What is the Gospel?
I have heard this question scoffed at. Why, after all, do we have to waste time sitting around discussing this question? Just look at John 3:16! End of class. Let’s just get on with the task.
I agree that we can get bogged down in conference after conference with big name speakers and great music, fine tuning our understanding of the Gospel.
Would that Christians understood John 3:16 the way the Apostle John intended it to be understood inasmuch as he has some incredible things to say about Christ, the only begotten Son, the One who is the explanation of the Gospel.
I think C.S. Lewis presents a very accurate picture of Christ in the chldren’s book series, The Narnia Tales. Take, for example, Aslan, in The Silver Chair. There we learn about Jill, a little girl from our world, who accidentally stumbles into the world of Narnia and got separated from her school chum, Eustace. She is extremely thirsty and comes upon a stream. But a Lion, Aslan, is sitting by the stream. She is terrified. Aslan says to her, “’If you are thirsty, you may drink.’ She doesn’t move.
‘Are you not thirsty?’ said the Lion.
‘I’m dying of thirst,’ said Jill.
‘Then drink,’ said the Lion.
‘May I, could I, would you mind going away while I do?’ said Jill.
The Lion answered this only by a look and a very low growl. And, as Jill gazed at its motionless bulk, she realized that she might as well have asked a whole mountain to move aside for her convenience.
The delicious rippling noise of the stream was driving her nearly frantic.”
‘Will you promise not to do anything to me, if I do come?’’ said Jill.
‘I make no promise,’’ said the Lion.
Jill was so thirsty now that, without noticing it, she had come a step nearer.
‘Do you eat girls?’’ she asked.
‘I have swallowed up girls and boys, women and men, kings and emperors, cities and realms,’’ said the Lion. It didn’t say this as if it were boasting, nor as if it were sorry, nor as if it were angry. It just said it. [I love this line!]
‘I daren’t come and drink,’’ said Jill.
‘Then you will die of thirst,’’ said the Lion.
‘Oh dear!’’ said Jill, coming another step nearer. ‘I suppose I must go and look for another stream then.’’
‘There is no other stream,’’ said the Lion.
It never occurred to Jill to disbelieve the Lion, no one who had seen his stern face could do that,’ and her mind suddenly made itself up. It was the worst thing she had ever had to do, but she went forward to the stream, knelt down, and began scooping water in her hand. It was the coldest, most refreshing water she had ever tasted. You didn’t need to drink much of it, for it quenched your thirst at once.
Before she tasted it she had been intending to make a dash away from the Lion the moment she finished. Now she realized that this would be, on the whole, the most dangerous thing of all. She got up and stood there with her lips still wet from drinking.”
This is much closer to the Christ of John 3:16 which must be understood in its wider context, to wit, the entire Gospel. There we learn about the only begotten Son who offers to quench our thirst and satisfy our hunger but, on His terms.
Sometimes we hear the rejoinder to our Gospel presentation, “I believe but not the way you do.” That is not to be taken as having a more accurately Biblical response to the Gospel than we.
Quite the contrary, it closes the discussion. In other words, that person is actually saying, I believe in me. Therefore I will pick and choose what I like from the Word of God. Sadly, we seem to encounter too many people like this.
Well then, what is the Gospel? Let me respond from a letter that I wrote to someone who posed the question to me:
“The Gospel is like a diamond. It looks a bit different in different light: indirect, artificial, cloudy, bright sun. Each venue propagates its own unique beauty but in the final analysis, it is still a diamond. The Gospel, likewise, is many faceted. At its core are three things: justification, sanctification, and glorification.
In justification, we are declared innocent of the guilt of our sin because of Christ. In sanctification we are being set free from the grip of sin because we have died with Christ. This is a process. Christ, our high priest, is interceding for us. In glorification, there is the blessed hope of one day being free from the presence of sin, when we see Christ face to face, no longer seeing through a glass darkly.
Additionally, there are other aspects to the Gospel: redemption, the buying back through the payment of a price. There is adoption which gives us the right to call God, our Father, making us joint heirs with Christ. There is the righteousness of Christ imputed to us. These are some but not all of what comprises the richness of the Gospel.
Simeon, as he held the baby Jesus in his arms at the presentation in the Temple, declared, ‘My eyes have seen your salvation . . .’ So, what is the Gospel? In a word—Christ!”
Longtime BHOF member and Head of School of Hope Academy, Naomi Woodmansee, recently received her PhD from Columbia International University. We honored her with a reception after the worship service and were delighted to address her as Dr. Woodmansee. She wore her academic hood as she shared of learning to trust and persevere, but as she conveyed her thanks to us, she took it off and said, “I’m still Naomi.” Indeed she is!
Hope Academy just had its 4th annual fund raising banquet. The featured speaker was Dr. Bruce Lockerbie, a veteran Christian educator and Chairman of Paideia Inc., an education consulting organization. He spoke on the core values of Christian education and will be returning in June to meet with those directly involved with Hope Academy’s leadership.
There has already been a most generous response to our request for camp scholarships. Thank you. Please join us in helping inner city kids go to a Christian camp, which seems to get more expensive every year.
“In the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle . . . (II Sam11:1). It is spring and we have our own battle. It’s a spiritual battle. New York City Christian Athletic League (NYCCAL), an affiliated ministry, has just begun its spring outdoor basketball program in a nearby park. Our own Edwin Santiago is the founder and director. This year over 100 teenage boys are involved. They will hear the Gospel each week for the next seven weeks. Please join us in the spiritual battle for the souls of these young men. Jack and I are among the speakers who have presented the Gospel to them.
A newer ministry of BHOF is Hope Again under the leadership of Sarah Henry. This is a counseling/ healing ministry to women who have had abortions. This Bible study offers help with issues such as relief, denial, anger, forgiveness, depression, grief, and guilt. Sarah and Pat Roberts are already meeting with women who have had abortions. It is a private and protected environment where women can express their feelings and find help through the healing balm of the Gospel.
There are lots of needs; the fields are truly white unto harvest. We feel like we’re spread pretty thin. Thank you for continuing to pray for us.