In this post I’ll be continuing my Remarkable Gospel! series. We launched this series in the previous post (click here) where I challenged you to take an honest look at the gospel and ask yourself, is it still remarkable today? To answer that question we’re now stepping back and asking ourselves, what do we mean when we talk about the “Gospel”?
How-To Guides Are Unremarkable
Have you ever seen a Tweet that looks like this:
I bet in the history of social media nobody has ever Tweeted that.
Because nobody finds instructions remarkable. I know I don’t. In fact, much to the chagrin of my wife, I’d prefer not even looking at instructions when putting something together if I can avoid it.
Instruction manuals are a means to an end and most people only look over as few of the instructions as absolutely necessary to arrive at their goals.
Recently we purchased a brand new SUV to accommodate our growing family (with baby #2 on the way, our little Fiesta will no longer do). With our new Escape came a “user manual.” And guess how many times we read it?
Zero. We haven’t even cracked the spine even though there are features in this new car that we’ve never seen before.
Because user manuals, how-to guides, instruction books – they are boring. They are completely unremarkable. We use them when necessary, and not a moment more than that, and we certainly don’t talk about them.
The Gospel Is Not A How-To Guide
Not too long ago renown biblical scholar N.T. Wright caused quite the stir when he wrote: “The gospel isn’t about how to get saved.”
Christians reacted pretty strongly to that statement with some popular bloggers and authors even writing against it.
And that fact says a lot about two things.
First it says a lot about how evangelicals in North America view the gospel. We view it as a how-to guide. Sort of like the Bibles version of Coles Notes on how to get saved.
I was taught this first hand in Bible college, and quite explicitly so.
In Evangelism class my instructor explained to us how the gospel can be summarized and broken down into five points commonly referred to as the “Romans road to salvation.”
The gospel, we’re taught, is simply a how to get saved instruction pamphlet.
Second, it may say a lot about why the gospel is so unremarkable today. Because nobody finds instruction manuals remarkable. Nobody wants to share how-to guides or instruction manuals, even manuals on salvation.
Not even new believers who are fresh on the passion boat. You’ve seen them. I’ve seen them. But I’ve been seen a new believer running around giving people how-to instructions for salvation. That comes later after the Christian culture – our churches and Bible colleges – have indoctrinated them.
When a person becomes a new believer filled with zeal they run around like Jeremiah, with a message so hot they can’t keep it in. It’s not a boring how-to manual they talk about. It’s what Jesus did for them that they can’t keep in!
And that’s just it. The gospel isn’t a how-to manual. Rather it is quite simply the story of Jesus Christ.
The Gospel Is A Remarkable Story
Why do you think when four of Jesus’ disciples wrote down the story of Jesus, their books become known as the four “Gospels”? And if you read those four Gospels, you won’t find an instruction manual or a “how to get saved” guide. You’ll find the story of Jesus, from his birth, life, death and resurrection. Plain and simple.
The closest thing we have to a straight definition of the gospel in the scriptures is by the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:
“Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand… For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day, according to the scriptures…”
When we treat the gospel as an instruction manual, a user guide, or a how-to step by step process of salvation, we are turning the most remarkable event since the create of the world into a boring, completely unremarkable pamphlet that most people would rather tuck away in their glovebox or sock drawer.
But if we start proclaiming the gospel, not as a how-to manual, but as the story of Jesus – the most remarkable story ever told – that is how to make the gospel remarkable again. A sharable gospel message is a message that embodies the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. And one of the things that makes that message so remarkable is that it continues to have impact even today, some two thousand years that story continues on.
But what made that gospel so remarkable in the first place? That’s the question we’ll explore in the next post in this series.