We are doing a series on the meaning of “gospel” — with a view to defining the term gospel in a way that is faithful to the early Christian faith. Today we begin looking at how the term “gospel” and “gospeling” (or “evangelizing”) are used in Paul’s letters to the Corinthians. Our first text is 1 Corinthians 1:13-17:
13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized into [fn2] the name of Paul? 14 I am thankful that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 so no one can say that you were baptized into my name. 16 (Yes, I also baptized the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I don’t remember if I baptized anyone else.) 17 For
Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel-not with
words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.
This text needs a few more verses to be clear:
is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this
age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For
since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know
him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to
save those who believe. 22 Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.
We begin with this observation: the gospel is something Paul preaches and it is not something Paul “does” (as with baptism).
Paul goes on: Paul’s gospeling is not rooted in his eloquence or the mastery of techniques but in the subject itself. What is the subject?
The subject of gospeling is the cross of Christ (I would want to clarify this “cross” as an “empty” cross — that is the Christ who was crucified and raised).
The gospel is foolishness to those who reject the message and delightful to those who believe that message. This could be too easily dismissed as a tautology; no, what Paul is getting at is that the gospel assaults the human ego’s inherent selfishness.
Gospel preaching invades the interior reaches of each person to make manifest selfishness and summons the person away from the clutches of selfishness into an identity shaped by God, in Christ, through the Spirit.