I wrote the other day that Christians should learn to think from and talk from Genesis 1-2 and Israel in conceiving of and talking about the gospel. Thinking from Genesis 1-2 reminds us of God’s original intentions for humanity and for creation. This is crucial because these shape Scripture’s depiction of what God seeks to recover in salvation.
We begin to see this in God’s relationship with Israel. God responds to human rebellion and the inevitable loss of the knowledge of God among humanity (Gen. 3-11) by calling Abram (later, Abraham) and promising to restore all things through him and his family.
God’s commitment to Abraham eventuates in his rescue of Israel from slavery in Egypt. God calls Israel to be the unique recipients of his love and to be the agents of his redemptive pursuit of the nations.
Israel is important in understanding “the gospel of the kingdom” because here we see God’s initial move to set things right (“salvation”).
God calls a nation to embody in all aspects of their national life the rule of the Creator God over them. In their practices of justice, care for the poor, and mundane behaviors of neighborly love, they were to inhabit a way of life that recalled God’s original intentions for creation.
And they were to draw the nations into that love, too, leading them to worship the Creator God of Israel through repentance and cultivation of renewed habits of life.
In short, Israel was called to enjoy God’s shalom and oversee the spread of that shalom throughout creation. In Israel, God revives his creation intentions for humanity from Genesis 1-2.
Tragically, Israel failed. They became like the nations rather than being a light to the nations. God sent them into exile but promised to return and gather them and to bring to completion his purposes for them.
When Jesus comes preaching the gospel of the kingdom, therefore, he comes announcing the arrival of God’s restored order of flourishing—shalom—with his arrival. He calls Israel to inhabit that restored order by taking up life-giving practices of restoration, confession of sin, forgiveness, justice, and love for one another.
Jesus calls Israel to become a people that embody in their corporate life the reign of the Creator God. This entails also renewing the mission to the nations to draw them into God’s love through repentance and discipleship.
In thinking about the gospel, then, we should imagine the set of language that describes God’s creation of a people who embody the gracious reign of the Creator God in Christ through practices of joyful self-sacrifice, service, justice, love, compassion, care for the poor and for creation itself, confession of sin, and forgiveness. And God’s creation of a people who embody God’s passionate pursuit of the whole of creation.
In the New Testament, “the gospel” is the news that God is currently doing this.
Now, I’m not necessarily talking about including all of that in a “gospel presentation.” But when we think about the gospel of the kingdom, we should start with God’s intentions for creation and his aims in calling a people that embody on earth his rule and his love for his world.