The gospel according to the Gospels: It’s not a get-out-of-hell-free card.

David Williams continues his “What is the Gospel?” series. To refresh your memory, Williams is arguing (as many do) that “fundamentally the gospel is the announcement of Jesus’ being Lord of lords, and that the NT writers did not equate the gospel with the Protestant doctrine of justification by faith alone.”

In his first post, Williams looked at how “good news” (Greek euangelion/euangelizomai) usually functioned in the Greco-Roman world of the NT writers. In his second post, Williams looked at the ways in which “good news” is used within the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke). (My comments on Williams first two posts can be found here.)

Today, Williams shifts gears a bit and looks at the “gospel according to the Gospels,” i.e., what the written Gospels have to say about what the gospel is.

Williams focuses on the first verse of Mark’s Gospel: “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ.” Here is Williams’s point, which he traces back to Patristic theologians: the “gospel” that “begins” in Mark 1:1 is not how the Gospels end: the crucifixion and resurrection. Rather, the gospel is the entire story of Jesus that Mark narrates throughout his Gospel. More specifically, the “gospel” according to Mark is “primarily a narrative of the dawning of God’s kingdom in and through Jesus Christ.”

This has some implications for how we read the Gospels and think of what Jesus was about. The “gospel” in Mark is not limited to a message of how Jesus “saves.”  Williams illustrates:

Here I wish only to take note of what Jesus says of the woman who anoints him: “And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel (to euangelion) is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.” (Mark 14:9)  It is hard to see why this anecdote about this woman’s pouring oil on Jesus would be as widespread as the gospel itself unless it was itself a feature of the gospel story, which would imply that the gospel story and the story about Jesus are one and the same.

All of Mark narratives the “good news.” And that good news is the declaration that the kingdom of God, and its rightful king (Jesus), have hit the ground running to transform this earth and all that is in it. Whatever you read in Mark bears on this kingdom project.

It may sound counterintuitive to put it this way, but the “good news” is about much more than “getting saved,” and to equate that with the “gospel” sells the Gospels short. It is, in effect, a misreading of the Gospels.

Williams promises to expand on this in his next post.

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