the gospel of or the gospel about?

I have been struggling lately to connect the two gospel messages I find in the bible- the gospel of Jesus and the gospel about Jesus. The gospel of Jesus can mostly be found in the gospels, and the gospel about Jesus can be found in the letters of the NT (especially Paul’s). How are the two connected? Are they saying the same thing? Is one an evolved version of the other?

I just heard a sermon Sunday at the church I was visiting and it focused on what I would call the gospel “about” Jesus. The sermon was mainly focused on 1 Corinthians 15:1-11:

Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve…

Hmm, well it would appear that evangelical Christianity would have gotten this right-on. From this passage it seems clear that the gospel is just about Christ dying for our sins (each individual’s), right? This passage makes me extremely uncomfortable, because a gospel that is reduced to Christ “dying for your sins” so “you can be saved and go to heaven when you die” seems to lack so much and can lead to dangerous conclusions about our life here on earth. After hearing the sermon on this passage, I ended up reading through all of Paul’s letters in the NT to see if he was consistent in what he said the bible was. He was… and I got even more uncomfortable.

I personally, in my postmodern “emerging” way, prefer the gospel “of” Jesus. This can be found in Mark 1:14-15:

After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good new of God. “the time has come,” he said, “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news.”

Now this I love- this I get excited about- this I want to share. The idea that Christ came to earth, became a man, and brought the start of the kingdom of God- now this is good stuff. I get really excited for the kingdom of God, that Christ will one day return and there will be a new heaven and a new earth and that all of creation (including individual souls, but not limited just to them) will be redeemed. Wow.

I have been reading N.T. Wright’s “Surprised by Hope” lately, and he has given me an idea that may reconcile the “two” gospels I see in the NT: the resurrection of Jesus and the resurrection of the dead. In traditional evangelical Christianity it seems like a lot of emphasis is put on Jesus “dying for your sins” but there doesn’t seem to have much to do with his resurrection and your salvation, other than that you should believe Jesus rose because it shows you believe Jesus was God and all-powerful. The connection between His resurrection and your salvation seems murky. But in 1 Corinthians 15, just after the verses I gave above, Paul goes into the topics of the resurrection of the dead and the resurrection of the body for the rest of the chapter. His emphasis here is clearly on Jesus’s resurrection, rather than his death.

N.T. Wright lays out the idea that Jesus’s resurrection was the future breaking into the present. In the future all of creation will be redeemed, heaven and earth will be made new, and the dead will be resurrected to once again have some sort of material bodies. In Jesus’s resurrection, we get a glimpse of what is to come- that redemption and renewal of all things. Jesus’s resurrection points as a sign to the future and assures us it is coming. He says in “Surprised by Hope”:

Salvation, then, is not “going to heaven” but “being raised to life in God’s new heaven and new earth.” But as soon as we put it like this we realize that the New Testament is full of hints, indications, and downright assertations that this salvation isn’t just something we have to wait for in the long-distance future. We can enjoy it here and now… genuinely anticipating in the present what is to come in the future.

The entire book is full of this theme, that the resurrection was a sign of the coming kingdom of God- of the new heaven and new earth.

So perhaps the gospel “of” Jesus (the coming of the kingdom of God) and the gospel “about” Jesus (Jesus dying for our sins and then rising again) aren’t that different if you stop over-emphasizing Christ’s death and put some more emphasis back on his resurrection. The resurrection wasn’t just some cool trick Jesus did, some show of his divinity or power, or even some needed fulfillment of Scripture, but it was instead a signpost and assurance of the coming kingdom of God. When I hear Paul’s gospel, the gospel about Jesus, I think “Jesus died for your sins, so say these words, and get into heaven when you die”. But perhaps when Paul was preaching the early Christians heard, “Jesus is the messiah, he died for our sins, and in his resurrection we have great hope for the future that he was preaching about- where all things will be renewed, where God shall reign, where there will be no injustice, and where we will return to reign with God.”

I encourage you to read Surprised by Hope and let me know if the resurrection seems to be the key to reconciling these two gospels.

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3 thoughts on “the gospel of or the gospel about?

  1. Maria,

    Good thoughts. I, too, am reading Surprised by Hope and am encouraged by the hope provided by the resurrection. I used to, and maybe still do to a small extent, have the same frustrations with the apparent two gospels found in the New Testament (much less the gospel found in the Old Testament). I think I’ve come to realize that they are the same gospel – or at least, they have to be if the Christian faith has any legitimacy.

    Yes, Paul focuses on the death of Christ – and rightfully so. If there was no death there would be no resurrection and no gospel. The manner in which Christ died is of utmost importance because it says a great deal about the manner in which he lived and the manner in which he was vindicated by God through the resurrection. At the same time Paul focuses on the death, he also, throughout the epistles, points to Jesus’ life as a normative example and model for his followers. Thus, I don’t know if the Kingdom is just pushed to the side for Paul despite the lack of explicit attention it gets. I took a class from a visiting professor from London, Richard Burridge, who wrote a great book that talks about some of these issues, “Imitating Jesus.” Pretty good stuff.

    So…that was a long comment. Thanks for the good thoughts!

  2. The Hope Of Heaven!

    “For the Hope which is laid up for you in Heaven,
    which you first heard in the Word of Truth that is
    the Good News”! (Colossians 1:5)

    The Hope Of Heaven!

    There is a “biblical” translation that has been called
    “The Good News”, yet what of The Good News(The
    Gospel)? What was the promise of The Good News
    that The Messiah preached?

    The promise of The Good News for the Jews and “the
    lost sheep of Israel”, which The Messiah preached,
    was recorded in Matthew 3:12,4:17,10:7, Mark 1:15,
    and Luke 10:9, 21:31.

    “The Kingdom Of GOD(Heaven) Is At Hand”

    And what was the promise of “The Good News” which
    Paul preached unto the heathen(gentiles) after The
    Messiah “was raised from among the dead”?

    “Through the Good News those who are not Jews(heathens)
    will share with the Jews in GOD’s blessing. They belong to
    the same body, and they share together in the promise that
    GOD made in The Messiah. By GOD’s special gift of grace
    given to me through his power, I became a servant to tell
    that Good News.” (Ephesians 3:6-7)

    And The Good News of The Promise!

    “The Kingdom Of Heaven(GOD) Is At Hand”!

    A Lively, Living Hope Of Heaven!

    When Paul began his ministry, after GOD had “raised up
    The Messiah from among the dead”, he testified that
    “believers were translated into The KINGDOM OF GOD’s
    BELOVED SON”. (Colossians 1:13)

    “THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN” HAD COME!

    And “The Good News” after the destruction of the earthly
    “kingdom” of Jerusalem was:

    “THE KINGDOM OF GOD” HAS COME!

    All Thanks And Praise Be To Our Father!

    Believers have a Living Hope of Heaven!

    So why is it so many still believe that “The Kingdom of
    Heaven(GOD)” is yet to come?

    “What is Truth”?

    “Pilate” asked The Messiah that question after The Messiah
    testified, “You say that I am a king. To this end was I born,
    and for this cause I came into the world, that I should bear
    witness to The Truth. Everyone that is of The Truth hears
    My voice”! (John 18:38)

    Do you hear The Messiah’s voice?

    The Messiah previously had testified, “The Words that I
    speak are not My Words”. “For I have not spoken of Myself;
    but The Father which sent Me, HE gave me a commandment,
    what I should say, and what I should speak.” (John 3:34,
    12:49) Later The Messiah testified to His disciples, “As
    GOD sent Me, so send I you”! (John 14:10)

    “What is Truth”?

    The Messiah bore witness unto The Truth, as He revealed
    The Way to The Truth of The Life, both in His Teachings
    and His Life example.

    And The Truth of “The Good News” promise?

    “The Kingdom Of GOD(Heaven) Is At Hand”!

    The Hope Of Heaven

    Now when The Messiah was raised from among the dead
    and ascended into Heaven He was given His rightful place
    at the right hand of Our Father and GOD, and “all power
    was given Him(by His Father and GOD) in Heaven and in
    earth?” “The Kingdom” HAD “Come”! And The Faithful
    “were translated into The Kingdom of GOD’s Beloved Son”!

    “Giving thanks unto The Father, WHO has made us able
    to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in Light:
    WHO has delivered us from the power of darkness, and
    HAS translated us into The Kingdom of HIS Beloved Son:”
    (Col 1:12-13)

    All Thanks And Praise Be To Our Father!

    And Paul testified of the time when The Messiah would
    deliver up The Kingdom unto Our Father and GOD and
    The Messiah would be submitted unto Our Father and
    GOD once again. (1 Cor 15:22-28)

    “Then the END comes, when The Messiah shall have
    delivered up The Kingdom to GOD, even The Father;
    when The Messiah shall have put down all rule and all
    authority and power. For The Messiah must reign(after
    He was resurrected), till He has put all enemies under
    His feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is
    death. For GOD has put all things under The Messiah’s
    feet. But when GOD said, all things are put under The
    Messiah, it is manifest that HE(GOD) is excepted,
    WHO did put all things under The Messiah.

    And when all things shall be subdued unto The Messiah,
    then shall The Son also, Himself be subject unto GOD,
    HE WHO put all things under Him, so that GOD may
    be all in all.” (1 Cor 15:22-28)

    “Then the END comes, when The Messiah shall have
    delivered up The Kingdom to GOD, even The Father.”!
    (1 Cor 15:22)

    Question is, “The END of what?”

    Paul testified, “In that GOD said, A New Covenant,
    HE has made the first covenant old. Now that which
    is decaying and waxing old is ready to vanish away”.
    (Heb 8:13)

    That which was decaying and waxing old was the old,
    earthly “covenant of laws”, and “The END” was the
    destruction of the earthly, natural “kingdom” of Jerusalem!
    The earthly “kingdom” would be no more!

    All Praise And Thanks Be Unto Our Father!

    So believers were, and are, exhorted to,

    “Set their affections on things above(Heaven), not things
    of the earth”! (Col 3:2)

    Believers are exhorted to, “Be not of those whose god is
    their belly, and whose glory is in their shame because
    they mind earthly things.” (Phlp 3:19)

    Now why such exhortations?

    “Spiritually Reborn!” A believers “citizenship (Life) was,
    and is, in Heaven”! (Phlp 3:20)

    And believers “had been translated into The Kingdom of
    GOD’s Beloved Son”. (Col 1:13)

    They Had A Living, Lively Hope of Heaven!

    So “We do not look at the things which are seen, but at
    the things which are not seen, for things seen are
    temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.
    We know that our body, the tent we live in here on earth,
    will be destroyed. But when that happens, GOD will have
    a house for us. It will not be a house made by human
    hands; instead, it will be a home in Heaven that will last
    forever. But for now we groan in this tent. We want GOD
    to give us our Heavenly home, because it will clothe us
    so we will not be naked. While we live in this body, we
    have burdens, and we groan. We do not want to be
    naked, but we want to be clothed with our Heavenly home.
    Then this body that dies will be fully covered with Life.
    This is what GOD made us for, and he has given us The
    Spirit to be a guarantee for this New Life. So we always
    have courage. We know that while we live in this body,
    we are away from GOD. We live by what we believe, not
    by what we can see. So I say that we have courage. We
    really want to be away from this body and be at home
    with Our Father for our only goal is to please HIM whether
    we live here or there.” (2 Cor 4:18, 5:1-9)

    The Kingdom of GOD’s Beloved Son HAD Come and
    believers were translated into The Kingdom! (Col 1:13)

    The END” of the old, earthly covenant was At Hand, for
    it was “decaying, waxing old”, and would soon “vanish
    away”!

    And it did! Thanks Be To Our Father!

    When Old Jerusalem was destroyed The END came. It
    was then that The Messiah delivered up The Kingdom
    unto Our Father and GOD! The Heavenly, Spiritual
    Kingdom of GOD WAS, and always WILL BE!

    “THY Kingdom” HAD “Come”!

    “And as some spoke of the temple, how it was adorned
    with goodly stones and gifts, The Messiah said, As for
    these things which you behold, the days will come, in
    which there shall not be left one stone upon another,
    that shall not be thrown down. And they asked Him,
    saying, Master, but when shall these things be? And
    what sign will there be when these things shall come
    to pass?

    And He said, Take heed that you are not deceived: for
    many shall come in My name, saying, I am messiah;
    and the time draws near: do not go after them. But
    when you shall hear of wars and commotions, be not
    terrified: for these things must first come to pass, but
    The End is not by and by. Then said He unto them,
    Nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against
    kingdom: And great earthquakes shall be in divers
    places, and famines, and pestilences; and fearful sights
    and great signs shall there be from heaven. But before
    all these, they shall lay their hands on you, and persecute
    you, delivering you up to the synagogues, and into prisons,
    being brought before kings and rulers for my name’s sake.
    And they shall turn to you for a testimony. Settle it there-
    fore in your hearts, not to meditate before what you will
    answer: for I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all
    your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay nor resist.
    And you shall be betrayed both by parents, and brethren,
    and kinsfolk’s, and friends; and some of you shall they
    cause to be put to death. And you shall be hated of all
    men for my name’s sake. But there SHALL NOT A HAIR
    OF YOUR HEAD PERISH. In your patience possess your
    souls.

    And when you shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies,
    then know that the desolation thereof is at hand. Then let
    them which are in Judea flee to the mountains; and let them
    which are in the midst of it depart out; and let not them that
    are in the countries enter there. For these be the days of
    vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled.

    But woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give
    suck, in those days! For there shall be great distress in the
    land, and wrath upon this people. And they shall fall by the
    edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all
    nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the heathen,
    until the times of the heathens are fulfilled. And there shall be
    signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon
    the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the
    waves roaring; Men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking
    after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers
    of heaven shall be shaken. And then shall they see the Son of
    man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. And when
    these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up
    YOUR heads, for YOUR redemption draws near.

    And He spoke a parable to them; Behold the fig tree, and all
    the trees; when they now shoot forth, you see and know of
    your own selves that summer is now close at hand. So like-
    wise YOU, when YOU see these things come to pass, YOU
    know that The Kingdom of GOD(Heaven) is close at hand.
    Truly I say unto YOU, THIS GENERATION SHALL NOT PASS
    AWAY, TILL ALL BE FULFILLED.”(Luke 21:5-33)

    And The Messiah testified, “Truly I say unto YOU, that this
    generation shall not pass, till ALL these things be done.”
    (Mark 13:30) “Truly I say unto YOU, This generation shall
    not pass, till ALL these things be fulfilled.”(Matt 24:34)
    (The word “YOU” in the above testimonies referred to those
    whom The Messiah was speaking to at that time, not two
    thousand, or more, years after!)

    Simply, with the destruction of the earthly, natural Jerusalem,
    that “which waxed old” DID “vanish away”! (Heb 8:13)

    The Kingdom no longer had a physical presence, in a precise
    location on the earth, The Kingdom of GOD was now fully of
    The Spirit, Heavenly. The END of the Old, earthly kingdom
    WAS! “THY Kingdom” HAD “Come” indeed and Truth, and
    believers were, and are, translated into The Kingdom of Our
    GOD and Father! A Living Hope of Heaven!

    And so it is believers were and are exhorted to “love not the
    world, neither things that are in the world, for all that is in
    the world, the lust of the eye, the lust of the flesh and the
    pride of life is not of Our Father, but is of the world”!

    Believers knew that their “citizenship” was now in Heaven,
    and that “whosoever would be a friend of this world was the
    enemy of The Only True GOD”! (Phlp 3:20, James 4:4) And
    The Messiah testified that “the works of the world were evil”
    (John 7:7) And John testified, “the WHOLE world is under
    the control of the evil one”! (1John 5:19) And Paul?

    Paul testified, “WE WHICH ARE ALIVE and remain SHALL
    BE CAUGHT UP together with them in the clouds to meet
    The Messiah in the air: and so shall WE ever be with The
    Messiah.”(1Thes 4:17:18) and Paul testified, “I was
    delivered out of the mouth of the lion. And GOD WILL
    DELIVER ME FROM EVERY EVIL WORK, AND WILL
    PRESERVE ME UNTO HIS Heavenly Kingdom: to WHOM
    be Glory for ever and ever. Amen(Let it be so)”(2Tim4:17-18)

    I believe that Paul was alive and taken up “in the clouds to
    meet The Messiah in the air” when the physical, earthly
    Jerusalem was destroyed. At that time “The Messiah came
    in the clouds”. And at that time of “the END” of that old age,
    The Messiah delivered up The Kingdom unto Our Father and
    subjected Himself unto HIM once again.

    All Thanks And Praise Be To “Our Father”!

    The Messiah had testified, “Behold, I COME QUICKLY: hold
    that fast which YOU have, that no man take YOUR crown.”
    (Rev 3:11) “Behold, I COME QUICKLY: blessed is he that
    keeps the sayings of the prophecy of this book.”(Rev 22:7)
    Behold, I COME QUICKLY, and My reward is with Me, to give
    every man according as his work shall be.”(Rev 22:12)

    And the apostle John testified, “He Who testifies concerning
    these things said to me, “Surely I COME QUICKLY”. Amen
    (So be it). Even so, come Yahshua Messiah!”(Rev 22:20)

    And The Messiah DID Come Quickly!

    The Messiah came at “The END” of the old covenant when
    the natural, earthly kingdom of Jerusalem was destroyed!

    And so it is today that The Faithful desire to be taken Home,
    for their “place has been prepared for them”! Home! Home
    at last! The Faithful await their final transformation, “caterpillar
    to butterfly” indeed and Truth.

    The Faithful Have A Living Hope Of Heaven!

    Peace, in spite of the dis-eases(lies) that are of this wicked
    world and it’s systems of religion, for “the WHOLE world is
    under the control of the evil one” indeed and Truth……..
    francisco

  3. Wow. That semantic distinction unpacks so well and reveals just how wrongly I’ve been exploring faith issues.

    Thank you for the blog post, I need to mull this over a bit.

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