Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Paul’s Gospel

Recently I was reading John Dickson’s book, Promoting the Gospel, which has an appendix on the content of the gospel. Dickson makes the following summary statement:
The gospel message is the grand news about how God’s coming kingdom has been glimpsed and opened up to the world in the birth, teaching, miracles, death and resurrection of God’s son, the Messiah, who will one day return to overthrow evil and consummate the kingdom for eternity.
I very much appreciate the eschatological element within this summary, as it is often overlooked, or neglected. Colossians implies an eschatological aspect of the gospel (Col. 1:5, 23). In fact, Luke’s narration of Paul’s presentation to the Athenians (Acts 17:22-31) suggests an eschatological item in the announcement. Thus, we should be weary of appeal’s to Rom. 1:3-4; 1 Cor. 15:1-4; 2 Tim. 2:8 and others as the summary content of Paul’s declaration. There may have been other elements present, which for various reasons, have not been included in the summaries often quoted. Joel Willitts has recently noted this concerning 1 Cor 15:1-8 (See also the comments).
Paul nowhere gives us a full description of the gospel that he proclaimed. If Luke’s description in Acts is of any help to us, then we must admit that contextual factors shaped what elements of the gospel Paul highlighted and focussed on, or perhaps even left out! Now of course, central elements of Paul’s “great news of victory” would definitely include the resurrection, but there may be other elements either emphasised or neglected depending on the audience to whom Paul was speaking.

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