Some of them, however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus. The Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord. (Acts 11:20-21, NIV)
I was reading in a theology book recently that the first key question in working out a Christian theology is an answer to the question: What is the gospel?
It is interesting to me that the church often has a hard time articulating an answer to that question. Or rather, it gives lots of different answers, not all of which are compatible with each other. Indeed, a fair number of the words written these days about the church are about the way that this or that group has gotten the gospel wrong.
As I’ve been reading Luke-Acts this year at the invitation of Bishop Ken Carter, I will turn to Acts for my answer. The first articulation of the gospel in Acts comes on Pentecost. In that great passage from Acts 2, Peter says the following things. God testified that Jesus of Nazareth was his own by miracles, wonders, and signs. God raised him from the dead, exalted him in heaven, and poured out the Holy Spirit. By these signs we should all understand that God has made Jesus both Lord and Christ.
The good news is that Jesus is Christ, the anointed one of God, the prophet, priest, and king.
The Word has taken on flesh and walked among us. By his blood we have been cleansed and made pure. The king has come in his kingdom.
To those who receive this good news, we are called to repent, be baptized for the forgiveness of sins, and receive the Holy Spirit.
In Acts 2 and Acts 10 & 11, receiving the Holy Spirit involves speaking in tongues, which is why some of our Pentecostal friends insist on this as a mark of being in Christ. The speaking of tongues, however, is not a mark of every conversion in Acts, and Paul speaks of the Holy Spirit in quite different ways in Romans and Corinthians.
For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’ The Spirit himself testifies to our spirit that we are God’s children.
The good news comes before the pouring out of the Holy Spirit, however. The good news is so simple that we say it all the time and do not even notice. Jesus is Christ. Jesus is king of all creation and Lord of your life. Jesus is the high priest whose sacrifice of blood has once and for all made atonement for my sins and yours. Jesus is true prophet, the Word incarnate, who speaks to us of the will and character of God.
When this word was preached at Jerusalem, thousands were converted.
With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them. “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” Those accepted his messaged were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.
When this word was preached in Antioch, people began for the first time to call us Christians.
The Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.
Today, we are called to preach this good news. Jesus is the Christ.