First, let me say that the word “gospel” in Greek – euaggelion – precedes the writing of the New Testament. It wasn’t a word Jesus made up, though he infused it with a far richer meaning than ever before. Original uses of the word euaggelion refers to the message that would be proclaimed as a king returned from battle.

So then, humor me and imagine that once there was a king who goes to battle against his mortal enemy…

If the king lost the battle, an evangelist (euaggelizō) was sent back to tell the kingdom of the king’s gospel (euaggelion): “Be warned! Watch out! The enemy is coming to destroy you. Get your house in order! Build the ramparts! Prepare for battle, lest you be destroyed!” It was a gospel of fear that motivated people to do things or be destroyed.

If the king won in battle, the evangelist was sent back to tell the kingdom of the king’s gospel: “Rejoice! Celebrate! Kill the fatted calf, throw a banquet, invite your friends! Your king is victorious and he’s coming back to celebrate his victory with you! The spoils of the king’s victory is your reward, so celebrate!” It is a gospel of joy that is rooted in the security of the king’s victory.

Which is the Gospel of Jesus?

In case there is consideration that perhaps the initial conditions don’t matter to us Christians today, remember that immediately after Jesus implores us to “ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest” he says, “Go, I send you as sheep among wolves…” (Luke 10:2-3) All of Scripture affirms that we are sent by God on the mission of God. (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:18-20)

Therefore, understanding the fabric that shapes the message we are charged to carry is essential to living in obedience to King Jesus. Are we to go warn people of the punishments, judgments, and warnings so that we aren’t destroyed by the enemy? Or is the Gospel of Jesus a proclamation of joy as we celebrate the King’s victory?

The questions, then, linger: Which “gospel” have we been charged to shout from the rooftops? How can we know which scenario we find ourselves in?

How we answer (as in, how we understand what the Gospel is), dramatically changes how we live our lives and how we represent Christ to our world. Namely, our understanding of the Gospel root is an identity issue.

Rephrasing the questions a different way, let me ask: Can we add anything to the victory of Christ on the cross? Is there any work we can do, any program we can run, any event we can hold, that will somehow add to the victory that Christ accomplished in conquering sin, Satan, and death?

I take the position that when Jesus declared, “It is finished!” (John 19:30) he actually meant:

It

Is

Finished.

There is nothing I can do that will add or subtract from the reign of King Jesus. I’m not building ramparts to wage an in-progress war; I’m running through the highways and byways inviting the poor and outcast to join me at the King’s banquet (Matthew 22:8-9).

The implications of this paradigm shift to our identity are staggering. It fundamentally shifts how we view ourselves in relationship to God: do we help him accomplish his victory and accumulate glory for himself? Or is he a pre-existing reigning King and we’re invited to participate in the work of the celebration with him?

K Livingston
K Livingston
I believe in dreaming big, working hard, cheering loud, standing tall, bowing deep. All of it because I believe Jesus = life.
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