Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Is The Gospel In The Gospels?


Yes, the Gospel is in the Gospels, but there is a clear shift in the meaning of "Gospel" as we progress from the "Gospels" (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John), to the epistles, particularly those written by Paul the Apostle.

The word "gospel" is used several times throughout Matthew, Mark and Luke (not in John). It essentially means "good tidings", or "good news", and usually refers to the good news that the Messiah has come, the Savior, the King and His Kingdom in some sense. And it certainly was Good News.

But there is much about the Gospel, as it is presented in the epistles, that is lacking in the Gospels. Why? Primarily because Jesus Himself lived on earth under the Old Covenant. Much of what He taught, He taught to Jews who were still under the Law of the Old Covenant. He was in a transition time, to be sure. He was beginning to herald something glorious beyond the Law. But He still had to live under the Law, in order to fulfill it, and be qualified as the perfect Lamb of God.

There were seeds of grace in His ministry. But those seeds had been planted even in Genesis, with the promise of the crushing of the head of the serpent. And in Jeremiah Chapter 31, where the New Covenant was promised.

The Gospel of the New Covenant, as it was expounded by Paul, for example, included not only a general faith in Jesus Christ as Lord, but faith in a complete Messiah and His work on the cross, and His resurrection. Even John wrote, "but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name." (John 20:31) And this was in the only Gospel that didn't contain the word "gospel". But it lifts Him up, the Lord Jesus Christ, and calls us to believe in Him as Lord, and Savior.

Probably the clearest factual presentation of the Gospel content is in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4, where it says,

"Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures..."

There is a principle of hermeneutics (Bible interpretation) that says that, all things being equal, Scripture tends to progressively shed more light on a given subject as we progress through the Bible. And sure enough, the gospel is really explained in all its glory in the epistles, not in the Gospels.

In fact, much of what Jesus taught seems to smack of legalism. And why not? He was teaching under the Old Covenant, which later was to become "obsolete" (Hebrews 8). There was some legalism, but it was righteous legalism, true and Biblical legalism.

My point is this. It is a mistake to go back to the Gospels to explain that Gospel of Grace which is so exalted in Romans and Galatians. It is a mistake, and leads to confusion, to proclaim "The Gospel According To Jesus". We are not saved under the New Covenant by "give all that you are for all that He is". First, that would be salvation by works as a reward, and second, it's a good thing that giving "all that you are" is not the condition for salvation, since I'm confident that no one has ever given all that he is. We are not saved under the New Covenant by "deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow Me" (Matthew 16:24). That "follow me" is in the present tense, and involves the linear action of a whole life of discipleship. But the Gospel of Grace says that "he who has the Son has life" now (1 John 5:12).

And out of that new life springs fruit. But the fruit comes from the life, not vice versa.

Listen to "Grace For Life" Radio Program.

8 comments:

Bhedr said...

Enjoyed that bro. I never fully liked the expression, "give your heart to Jesus!" I often thought that "Let Him give you His heart!" would be better, but then again that would be human words as well.

The Bible says-BELIEVE. If a man is not trusting in Christ and Him alone as his sin-bearer then he is trusting in something false.

Hey! Do you like Dr. Lutzer?

Terry Rayburn said...

Brian,

Yeah, I like Lutzer. I don't get a lot of exposure to him, but I get to hear him preach on the radion sometimes on my way to church.

Blessings,
Terry

Loki said...

Ah. So it's ok to not do what Jesus said to (deny myself, hate my family, the beattitudes, etc) as long as I believe in him? Seems awful convenient.

Terry Rayburn said...

Loki,

Do you think that your good works in obedience to Jesus will bring you salvation?

If you answer, "Yes", then the Gospel ("good news") says you are wrong. But that's good news, because now you can know that our salvation comes as a free gift by grace through faith.

If you answer, "No", then you will understand my mission to correct people who think they get or keep their salvation by "works".

We certainly are called to discipleship and obedience to Jesus Christ, but that's AFTER we are born again, saved entirely by grace through faith.

And even then, that discipleship and obedience to Christ will not affect our salvation, which is completely by grace, from start to finish.

GeneSteeler said...

You toe a fine line sometimes Terry.

Yes, we are saved solely by grace. But we have a responsibility to do works afterwards as you say.
Faith, is belief in practice. (refer James) and we are called to do good works (Eph2:10). We must exhibit transformed lives.

So we need to be prepared to pick up our cross and consider all but lost when we put our faith in Christ. Living a self-focused life the same as before we made a "confession of faith" questions whether you really have faith or just an emotional experience.

I agree with you that we need to look at Paul's words and life to really understand what being a Follower of Christ entails (the gospel). But I'm troubled by the watered down Chrsitianity that is preached which boils down to "say some pre-fabricated prayer (repeat after me), Christ enters your life, and you are saved. That's it. Go back to your sinful lifestyle, cause you MADE IT IN!)"

Is that REALLY faith?

Terry Rayburn said...

Gene,

Thanks for you input.

It may seem like a fine line that I "toe", but it really isn't.

The Scripture is a lot clearer than most people think.

Our salvation is entirely by grace, a free gift.

Therefore, it has *nothing*, absolutely *nothing* to do with works in any way.

Likewise the Gospel itself has *nothing* to do with works. The Gospel is simply the good news of what has *already* been done by Christ for us in His death, burial and resurrection.

When we believe that Gospel, and believe in Jesus as risen Lord and Savior, we are saved.

But because we are born again, the Lord will work in us "both to will and to do for His good pleasure".

So you are right that with our faith will come works, but the works have *nothing* to do with *getting* or *keeping* our salvation.

I share your disdain for the watered down gospel of "say this prayer and you're in".

But we don't want to protect against that false gospel with another false gospel of faith plus works.

It comes down to the New Birth. Either we're born again or we're not. Either we have Life, or we don't.

And that comes entirely by grace through faith, not of works.

GeneSteeler said...

Thanks Terry,

Now - please no one be offended, if the shoe doesn't fit, don't wear it!

I grew up in a Christian home and went to a Christian school. I was surrounded by Calvinists who were baptised as infants and believed that "they were in". Forget about living a transformed life, they drank, smoked and sexed more than my non-Christian friends!

So, I guess, as "Salvation is solely through Grace" is your message (which is true). My message (to believers) is "You've been cleansed by the precious blood of Christ. So stop playing in the mud!"

Which are the two things Paul talked about the most. Salvation through Grace and living a transformed life.

Randy Dreger (aka GeneSteeler)

Jesus commanded us to "make disciples".

Terry Rayburn said...

Randy,

Amen :)