Today's lesson comes not exactly from a particular part of the Bible but from the first four books of the New Testament, commonly known as the Gospels. A lot of this is repackaged from the BEMA podcast by Marty Solomon and Brent Billings (a podcast that I've been listening to recently and gleaned much in the way of theological and historical understanding of the text), with my own insights sprinkled liberally atop.
The word ‘evangelism’ that we regularly use nowadays derives from the Greek word ‘euangelion’ or ‘euaggelion’. This same word is translated as ‘gospel’ or ‘good news’ in most English versions of the Bible. Indeed, our practices of evangelism stem from the idea of good news. But going further, let’s explore the idea of the ‘euangelion’ in its historical context.
‘Euangelion’ has a connotation of a proclamation of a new kingdom come. Alexander the Great had a gospel of new technologies and luxuries that the Macedonian Empire would have brought upon its subjects. It wasn't just about conquering places; it was about assimilation. Give them a reason not to think of themselves as enslaved others, but to buy into your world views, culture and society.
Without a doubt, the Macedonian Empire provided that. Healthcare, education and entertainment among other things were a provision brought by the concept of Hellenism, an egocentric mindset that placed the pleasure of the self as the epicentre of the universe. Nowadays, the luxuries we indulge in is often, in some form or another, a by-product of Hellenistic ideology.
After Alexander came the Romans, who had their own version of an euangelion. The reign of the Caesars brought even more technological advancements and luxuries than the Greeks had and the gospel of Rome echoes even today in English idioms; "All roads lead to Rome".
These gospels proclaimed the coming of something better, something that people could buy into and chew on. It proclaimed the ascent of a kingdom. Which is why the idea of the four Gospels should not be taken lightly. This wasn't just “Oh, these are some books that are being written”. Instead, the euangelion of the Kingdom of Heaven pushes back against the kingdoms of the world.
We are all intimately familiar with the benefits that the kingdoms of this world provide. To that, the Gospels of the Bible not only say: “this is another Kingdom”. The gospels also say: “whatever you have known to be good of the kingdoms before this, here is something even better”. That is the truth of the euangelion in a time when the Roman superpower reigned supreme.
So coming back to our evangelism today, it gives us another look at what it means to be ambassadors and messengers of this Kingdom. Evangelism isn't just spreading the word of the Bible. It's pushing against what the world has to offer and showing why what we proclaim is better. If we are to fulfil the same idea of the Gospels as the Bible, our evangelism isn't an action that we take every now and then.
Evangelism, like Christianity, isn't just a ‘thing’ that Christians do. Evangelism is a lifestyle and a demonstration of the good that comes from the Kingdom behind it. So today, how do we take our evangelism?
But he said, “I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent.” (Luke 4:3)
After this, Jesus traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. (Luke 8:1)
Daniel is currently and forevermore will be a student and a learner, trying to delve into the deep conundrums of life and seeing where the path leads. He enjoys linking different things in life back to God through strange and seemingly random connections.