In bible study today, I asked the group about what they understood the Gospel to be in just one sentence.
There was some puzzlement in the room, mostly because the Gospel is generally understood to be one of the four stories about Jesus that begin the New Testament Canon – The Gospels according to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. For some, this was the first time that the Gospel was considered from the perspective of a statement of faith, or even a statement of mission for the church.
Let me say with some certainty here that the Gospel is the story of Jesus Christ, but it’s also something more than a set of historical narratives, or biographical stories about a great teacher, a tragic death, and a miraculous climactic ending. The Gospel is much greater than any words on a page, and yet these stories and these words are such an important part of the truth of the Gospel.
Martin Luther wrote that this is the Gospel, in a nutshell: “God so loved the world that he gave his only son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life”. (John 3:16) That saying is part of a story – a story of an encounter between Jesus and Nicodemus, a secret follower of Jesus. That saying are words written on ancient pages. But there is even more power to that saying, that Gospel truth than the story itself.
Luther understood that there was something more than the words at work. The Gospel was alive and its purposes was to bring faith to the people that heard the stories. It is the Gospel that gives us access to the peace of God, and to God’s grace. The Gospel works in us the power of endurance, building faithful character, and encouraging us to have hope in all circumstances. Out of the Gospels work, our faith turns to hope, which turns to love and the freedom to act lovingly in our relationships with others, because we need not worry about failure, about loss, about rejection or about reciprocity. We are no longer tied to our own need to produce or to get something in return.
The Gospel is loving for love’s sake, and it really works!
What is your one-sentence description of the Gospel?
Daily Devotions for Week of May 22, 2016
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Gustavus Adolphus Lutheran Church (GA) in New York City has been chosen as one of eight internship congregations to participate this year in a church-wide initiative designed to increase our understanding of Holy Scripture and most importantly, to cultivate our engagement with it. In partnership with The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, Vicar John Heidgerd will be working to develop innovative ways to deepen our faith formation and sense of discipleship for the sake of ourselves and our communities.