Wednesday, September 10, 2014
The Gospel that the gospels present
Writer, speaker and NT theologian Skye Jethani
THE ONE clear explanation of what the Gospel is, by Paul writing to the Corinthian church (1 Cor. 15) makes a surprising contrast to the way many of us have explained the gospel to others. This, we saw, is matched by the content of the gospel sermons in Acts.
In looking again at what the Gospel is, there is another area to examine, and that is the gospel accounts themselves. What we have read many times, but probably not registered as the answer to our question, is winking at us from this corner as well.
On the very first page of the New Testament in many versions (this doesn’t work with the NIV but you will see it in RSV or NKJ) we read: The Gospel According To Matthew. The book is defining the Gospel. This is repeated for Mark, Luke and John. Turning to Mark, the first words of the text reinforce this further: The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
What do each of these books, with their overlaps and diversifications, talk about? You know the answer – the life, death, resurrection and rule (lordship) of Jesus. That’s what we found in the 1 Corinthians 15 passage and all the Acts sermon accounts. There is teaching about heaven and hell and repentance, but not as a main theme, and this teaching supports the lordship of Jesus. All of the gospels give a great deal of weight to the events of the last week of Jesus’ life and His resurrection appearances.
So, can we come up with a short definition of the gospel? Skye Jethani, a speaker and writer with good New Testament Theology credentials, has suggested that we can do this in just four words:
Jesus – a particular Jew, born in Roman-occupied Israel at a particular time whose life has been well documented, not just in the Bible;
Christ – the anointed One, the Messiah foretold by the prophets, including the prophet Isaiah, as the one who would fulfil the purpose of Israel and bring it to fruition, and also the Suffering Servant who would be cruelly treated and pierced for our transgressions;
Is – a short word but an important one, because all of these accounts refer to Jesus as risen from the dead and ascended into heaven, a risen and present Lord – the most referred-to aspect of the gospel in Acts;
Lord – Sovereign, King, ruler over all things. In 1 Corinthians 15:27-28 we read that He has put everything – i.e. all things – under His feet, just as God the Father has put everything under Him.
“Jesus Christ is Lord.” Do we find this actual expression in the Bible, or is it, like the Trinity, a clear expression of truth which is nowhere found explicitly in Scripture? And why is it important to get this definition right? Watch this space.
To be continued