Tag Archives: Gospel

Foundations of the Gospel

 

Building on the introductions to Paul’s missionary journey at Corinth and the issues he faced there, we find the apostle beginning the most substantial portion of his First Epistle to Corinth, chapter 15.  Here he is concerned with correcting errant views on the Doctrine of Christ’s Resurrection and subsequently the bodily resurrection of believers.  We may recall that the city was largely a melting pot of people from various ethnic and religious backgrounds.  The influences upon the city were from Greek culture, as well as Roman, Jewish, and that of all those who had access to the city through its two major sea ports.

Also, we may recall the details of this missionary journey were captured for us in Acts 18 where we saw one of the fundamental objections to Paul’s proclamation of the Gospel was Christ’s resurrection.

It is this pillar of the Gospel that he aims to expound upon as he introduces 1 Corinthians 15:

Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. 1 Corinthians 15:1-2

His discourse on the defense of this precious doctrine of the resurrection begins with a review of the Gospel, “Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you.”  It is the foundation of this gospel message that we are principally interested in examining in this post.

Paul begins by way of reminding the Corinthians of the gospel message that he preached to them and the impacts that it has had upon them.  Namely that it is this gospel which they received, upon which they stand, and through which they are being saved.  We may note here, in verse 3, the reference by Paul to the present on-going aspect of salvation.

He buttresses these statements of assurance with an exhortation unto perseverance in the faith, “if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain“.  This is by no means an affirmation that believer’s may lose their salvation, rather it is a declaration that true faith will persevere, will continue believing and continue holding fast, will continuing being saved.  Whereas those of a false faith, A la 3/4 of the soils in the parable from Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23 and those in 1 John 2:19, fall away and prove their profession a shame.

After this prologue, which really could serve as the introduction to its own letter, the Apostle breaks down what this gospel message includes, principally the death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. 1 Corinthians 15:3-8

The first pillar of the gospel mentioned in our passage is the death of Christ. The death of Christ is the purpose for which He came into the world.  It is the manner and means through which God has redeemed a people for Himself.  Note here the application of His death, i.e. for our sins.  The little word “for”, huper in the Greek, is significant for its usage in connection with the substitutionary death of our Lord.

This first pillar is supported with an appeal to the authority of Scripture.  Clearly, the reference to the Scriptures here is a fulfillment of the prophecy of Christ’s death.  It is inclusive of ALL previous divine revelation of God as recorded in Scripture, but may also specifically refer to such passages as Gen. 3:15, Isaiah 53, Psalm 22, etc.

Second, we see the pillar of the burial of Jesus.  This may seem insignificant as compared to our Lord’s death and resurrection, however it affirms the first and anticipates the second, therefore serving as a critical link between the two.  His burial states emphatically that He died, thereby meeting the demands of the law and ultimately satisfying the wrath of God for all those who would believe.

Remember also that the burial of Christ was a point of controversy and thought by the Romans to be an opportunity for Christ’s body to be stolen such that the propagation of the “lie” of his resurrection would be made greater than the “lie” of His declaration of being God’s Son (Matthew 27:62-66).  Furthermore, the burial of Christ is a critical pillar because it serves as an apologetic against those who deny the burial of Christ, such as Islam, or those who assume only a spiritual resurrection.

Finally the significance of the burial may be seen in the place in which Christ was buried, namely a Garden.  This brings full circle the idea of the first Adam’s death (spiritually and then physically) in the first Garden and the Last Adam’s burial and subsequent resurrection (physically and then glorified) in the Garden (See also Romans 6:1-4).  It therefore is a connecting point of biblical themes all of which have their yes and amen in Christ.

Third, and the final pillar of the gospel foundation described in this passage, is the resurrection of Christ on the third day, again in accordance with the Scriptures.  The resurrection of our Lord is the validation of His declaration that He is the Son of God, His life of perfect obedience, His defeat of death, and His fulfillment of God’s plan of redemption (John 19:30).   It is the proclamation of victory over sin, death, and the devil.  It signals the inauguration of the reversal of the curse of sin and death, the enthronement of the King, and as we will see the firstfruits of all subsequent resurrections.  Furthermore, the proclamation of Christ’s resurrection and inclusion of it into the Gospel is the basis for the bodily resurrection of believers.  Therefore, this final pillar is not tangential to Paul’s forthcoming argument for the resurrection of believers, but is indeed its foundation.

One additional point to be noted concerning the second reference of “according to the Scriptures”.  This fascinating detail is again affirmation of submission to the authority of Scripture and a testament to its fulfillment.  Taken individually, it highlights several key prophecies of Christ resurrection.  Most notably that of Jonah (1:17, cf Matthew 12:40), Hosea (6:2) , and those made by the Lord Himself (Matt. 12:40, John 2:19; Matt. 16:21, 17:23, 20:19).

The Apostle Paul, by way of Divine inspiration is laying the foundation of the Gospel upon which he will build his doctrine of the bodily resurrection, first of Christ, which we have seen here, yet ultimately of believers.  Though there is much disagreement over sections of this mighty chapter dealing with the millennium, the kingdom, and aspects of the eschatology of resurrection, these foundational pillars of the Gospel are non-negotiable.

This is the gospel which has been preached.  Have  you believed it?  Are you standing upon it?  Are you being saved by it?  If so, hold fast to it.

For the Glory of God

 

**Image Credit: http://www.kevinbrownlee.com/2012/01/21/81/

The Pronouncement of the Gospel

 

The Gospel of Mark begins unlike either of the other synoptic Gospels.  While Matthew begins by establishing the genealogy of Christ and Luke recounts the historical birth narrative of our Lord, Mark jumps “immediately” into the earthly ministry of Jesus.  In essence, Mark 1:1 is not only the introductory verse, but the thesis for the entire book.

“The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” Mark 1:1

The word gospel in this verse is the Greek word euangelion (euaggelion), which means good news.  So here we have “the beginning of the ‘good news’ of Jesus Christ”.  Most of us are probably familiar with the teaching that the gospel, or good news, is defined as the death and resurrection of our Lord, and that is true, but can sometimes seem limiting in the context of a passage, particularly this one since it occurs at the beginning of Mark and coincides with the beginning of Christ’s earthly ministry, somewhat distant, though certainly anticipatory, from His looming death and resurrection.  Instead, Mark’s use here seems more consistent with that of an announcement, or better a pronouncement, specifically that of 1) An ascension to power and 2) the “Good News” of a new king.

The use of “good news” in the New Testament does not occur in a vacuum, meaning this isn’t the first time the concept or phrase has been used in Scripture, indeed it has a rich Old Testament background that informs both of the points of pronouncement just mentioned.

In Isaiah 40:9 we read, Go on up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good news (euagelion); lift up your voice with strength, O Jerusalem, herald of good news; lift it up, fear not; say to the cities of Judah, “Behold your God!”

In the context of this passage from Isaiah, we see euangelion as a proclamation and its content “Behold your God!” being called for by God to Zion/Jerusalem to be made to the cities of Judah.  This is precisely how Mark’s use of euangelion or good news is functioning in the opening verse of his gospel.  Likewise, as seen later in the chapter, this herald of good news is none other than John the Baptist, which makes the reference to Isaiah 40 all the more significant because the very next verse in Mark (2) is a citation from Isaiah 40 concerning the “voice crying out in the wilderness”,  namely John.  Clearly the connection is purposeful and significant.  Much more could be said regarding the theme of wilderness found in Isaiah and developed in Mark 1 (used 4 times in this opening chapter).

Furthermore, in Isaiah 52:7 we read, How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation,  who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.”  In this passage, which we find quoted in Romans 10, we see that euangelion (good news) is a message of peace, happiness, and salvation wrapped up in the proclamation of “Your God reigns”.

These two OT examples (and others) serve to inform our understanding of euangelion, or good news, in the opening chapter of Mark.  With this gospel pronouncement, we may conclude that it is meant to convey, “Hear ye, Hear ye, the King has arrived!”  On the heavy use of the OT in this and surrounding verses, William Lane comments, “the gospel receives its proper interpretation only in the light of the coming salvation promised in the prophetic word.”  Technically speaking, we may conclude that Mark’s use of the word resembles that of “Christian preaching”.

Euangelion is a fascinating word in its usage from both the Old and New Testament and can take a more complete or fuller meaning depending on the context, see for example the very next use in Mark 1:15 and how the term is used after the death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord.  However, one thing is clear, the Old Testament anticipated this good news and provides the foundation upon which the pronouncement of the King’s arrival is made.

The Practice of Sinning

 

In the first letter by the Apostle John to the saints in Asia, likely a circular letter to include the church at Ephesus, it has been well noted that he provides a series of tests or checks and balances for the Christian life.  The centrality of these tests are: knowledge of God, growth in obedience, and love for others.  In chapter 3, we see obedience approached from the negative side with an exhortation to avoid the “practice of sinning” in order to affirm the genuineness of faith.  Note the passage below:

Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. 10 By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.” 1 John 3:4-10

Here we may observe the Apostle making 4 crystal clear assertions regarding those who make a practice of sinning, the first of which will be addressed in this post, and is the observation that those who make a practice of sinning are practicing lawlessness found in verses 4-5.  We might say that practice is to give oneself over to repetitive or habitual action.  This does not have in mind sinning in general, which we all do (1 John 1:8), rather it is a reference to the ongoing patterns or practice of sin.  In other words, the life that is marked or defined by the downward spiral of sin.

Additionally, we read that all sin, not simply that committed habitually, is equated with the breaking of  God’s holy law.  Generally speaking this is God’s moral law, the requirements of which were written on the hearts of men from Adam onward (Rom. 2:14; conscience), summarized and codified in the 10 Commandments at Sinai, and written on the hearts of all those who through the blood of Christ have been redeemed and brought into the New Covenant by repentance and faith (Jer. 31:33, Ezek. 36:26-27, Heb. 8:10).

Inherently within this statement is the assertion that the Christian life is to be one marked by obedience.  It has oft been assumed, in error, that the law and subsequent obedience to it, are to be eschewed from the life of a believer.  As is evident from this and many other passages in the New Testament, the law clearly has a place in the life of a believer, lest we fall into the error of antinomianismhttp://www.presenttruthmag.com/archive/XXVIII/28p1-11.htm

We would do well to remember the words of our Lord, “If you love me, keep my commandments” John 14:5.  Our Apostle draws upon the language from his gospel in this very epistle when he writes, “And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him.” 1 John 2:3-4.  Furthermore, as we alluded earlier, one of the great promises of the New Covenant is God writing His law on the hearts of those who have been redeemed by the shed blood of Christ.  We may conclude that the importance of obedience to God’s law in the life of the believer is paramount and to walk contrary to it is sin, namely lawlessness.

This first exhortation is supported by two clauses, one a reaffirmation that sin is lawlessness to help drive home the point and two that Christ, who is sinless, appeared to take away sin.  This statement is meant to contrast Christ with sin and subsequently sin with believers. It is meant to offer a sober alert to the reader that where sin exists, it is contrary to Christ because 1. He is sinless and 2. He died to take away sins.  Therefore stop sinning, more on that later.

Far too often we are given to light thoughts of sin and are often ignorant of the sinful patterns of behavior that flare up in our lives from time to time.  In our passage above, the exhortation is clear:  the practice of sinning is contrary to the life of a believer because it is contrary to God’s holy law, and subsequently to God Himself.  It is contrary to the life of Christ and should be contrary to the life of a believer who is united to Him.  And finally, it is the reason for which Christ died.

Thanks be to God that by His mercy He sent His holy Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, who fulfilled the law on behalf of all those who would repent of their sins and believe in Him.  Christ, the only sinless One, the only One who upheld the law on every point has through His obedience credited, or we might say imputed, the righteousness that He earned to the account of those who have trusted in Him.  As we have seen, the law still has a place in the life of a believer as a rule and guide, but it is no longer a heavy yoke on the neck.  It is not a means to life, i.e. it is not a means to either justification or sanctification, each of which come only through Christ our Savior, but instead should be a delight (Romans 2:22, et.al.)

 

*Antinomian image credit: http://www.presenttruthmag.com/archive/XXVIII/28p1-11.htm  Note: reference to this source does not imply endorsement.