‘ … I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now … ’ (Philippians 1:4–5).
The best things in life are those we share with others. Nowhere is this truer than with the gospel. In Theology of the Lutheran Confessions (1961), Edmund Schlink wrote:
‘The Gospel … is not a book existing of and for itself, but it is the voice of God addressing us; it is no doctrine of and for itself, but it is proclamation. We do not have the Gospel, but we hear it. We do not know it as we know other concepts, but we receive it anew again and again, spoken to us through the voice of man which proclaims the grace of God and through which God’s very voice from heaven resounds among us today.’
We do not have the gospel; we hear it, Schlink reminds us. He adds: ‘In the most real sense the Gospel is the word of absolution’, the forgiveness of sins.
God’s people hear the gospel together. God addresses the gospel to the world, through the church. The Holy Spirit builds the church, the baptised community of forgiven sinners, as we hear the message and receive holy communion. God is at work in our congregations and gathered communities week by week, Sunday by Sunday, service by service.
The gospel is the very best part of life. We delight in sharing it with each other and with the world. The message of forgiveness makes us free to be God’s people. The gospel offers grace and forgiveness. With it comes boundless new horizons – dynamic, exciting, inspired and life-giving.
The gospel message is also a great leveller of human pride. No matter who we are, it treats us all equally. St Paul writes in Ephesians:
‘The mystery is that people who have never heard of God and those who have heard of him all their lives … stand on the same ground before God. They get the same offer, same help, same promises in Christ Jesus. The message is accessible and welcoming to everyone, across the board’ (Ephesians 3:6 The Message).
So the gospel is the church’s real treasure. We are here because of, through the power of, and for the sake of the gospel. It’s the very best thing we have, yet we can’t preserve it, store it up or lock it away. Like the manna to God’s people in the desert (Exodus 16), it comes fresh every day from the hand of our loving God. We receive it, rejoice in it and proclaim it, gladly sharing with each other the same love and forgiveness God has given us.
The gospel is God’s new way for us in this world as we head towards the next. Praise God for his endless love in sending Jesus Christ. He died for our sins, that we might hear the gospel, be forgiven, and live in community with him, now and forever.
This is the very best part of life. How can we not share it with others?