The News of the Gospel
Once we get a better understanding of how news functions over time we can better appreciate how the Gospel is good news. For Christianity, the Gospel is the report of a historical event: the death and resurrection of Jesus. We believe that this is, not some good news, but the good news. The death and resurrection of Jesus is the best and most significant thing that ever happened. But why is this news so significant and so good?
From what we learned above the significance and goodness of the news is derived from the background story. Furthermore the degree of goodness depends on the just how bad the problem was in the background story. Thus if the news of Jesus’s death and resurrection is the best news ever then the dilemma of the back story must be correspondingly the worst. The goodness also depends on how much we share share in the problem. Thus, if we share in the goodness of the Gospel, we must also share in the depths of the dilemma it addresses.
What then is this terrible dilemma for which the death and resurrection of Jesus is such good news? Quick on the lips of any good Evangelical will be the problem of individual sin. This is certainly a terrible problem in which we all share. The problem with the story we commonly tell today is that it is not the one Jesus and later Paul talked about. N. T. Wright argues that if we carefully look at Scripture, we will find that Paul’s understanding of the Gospel was as good news and that the context was not the individual story of sin but the Jewish story of the long awaited Messiah.
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 1 Corinthians 15: 3-6
In this passage, Paul frames his Gospel message in terms of news (not advice). He is faithfully delivering the “good news” message that he has received. The message is that the Christ has died for our sins, was buried and was raised from the dead all according to the Scriptures. At this point we could easily slip back into the individualist story we like to tell, but the point that we must keep in mind is that Paul retelling the news that the Christ has done all these things. The Christ is the Greek word for Messiah which means the Anointed. Ever since Samuel first anointed a king in Israel, this term referred to a king. Later, God had promised that Israel would have a king from the line of David who would reign forever. Since this king was not reigning at the time, many people in Israel were awaiting this long promised Messiah. What we often miss is that when Paul refers to the Christ doing things according to the Scriptures he is pointing back to these well known back stories (and not the back story we try to tell today). The Gospel message is that the long awaited king has finally come to save us from our sins. Shockingly he suffered and died on the cross for us but the good news is that he has been raised from the dead thus vindicating his kingship and all that he has accomplished. We have many many witnesses who can now attest for the account I am now giving. This the good news that Paul writes about.