Recent gospels

David Fitch summarizes the Protestant gospels of the last 100 years. Which one represents you? Could this help your conversations with others?

Message shapes mission. Our gospel defines what we do when we go. We need clarity on what God’s gospel calls us to do, the message we embody in his world.

David Fitch traces six gospels prominent in Protestantism in the last century. His article — “The Many Gospels: How the Gospel Shapes the Church for Mission” — is Chapter 12 of the 2021 book, Living the King Jesus Gospel: Discipleship and Ministry Then and Now (link below).

Here’s a summary of his 6 gospels.  See if you recognize them.

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The gospel unites us all in Christ

The gospel changes nations, not just individuals.

God rewrote international relations the day he raised Jesus from the dead. When God made his gospel proclamation — giving his Son all authority over all the peoples of the earth — he brought an end to the war for power, our struggles to gain ascendency over each other.

If you think of the gospel merely in terms of personal forgiveness, you’ve not yet begun to understand the global impact God’s gospel has. God’s gospel proclamation brings all nations together under one leader.

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The gospel in Romans

How does Paul understand the gospel in Romans? Is this how you understand it?

Open Romans.

What was Paul’s gospel? A survey of how he uses gospel in Romans could give an indication.

Previously, we summarized the gospel, tracing its roots in Isaiah, through Mark’s Gospel and Peter’s preaching, to the eternal gospel of Revelation. But was this Paul’s gospel?

The word gospel (noun or verb) occurs twelve times in Romans, clustering around the opening and closing chapters like a framework. Let’s check it out.

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The drama of God’s gospel

At the heart of history is God’s gospel — the divine decree that restores heaven’s reign over the earth in Jesus Christ our Lord.

Nothing in history is more radical and globally life-changing than the gospel. The good proclamation from heaven — God’s gospel — changes everything on earth.

Before I was born, this proclamation made Elizabeth II queen of the British Empire:

Whereas it hath pleased Almighty God to call to His Mercy our late Sovereign Lord King George the Sixth of Blessed and Glorious memory, by whose Decease the Crown is solely and rightfully come to the High and Mighty Princess Elizabeth Alexandra Mary:
We … do now hereby with one voice and Consent of Tongue and Heart publish and proclaim that the High and Mighty Princess Elizabeth Alexandra Mary is now, by the death of our late Sovereign of happy memory, become Queen Elizabeth the Second …
God save the Queen!

The gospel is this kind of proclamation from God. But it wasn’t a noisy command, just a gentle breath.

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Risen and reigning (Matthew 28:1-10)

God’s government arrived with an empty tomb.

I doubt any of Jesus’ followers could sleep after his crucifixion. The men kept a low profile, fearing for their lives. If the leader had been crucified, what would they do to his followers? Their best chance was blending into the crowds returning to Galilee when the festival was over.

The women had watched from a distance (27:55). Those horror scenes would haunt them. Sleepless in Jerusalem, they rose while darkness still enveloped them to make their way to the only thing they had left: a tomb. The tombs of the prophets enshrined Jerusalem’s tragedies.

What they found

This tomb had been disturbed. It was no longer the final resting place they had watched as Jesus was buried (27:61). The tomb’s mouth gaped open. The stone was rolled to one side. And someone was sitting on the stone: not a gardener or a guard, a messenger in a glistening white uniform.

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The gift of Christmas

Considered Christmas from God’s perspective?

Santa hanging out of an inflatable caravan? Our neighbours in the next street had a sense of humour. At least, I hope they did, because the next morning Santa and his caravan were lying on the grass looking very deflated.

Maybe that happens to our childhood dreams too. My Dad would cut branches from the Athol trees and bring them inside for Christmas. Grandma’s house was filled with relatives, festive food, songs around the piano, presents under the tree. But it never feels quite the same when you grow up to find yourself making the preparations, cooking the food, and cleaning up the wrappings. Santa got lost in the transition from what you might get to what you might give.

Have you considered Christmas from the Giver’s perspective? What was it like for the Father of humanity? For unto us a son is given (Isaiah 9:6).

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The king is coming (Zechariah 9)

How does Jesus fulfil the promises of Zechariah 9 about dealing with their enemies and restoring divine kingship?

The humble king, riding into Jerusalem on a donkey. Zechariah 9:9 is an outstanding prophecy, worth exploring in context.

The previous eight verses say that God was opposed to their neighbours to the north (Syrians) and south (Philistines). How does that fit with Jesus? Didn’t the previous chapter promise that the nations would come to seek the Lord? (8:20-23) As always, we need to appreciate the wider context.

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Lord of hosts (Zechariah 8)

Zechariah uses the same name for God 18 times in one chapter. What was he saying? How does this help us understand Christ and our life in him?


What does it mean to call God the Lord of hosts? What are the hosts under his control? Angels? People? Armies? Israelites? Foreigners? How does this relate to Christ? And what is our role in relation to the Lord of hosts?

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The king’s gospel

How does our culture shape what we hear?

The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth? Trouble is, I never do know the whole truth. God alone has that privilege. My fragmentary view is so partial that the best I can do is listen carefully and share humbly.

I even face this problem as I read the Bible. God didn’t give us an encyclopedia of absolute truth on all topics. He gave us a record of his involvement with human beings who often didn’t know or do right. Some practiced polygamy, or believed in other gods. To handle Scripture well, we need to discern between what they did and the revelation God gave them.

We face the same issue. We live in a culture that isn’t all that God intends, but we’re often unaware of how our culture distorts our understanding of God.

So, how can I be more mindful of my cultural bias? I need to hear people from other cultures, people from other eras, and people who understand how our worldview developed over time.

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I’m retiring

What do I do now?

I never considered myself the retiring type. But here is: I’ve retired.

After 49 years of training, pastoring churches, working in Christian radio, developing software, and teaching, I’m not looking back. I’m looking forward to pursuing my passion with the time I have left.

It took me decades to discover the question to ask. Finally, just nine years ago, I nailed it down. New Testament scholars often note that Jesus made the kingdom of God the centre of everything he did and said. My question: What difference does it make if we do too?

Talk about transformative! Everything — the narrative of Scripture, the topics for theology, the church as the embodiment of the king in his world — everything finds its place when King Jesus is the centre.

The gospel is the restoration of everything under Jesus as our God-appointed global leader:

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Who’s this? (Matthew 21:10-11)

Jesus’ kingship doesn’t match how people understand power.

The crowd certainly stirred up Jerusalem with their proclamation of Jesus as anointed king: Hosanna! The Son of David. Arriving in the name of the Lord, they proclaimed (21:9).

But these proclaimers were not residents of the city. They were country people who’d followed Jesus down the Jordan from Galilee to Jericho (20:29). There’s a twist.

The capital does not recognize her king. They ask, Who is this? (21:10).

A king? Seriously? He doesn’t look regal. It doesn’t help when they hear he’s a prophet from a place of no significance in Judah’s history, a town that wasn’t even part of Judah:

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Regaining the good news of Jesus’ kingship

Why did the early church de-emphasize the message of the kingdom of God, and how do we recover it?

As we saw, even blind people could see Jesus was the son of David (Matthew 20:30-31) as he made his way to the capital where people would recognize him as the Son of David … arriving in the name of the Lord (21:9, 15). He challenged Jerusalem’s rulers to recognize the son of David as their Lord (22:42-45). It’s blindingly obvious that Matthew presents Jesus as the restoration of the Davidic kingship, the ruler God has anointed (Christ).

When Paul wanted to summarize the gospel at the start of his letter to Rome, he described Jesus as the physical descendant of King David, raised up as the reigning Son of God by his resurrection. “Jesus Christ the Lord” names Jesus as God’s anointed and our ruler. This gospel transforms the world by bringing the nations to trust his leadership (faith) in obedience to his governance (Romans 1:3-5).

Yet the church moved away from this good news of Jesus’ kingship. The early fathers focused on Jesus’ divinity (Son of God) rather than his descendancy (Son of David). We are unbalanced and the gospel is diminished when we emphasize one truth at the expense of the other.

By the early 200s, Origen thought the crowd was right to silence the blind men who called Jesus such a contemptible name:

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The gospel revelation (Matthew 16:16-18)

The “gospel of the kingdom” expects God to reveal who is king.

The biggest reason we struggle to understand what Jesus meant by “the kingdom of God” was the way he presented it. He kept on about the kingdom, without claiming to be king. And if you don’t see Jesus as the king, you don’t see the kingdom. Continue reading “The gospel revelation (Matthew 16:16-18)”

The gospel of God (Matthew 17:5)

Recognize God’s gospel?

Did God announce the gospel? What does it sound like when he proclaims it? God’s gospel is a thing (Mark 1:14; Romans 1:1; 15:16; 2 Corinthians 11:7; 1 Thessalonians 2:2, 8-9; 1 Peter 4:17).

If you think the gospel is God making a statement about you (“I forgive your personal sins” or “I justify you”), then God didn’t. But if the good news is God’s appointment of Jesus as Lord, this is God proclaiming the gospel:

Matthew 17 5 And a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!” (NIV)

This is God’s gospel, his joyful announcement of rescuing the world from oppression under sin and death to be his kingdom, formed in the Son he loves, a world reunified in the leader God was pleased to appoint. Continue reading “The gospel of God (Matthew 17:5)”

Jesus as global leader (Matthew 16:13-17)

The good news is a person.

“You are the king, the elect heir of the living God!” Is that the declaration you ask people to make when you share the gospel?

We explained this was Peter’s declaration. Understanding what he said will move us from theology about Jesus into his regal mission for global restoration.

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Declaring Jesus king (Matthew 16:13-16)

“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” — Apostle Peter, first century

“Do you believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God?” It’s the question I often ask when baptizing believers. Our faith is in a person, and Peter nailed it with his declaration. So, what did Peter mean by this great confession?

There’s a temptation to invest Peter’s words with later theological meaning and miss what he said. His phrases have snowballed with significant theological freight:

  • Christology is the study of the person and work of Christ. His person embodied two natures (fully God and fully human), so his work reconciled God and humans (atonement).
  • Son of God is a term we associate with trinitarian theology: the relationship between Father and Son who, with the Spirit, exist eternally as one God (trinity).

All of that is true and important, but this developed theology was not in Peter’s mind. Rather than treat his words anachronistically, let’s hear them in their context.

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How the kingdom rises (Matthew 16:5-12)

Our role: kneading or feeding?

Matthew 16 6 Jesus told them, “Look out! Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”

If you want dough to rise, why punch it down? Who figured out you could aerate a loaf by punching the air out of it? Continue reading “How the kingdom rises (Matthew 16:5-12)”