Last week I was at the Assemblies of God Ireland (AGI) DREAM conference in Enfield giving a seminar each day on ‘A Reduced Gospel? Rediscovering the radical good news of Jesus Christ’.
The hotel was buzzing with c. 800 people or so attending from AGI churches all over Ireland. These guys are doings some seriously impressive stuff in terms of church planting, social action, ministries of mercy and evangelism. It was a blessing and joy to be there.
Thanks to Sean Mullarkey, pastor of St Mark’s, for a very warm welcome on Tuesday night at the main session. It was great to see a bunch of ex and current students, involved in ministries all over the place – Dublin, Galway, Bray, Navan, Carlow, Shannon ….
Really good discussion and buzz in the seminar each day … we were looking at how gospel telling will tell the story of Jesus life; a story that calls for a response of faith and repentance, that leads to forgiveness and new life in the Spirit.
I tried to use the physical illustration of a big bible. It’s one unfolding narrative from Genesis to Revelation. The 4 gospels comprise the climax (or hinge) of that narrative. They form the ‘gospel chapter’ within the overall story. This technically, is ‘the gospel’. But it is never isolated from the overall story – indeed in only makes sense within the larger story.
All the preceding chapters in the OT (Genesis; Exodus to Deuteronomy; historical books; former prophets; latter prophets; wisdom & Psalms) all act to prepare the way for that momentous good news of the Messiah of Israel told in the 4 gospels. Each of those earlier ‘chapters’, in their own distinctive way, contain good news – lots and lots of it.
But all that good news is only a foreshadowing and preparation for great good news of Jesus. And what the gospel writers are doing, by and large, are telling the rich and multi-layered story of how Jesus fulfils, completes and meets the hopes and promises of those earlier ‘chapters’.
Just think of themes of exodus in Matthew’s gospel, or Jesus the King, the Son of David and so on. The themes are almost too numerous to count once you start.
[So I’m not being very Lutheran here – and seeing a negative period of OT law set over against the positive NT period of grace].
And the ‘chapters’ that follow the ‘gospel chapter’ [of the 4 gospels] continue the story of the gospel in the fulfilled promise of the Spirit [part of the good news of Luke in Luke-Acts].
Paul’s ‘chapter’ is a big one: unpacking and explaining the significance of the gospel in terms like justification and reconciliation.
Likewise Hebrews makes up another major chapter explaining the gospel of Jesus Christ through themes of sacrifice, Son of God and High Priest and so on. Revelation the same through the lens of apocalyptic imagery.
This all led to interesting discussions on ‘gospelling’ today in an Irish context. A really enjoyable and encouraging couple of days.