BROTHERS and SISTERS, I remind you of the Gospel that I proclaimed to you, which you in turn received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold firmly to the message that I proclaimed to you – unless you have come to believe in vain. For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then He appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the Church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me has not been in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them – though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. Therefore, whether it was I or they, so we proclaim and so you have come to believe.
The Gospel. This word is so familiar, we hear it everywhere, even outside the church. But what does it mean? Good news, glad tidings. But these are just other translations of the Greek 'evangelion.' Gospel comes from Old English 'god' - good and 'spel' - news, story. But it does not explain what is the gospel, the good news? Is it a book? An excerpt reading from a book that we hear in church during Liturgy? A collection of four books that we call the Gospel?
When the apostles used the word 'gospel' in their preaching, they were doing so with a very particular intention in mind. In the Roman world, in which the apostles lived, and in which Christianity was preached, the word 'gospel' had a specific, almost non-religious meaning. When an important person, anyone from the emperor to the military general to a nobleman, was visiting a place, a herald would be sent ahead of him to announce his coming. The herald would list all of the accomplishments of the dignitary, especially the military ones. Very often the herald would be sent out ahead of a general or emperor right after they achieved an important military victory. These announcements were called 'gospels.' These announcements were meant not only to declare to the people who exactly it was visiting them, but also to tell them to prepare accordingly to meet the nobleman and throw a parade.
Out of the books in the New Testament, Saint Paul's letters are considered to be the earliest written, by some 10-15 years than any other book or letter. Therefore, he is one of the first to use the word 'gospel' in connection with preaching about the Lord Jesus Christ. What he and other apostles were doing was intentional. By going from city to city, from country to country, they became, in a way, heralds because they proclaimed the Gospel, the report of Christ's accomplishments in victory over our ultimate enemy - death.
By using the word 'gospel' as the name of their preaching, the strong implication, which the people of that time understood clearly, was that the One Who achieved victory over death is coming; and therefore, the people had to prepare accordingly in order to receive Him. That's why, for example in the Book of Acts, in response to apostles' preaching, the people often ask, "What must we do to be saved?" (see Acts 16:30, Acts 2:27).
The consequence of hearing the Gospel is that people become faithful disciples of Jesus Christ, that they live in a certain way, that they are prepared to receive Him when He comes. And so, the Gospel is the announcement of Christ's accomplishments in His victory over death, and that He is coming and we need to be ready to meet Him accordingly.
For last year's reflection, click here.
Yours in the Lord,
Father Aleksey - your friendly Singac priest