, we will see that they can all be boiled down into two basic concepts. To see what these concepts are, we will look at perhaps one of the simplest explanations of how we can see the Kingdom of God:
Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’" (John 3:5-7)
This being born again into the Kingdom is what we’re after. In the next few posts, we will look at what it really means to be born of water and born of Spirit, and how all of this gospel terminology supports these two simple ideas.

Comments

  1. Thank you Nathan, really good. I am exited to see the next posts. Very often when we dont understand the whole simple picture we take one or some of these buzzwords and make a theology based on one word, but I think that they are just like natural parts of living, like breathing, eating, fellowship, working, sleeping, having friends+++, and the mane thing is to stay alive and these things are just parts of living. If we take one part and over-focus on that it will not be normal. The same with living in our new kingdom, the buzzwords are just normal parts of living in this kingdom and should not be focused on so it becomes the whole issue with God. Fellowship with God is like breathing, and if we do not breath we die.

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