Everyone familiar with the New Testament knows that its theology is very complex. But if there’s one New Testament teaching that everyone should try to understand and apply to life, it would have to be the gospel. In fact, many of us would agree that if we don’t understand the good news of Christ, then our ability to understand any facet of New Testament theology is severely limited. But this raises a serious question.
Why is the gospel, or “good news,” so crucial in New Testament theology? Why is it obviously more than just one of many doctrines found in the New Testament? As we’re about to see, the gospel is so important in New Testament theology because of its connection with the broader teaching on the kingdom of God. And this doctrine of good news about the kingdom of God shapes every dimension of New Testament theology.
We’ll look at the good news of the kingdom in three steps. First, we’ll consider the meaning of the good news. Second, we’ll explore the basic concept of the kingdom of God. And third, the developing significance of this theme in biblical history.
In Luke 4:43, Jesus summarised the purpose of his ministry in this way: I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God (Luke 4:43). Although the words “good news” only appear once in Luke 4:43, the concept of the good news is actually indicated twice in this verse. The phrase “good news” comes from the Greek noun euangelion, a term that occurs some 76 times in the New Testament. The etymology of euangelion indicates that it means something like a “good announcement,” or a “good message.”
But notice that in this verse Jesus also said he “must proclaim the good news.” The Greek verb translated, “proclaim” is euangelizo. This term comes from the same family of Greek terms as euangelion, and means “to proclaim or to announce good news.” It appears some 54 times in the New Testament. The frequency of these terms
points to how important this concept was for New Testament authors.
Many Evangelicals today think of the good news, or gospel, as an explanation of the steps an individual must take to find salvation in Christ. But this wasn’t the idea that
Jesus had in mind. As much as we should be ready to share how to become followers of Christ, the good news in the Scriptures is about something much more significant. As, rather than referring to the salvation of any individual or group of people, the gospel is the good news of victory for the kingdom of God.
To make sense of this, we need to realise that the authors of the New Testament drew the expression, “proclaim the good news” from the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament. The Septuagint uses the same verb we mentioned earlier, euangelizo, some 20 times. This word translated the Hebrew verb basar, meaning “to bring or announce good news.” But, passages like 1 Samuel 31:9 and 2 Samuel 18:19 indicate that when these words were used in reference to kings and kingdoms, they signified the good news of victory in battle. This observation is important because the “good news” in the New Testament is so often associated with victory for God’s kingdom. In effect, in Luke 4:43, when Jesus said: I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God (Luke 4:43).
We may actually translate this statement along these lines: I must proclaim the good news of [victory for] the kingdom of God (Luke 4:43).When the New Testament speaks of the good news of victory for God’s kingdom, it refers to a very special kind of victory, as we’ll see later in this lesson. So, even though it may seem odd at first, we should acknowledge that the basic concept of the good news or gospel in the New Testament is the good news of “[victory for]” the kingdom of God.