What is the gospel? What is the good news about Jesus? And what difference does it make?
When people downed their tools to go listen to the very first Christians proclaim the good news about Jesus, it’s a pretty safe bet that they weren’t leaving their shops in order to go listen to someone tell them that they should be nicer to people. It’s also a safe bet that people didn’t leave their homes and walk to the city square in order to hear how they could avoid hell. Nor did they walk for miles so that they could learn about a “pie in the sky”, an otherworldly place where people go after they die to live in a disembodied existence. Sure, the earliest Christian writings in the bible do touch on these ideas, and the bible has important things to say about them, but these topics do not receive the bulk of attention in the bible regarding the good news about Jesus. Not even close. If the gospel message of the earliest Christians was what a lot of modern people think it was, it probably would have produced more yawns than followers.
What the first followers of Jesus did proclaim, however, was so explosive that it divided authorities, sparked riots, and landed people in prison. It also changed an Empire. It is estimated that in the year AD 40 – less than a decade after the ministry of Jesus – there were roughly 1,000 Jesus followers in the Roman world. Yet, three hundred years later, Jesus followers made up more than half of the Roman population.* What were these people proclaiming? What was this good news – this gospel – about Jesus that transformed so many millions of people? And what impact does this news have for you and me today?
During the next four weeks at Emmaus, we will explore these questions together in a sermon series titled Gospel Life. In this series, will look at how one early Christian letter, Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, defines and discusses the good news about Jesus Christ – its claims and its impact. We will consider what the letter to the Ephesians claims the gospel of Jesus actually is, how it redeems people, and how it brings profound meaning to our day-to-day lives.
For millennia, Jesus followers have proclaimed this message: there is good news about Jesus Christ that is powerful and transforming. This news has not changed. Whether you’ve followed Jesus your entire life or not a day in your life, I hope you will join us this Sunday to hear how this good news about Jesus Christ has the power to change your life.
*Rodney Stark, The Rise of Christianity, pg 4-7.