Teachings That Must Not Be Lost: The Gospel

Dare we consider that the reason we have so much else wrong is because we have the Gospel wrong?

For this post I am indebted to a friend, Matthew Bryan, who is writing a book on the subject. We’ll be adding a link to his book at Greatest Stories Ever Told when it comes out.

This is reblogged from several weeks ago, and I have edited and updated that post for this posting.

Matthew 16:16 Peter tells Jesus, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” In response, Jesus named Peter rock (Petros) and said he would build his church on “this rock” (petra). Protestants believe “this rock” is Peter’s confession, while Roman Catholics believe the rock is Peter himself.

Either way, it was the confession that caused Jesus to name Peter “Rock.” We do not devote enough attention to Peter’s confession. Doing so could transform us and Christianity as we know it.

Peter’s Confession

If we put enough emphasis on Peter’s confession, eventually we would get to two questions that would change the way we look at the Gospel, the Church, and the world.

  1. What exactly does “Christ” mean?
  2. How did Peter know to add “Son of the living God” to his confession?

First, let’s define the word “Christ,” and then let’s get the deeper answer to that first question.

“Christ” is from the Greek word christos, which means “anointed.” It is the same word as Messiah, which comes from the Hebrew meshiach, which also means “anointed.”

One of the clearest references to the Messiah is Psalm 2, and it is in Psalm 2 that we shall find the answer to both our questions.

Psalm 2

The verses that answer our questions are these:

The kings of the earth take a stand, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against his Anointed (meshiach), saying, “Let’s break their bonds apart and cast their cords from us.” … Then he will speak to them in his anger and terrify them in his wrath, “Yet I have set my King on my holy hill of Zion.”
   I will tell of the decree. The Lord said to me, “You are my Son. Today I have become your Father. Ask of me, and I will give you the nations for your inheritance, the uttermost parts of the earth for your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron. You shall dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.”
   … Give sincere homage to the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the path. For his wrath will soon be kindled. Blessed are all those who take refuge in him.

This is how Peter knew to add “Son of the living God” to “Christ.” Psalm 2 told him the Messiah was both God’s Anointed King and his Son.

Peter is not the only one that knew to add “Son of God” to “Christ” or “Messiah.”

  • Caiaphas the high priest: “I command you by the living God that you tell us whether you are the Christ, the Son of God!” (Matt. 26:63)
  • Mark: “The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”
  • Demons: “And demons also came out of many, crying out, and saying, ‘You are Christ, the Son of God'” (Luke 4:41).
  • Martha: “I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God” (Jn. 11:27).
  • John the apostle: “These things are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God” (John 20:31).

Look at the authority of God’s Messiah Son. He receives the nations for his inheritance. He possesses the ends of the earth. He can shatter nations like a clay pot. Those who take refuge in him, however, are blessed.

The Gospel

One of the biggest mistakes we have made is in thinking that the Gospel is about us.

The Gospel is not about us. It is about the Messiah, the coming King, the Son of the Living God.

I know from 30 years of experience that when a Protestant, especially an evangelical or fundamentalist, teaches or is taught the Gospel, it is all about us. For example, Evangelism Explosion by Dr. D. James Kennedy, was a wildly popular evangelism program in the 80’s and 90’s. It’s outline went like this:

  1. Heaven is a free gift.
  2. Man is a sinner and cannot save himself.
  3. God wants to forgive sin, but he is just and must punish sin.
  4. Jesus, the God-man, died in our place.
  5. If we place our trust in him, we will be saved

Although I have strong scriptural, historical, and moral objections to #3, this outline is pretty much all true.

But these points are all about us! We are at the focus of every one of those statements. They are about our need and the rewards available through Jesus and his atonement.

That is not the approach the apostles took. Their Gospel had one central focus: “Jesus is the anointed King, the Son of the living God.”

The Apostles’ Gospel

An excellent example is Paul’s proclamation to the intellectuals on Mars Hill in Athens:

“The times of ignorance, therefore, God overlooked. But now he commands that all people everywhere should repent because he has appointed a day in which he will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom he has ordained; of which he has given assurance to all men, in that he has raised him from the dead.” (Acts 17:30-31)

Or Peter on the day of Pentecost:

“Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved by God to you by mighty works and wonders and signs which God did by him among you … him, being delivered up by the determined counsel and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by the hand of lawless men, crucified and killed. Him God raised up, having freed him from the agony of death because it was not possible that he could be held by it.” (Acts 2:22-24)

And why did Peter emphasize Jesus and not us? To get to this proclamation:

“Let all the house of Israel therefore know certainly that God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified.” (v. 36)

The confession that Jesus is the Anointed King, the Son of the living God prompted a remarkable reaction from Jesus. He declared that only the Father could have revealed this to Peter, and he named Peter “Rock,” and said he would build his church on him (or his confession).

That is a strong reaction from the only person whose reaction really matters.

I would argue that the only person whose reaction really matters still reacts strongly to the statement that Jesus is the Messiah King, the Son of the living God.

It is no wonder, then, that the apostles went around proclaiming this very thing. Their job was to be witnesses of the resurrection (Acts 1:22; 2:32; 4:33; 10:40-41; 13:30-31). The resurrection, they proclaimed, was proof that Jesus was the Anointed King, the Son of the living God (Rom. 1:4).

This is a blog, and have to keep it somewhat short. I highly recommend that you read through the Acts of the Apostles and pay attention to what the apostles preached to the lost as “Gospel.” Jesus did die for our sins, and the apostles taught that to the churches in their letters, but they did not preach the atonement to the lost. Instead they proclaimed the good news that God raised Jesus from the dead to prove that he is the Anointed King, the Son of the living God. (See my book, The Apostles’ Gospel).

How Does This Apply to Us?

Is it really hard to see the difference between someone who has become a Christian because of “fire insurance” and one who has believed that Jesus is God’s anointed, ruling King who should not be angered lest we perish in the way?

What if all our converts were people who came to Jesus because they believe he is King and Judge of all? What if they all had fled to Jesus because “God is commanding all men everywhere to repent because he has appointed a day in which he will judge the world in righteousness by one Man, whom he raised from the dead”?

I think we would see drastic changes, not only because our converts would be disciples, not assenters, but also because God is much more likely to back with power the Gospel that he commissioned the apostles to preach than the one we have developed by tradition over the centuries.

We can see in Scripture how Jesus reacted when Peter embraced the Gospel of the King. He has not changed. His reaction to those who confess that he is the King, the Son of the living God, will not change.

The kingdom of God does not consist of words, but of power, and what better to bring that power than the Gospel of King Jesus?

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5 Responses to Teachings That Must Not Be Lost: The Gospel

  1. Jim Riege says:

    Why would spiritually dead people (everybody) have acknowledged Jesus as their King and started obeying him if they have not been told what’s in it for them? If the news that Jesus is King because he has been raised from the dead had been the only gospel ever preached, why would GENTILES, who knew nothing of Psalm 2, become disciples and martyrs only because Jesus is King? The answer must be: the gracious gift of faith and enthusiasm supernaturally given to them by the Holy Spirit. Is that a correct conclusion? Is that “how it works?”

    • paulfpavao says:

      Hi Jim,

      At least every week, maybe more often, I’m reminded about how much I’m assuming my readers know. It seems outright impossible to remember to include foundational issues behind my blogs that my readers may not know about. I depend on questions like these to address those issues.

      The answer you gave to your own question is obviously true, but it’s only part of the truth. The Holy Spirit must be involved in repentance and belief because salvation is spiritual.

      But there’s more. Your question makes an assumption, and that assumption is right on. People want to know what’s in it for them, and simply telling them that they must submit to Jesus, God’s Son and Anointed King, is not enough.

      I’m willing to say that because the apostles did address what is in it for their hearers. The saving confession, as I taught in the article, is that Jesus is the anointed King, the Son of the Living God.” In order to get people to make that confession, you have to tell the hearers about it. That does not mean, however, that we are limited to saying nothing except that one sentence.

      In addition to that sentence, we preach the resurrection, which is the proof that Jesus is the King, the Son of God. We also preach, because the apostles preached, that there is something in it for the hearers. Things specifically mentioned by the apostles are:

      1. Forgiveness of sin
      2. Escape from judgment
      3. Receiving the Holy Spirit

      The escape from judgment part was not really spoken as a reward. Instead, Paul told the Athenians, with the resurrection as his evidence, that a day would come on which God would judge the world by one man. That’s a warning, not a promise, but implicit in the warning is that if you repent and submit to God’s Messiah, you will do well at the judgment (or possible avoid it altogether).

      It appears to me that Paul is the one most likely to focus on the forgiveness of sins. He was, as you point out, preaching to Gentiles, so he focused on the benefit as well as on repentance. Peter, however, had a Jewish audience, and you can see in his sermons, he was willing to frighten them by announcing that the resurrection proved that they had killed God’s Messiah. The Jews knew this was a horrendous thing to do, and horrified, they cried, “What must we do?”

      Then Peter told them about water baptism, the forgiveness of sins, and the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

      Paul couldn’t frighten the Gentiles that way. It’s not very convicting to hear, “They killed their King, who was sent from God.” Instead, he told them that the resurrection established that Jesus was God’s representative on earth, his Son, and that one day he would judge them.

      Resurrection and judgment motivated the Gentiles. When Paul told them that if they believed in this new King, they would receive the forgiveness of sins, the Holy Spirit would move, and the Gentiles would repent. Paul didn’t have to tell them they were sinners. They knew they were sinners.

      The Jews are the ones who needed to be told they were sinners because they had the Scriptures and theologians to help them with the Scriptures. This allowed them to try to hide their sins behind verses like “Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.” They thought that if they were circumcised, kept the Sabbaths and Feasts, avoided unclean foods, and tithed, they would be among those to whom the Lord would not attribute sin.

      Their mistake. The one to whom the Lord will not impute sin are men like David, who wholeheartedly serve God, but prove to be human as well. David was a sinner, but he was a sinner devoted to God, given to being transformed by him, and utterly submitted to his will even when God’s will was horrific in David’s life.

      Don’t think that anyone else has hope of being among those that the Lord continually and daily favors.

      John tells us, “Do not be deceived. The one who practices righteousness is righteous as he is righteous. The one who practices sin is of the devil” (1 Jn. 3:7).

      Jesus, the King himself, is just as clear as his disciple John: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only those who do the will of my Father in heaven” (Matt. 7:21). Or consider, perhaps: “He who loves mother or father more than me is not worthy of me” (Matt. 10:37-38).

  2. Jim says:

    This was an interesting post. Extrapolating your point out…I wonder what our churches services and ministries would look like if the Gospel was presented as you suggest. Something to think about.

    • paulfpavao says:

      I missed this comment, Jim. Or else I didn’t get to it, then forgot about it.

      Action and resulting change. That’s what teaching is all about. It’s supposed to result in love from a pure heart, a sincere faith, and (something else). The very purpose of the Scripture is that we would be “thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

      However, the Scriptures make wise for salvation, and then build on that foundation. If a person has not renounced himself/herself as king and submitted to Jesus as King, there is nothing to build on. That’s the rock to build on, “Jesus is the King, the Son of the living God.”

      There are people that it’s hard to determine where they are. There are others that don’t even want to submit to King Jesus. We have to remember that not only are such people in danger of condemnation, but they are still walking according to the spirit that now works in the sons of disobedience. Let such people be church members, and the devil will use them to make sure you never get anything done that is truly of eternal benefit.

      I think the loss of the experience of real koinonia that was experienced throughout the 2nd and 3rd centuries is not just because of Constantine. The real issue was that the church opened its doors and let the world come be part of them. Only in rare cases in history have churches purged the leaven from the loaf so they could experience real fellowship among holy brothers and sisters.

      For the most part, our organizations let the world in freely. Without the requirement that they confess Jesus as LORD, we have let in all sort of people who want the benefits of the Spirit without subjecting themselves to the Spirit. That’s why we do so much evangelizing from the pulpit. Those aren’t churches. Those are outreach centers, and most people don’t know who needs to be reached with the Gospel!

      The church is an incredibly powerful entity, the pillar and support of the truth, the family of God, but we have abandoned our family to spread out and live and meet with the sons of disobedience.

      In the days of Jesus and the apostles, there was an inside and an outside. They talked about it regularly.

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