In a recent consultation by the Asia Pacific Baptist Federation in Melaka, Malaysia, Baptist theologians and church leaders were once again reminded of what the Gospel of Jesus Christ is all about.
There is a danger of what can be called as the “oversimplification of the Gospel.” We cannot oversimplify the Gospel and say, “You are a sinner. Christ died for you. You will be saved when you accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior, and then your soul will go to heaven.” Yes, it is part of the Gospel, but not the complete Gospel.
When we go back to the first verse in the Gospel according to Mark, we are reminded of what the Gospel is. It says in Mark 1:1 “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” This means that the whole story, the birth, life, ministry, suffering, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ is the whole Gospel. The whole Bible is actually the Gospel – the Good News.
Let me share three things that I learned from Dr. Timothy Hyunmo Lee of Korea Baptist Theological Seminary who spoke about the Holistic Understanding of Gospel.
First, the core of the Gospel is about obeying the Word of God and participate in the fulfilment of the kingdom of God. We should not stop the proclamation of the Gospel in the portion about the forgiveness of sins or having eternal life.
2 Corinthians 5:21 tells us that “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” This means that when God has forgiven us, we are now to live righteous lives. Sometimes the “over focus” on heaven and eternal life has made us forget that we should obey the Word of God in the here and now.
Second, we cannot dichotomize or split a human being into soul, spirit or flesh. We cannot say that God only cares for your soul.
James said it best in James 2:15-17: “Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” The Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ is holistic. We must look after the spiritual and physical needs of people.
Third, although the Cross is central in the Gospel, we should not overlook the other parts of the Gospel. The whole story of Jesus, the whole Bible is actually the Gospel.
Jesus has declared that the kingdom of God has already entered human history. Like the Parable of the Mustard Seed (Matthew 13:31-32), it started small but it continually grows and become bigger and bigger. So Christians must “…seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness…” (Matthew 6:33).
Dr. Lee gave this us this summary: “The life of Jesus and the holistic gospel require us to live a holistic life. While maintaining the centrality of the Cross, one should not overlook the responsibilities in the world.”
May we all live the Gospel in our lives!
Rev. Francis Neil G. Jalando-on
January 28, 2019