The Gospel - your invitation to the Kingdom of God
Everyone has an idea of right and wrong, and everyone has already done something wrong even according to their own idea. "To err is human," says a well-known saying. Everyone has ever disappointed a friend, broken a promise, hurt someone else's feelings. Everyone knows guilt.
Therefore people do not want to have anything to do with God. They don't want a day of judgment because they know that they cannot stand before God with a clear conscience. They know that they should obey him, but they also know that they didn't. You feel ashamed and feel guilty. How can their debt be redeemed? How to clear the mind? "Forgiveness is divine," concludes the key word. It is God Himself who forgives.
Many people know this saying, but they do not believe that God is divine enough to forgive their sins. You still feel guilty. They still fear the appearance of God and the day of judgment.
But God has appeared before - in the person of Jesus Christ. He came not to condemn, but to save. He brought a message of forgiveness and he died on a cross to guarantee that we can be forgiven.
The message of Jesus, the message of the Cross, is good news for those who feel guilty. Jesus, God and man in one, has taken our punishment. All people who are humble enough to believe the gospel of Jesus Christ will be forgiven. We need this good news. Christ's gospel brings peace of mind, happiness and a personal victory.
The true gospel, the good news, is the gospel that Christ preached. The same gospel was also preached by the apostles: Jesus Christ, the crucified (1 Corinthians 2,2), Jesus Christ in Christians, the hope of glory (Colossians 1,27), the resurrection from the dead, the message of hope and salvation for mankind. This is the gospel of the kingdom of God that Jesus preached.
The good news for all people
"But after John was captured, Jesus came to Galilee and preached the gospel of God, saying: The time has come and the kingdom of God has come. Do repentance [repent, turn back] and believe in the gospel! » (Mark 1,14:15 ”XNUMX). This gospel that Jesus brought is the "good news" - a powerful "message that changes and transforms life. The gospel not only converts and converts, but will ultimately upset everyone who opposes it. The gospel is "a power of God that makes all who believe in it happy" (Romans 1,16). The gospel is God's invitation to us to live a completely different level. The good news is that there is an inheritance waiting for us that will be fully in our possession when Christ returns. It is also an invitation to an invigorating spiritual reality that can already belong to us. Paul calls the gospel "Evan" gelium of Christ " (1 Corinthians 9,12).
"Gospel of God" (Romans 15,16) and "Gospel of Peace" (Ephesians 6,15). Starting from Jesus, he begins to redefine the Jewish opinion of the kingdom of God, focusing on the universal meaning of the first coming of Christ. The Jesus who walked the dusty streets of Judea and Galilee, Paul teaches, is now the "risen Christ" who sits on the right hand of God and is "the head of all powers and powers" (Colossians 2,10). According to Paul, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ come "first" in the gospel; they are the key events in God's plan (1 Corinthians 15,1: 11). The gospel is the good news for the poor and oppressed. History has one goal. In the end, law will triumph, not power.
The pierced hand has triumphed over the armored fist. The kingdom of evil gives way to the kingdom of Jesus Christ, an order of things that Christians are already experiencing in part.
Paul underlined this aspect of the gospel to the Colossians: «Thank you with thanks to the Father who made you efficient to the inheritance of the saints in the light. He saved us from the power of darkness and put us in the kingdom of his dear son, in which we have salvation, namely the forgiveness of sins » (Colossians 1,12:14 and).
For all Christians, the gospel is and was present reality and future hope. The risen Christ, the Lord is over time, space and everything that happens down here, is the champion for Christians. The one who was raised to heaven is the omnipresent source of power (Eph3,20-21).
The good news is that Jesus Christ has overcome every obstacle in his earthly life. The way of the cross is a hard but victorious way into the kingdom of God. That is why Paul can sum up the gospel in a nutshell, "because I thought it right not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ, the crucified one" (1 Corinthians 2,2).
The big reversal
When Jesus appeared in Galilee and preached the gospel seriously, he expected an answer. He also expects an answer from us today. But Jesus' invitation to enter the kingdom was not kept in a vacuum. Jesus' call for the Kingdom of God was accompanied by impressive signs and miracles that made a country that suffered from Roman rule sit up and take notice. This is one reason why Jesus had to make it clear what he meant by the Kingdom of God. The Jews in Jesus' time were waiting for a leader who would bring back the glory of David and Solomon to their nation. But the message of Jesus was “double revolutionary”, as the Oxford ”scholar NT Wright writes. First, he took the popular expectation that a Jewish superstate would shed the Roman yoke and turned it into something completely different. He made the widespread hope of political liberation a message of spiritual salvation: the gospel!
"The Kingdom of God has come, he seemed to say, but it is not what you imagined it to be". Jesus shocked people with the consequences of his good news. «But many who are the first will be the last and the last will be the first» (Matthew 19,30).
"There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth," he said to his fellow Jews, "if you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you will be pushed out" (Luke 13,28).
The great sacrament was there for everyone (Luke 14,16: 24). The Gentiles were also invited to the Kingdom of God. And a second was no less revolutionary.
This Nazareth prophet seemed to have plenty of time for the lawless - from the lepers and cripples to greedy tax collectors - and sometimes even for the hated Roman oppressors. The good news that Jesus brought contradicted all expectations, even those of his faithful disciples (Luke 9,51: 56). Again and again Jesus said that the kingdom that they expected in the future was already dynamically present in his work. After a particularly dramatic episode he said: "But if I drive out the evil spirits through God's fingers, then the kingdom of God has come to you" (Luke 11,20). In other words, the people who saw the work of Jesus experienced the present of the future. Jesus turned popular expectations upside down in at least three ways:
- Jesus taught the good news that the Kingdom of God is a pure gift - the Lordship of God that already brought healing. This is how Jesus started the "Year of Mercy of the Lord" (Luke 4,19:61,1; Isaiah 2). But the hard-working and burdened, the poor and beggars, delinquent children and repentant tax collectors, repentant whores and outsiders of society were "admitted" to the empire. For black sheep and spiritually lost sheep, he declared himself their shepherd.
- The good news of Jesus was also there for those who were ready to turn to God through genuine repentance. These sinfully repentant sinners would find in God a generous father who searches the horizon for his wandering sons and daughters and sees them when they are "still far away" (Luke 15,20). The good news of the gospel means that everyone who says with heart: «God be merciful to me sinners» (Luke 18,13) and sincerely means that he would find sympathetic hearing from God. Always. «Ask, it will be given to you; seek, you will find; knock, so you will be opened » (Luke 11,9). For those who believed and turned away from the ways of the world, this was the best news they could hear.
- The gospel of Jesus also meant that nothing could stop the victory of the kingdom that Jesus had brought, even if it looked the opposite. This empire would face bitter, merciless resistance, but ultimately it would triumph in supernatural power and glory.
Christ said to his disciples: "But when the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on the throne of his glory, and all the people will be gathered before him. And he will separate them like a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats » (Matthew 25,31: 32).
So the good news of Jesus had a dynamic tension between the "already" and the "not yet". The gospel of the kingdom referred to the reign of God, which already existed - "See the blind and walk the lame, lepers become pure and hear the deaf, the dead stand up and the gospel is preached to the poor" (Matthew 11,5).
But the empire was "not yet" there in the sense that its full fulfillment was still imminent. Understanding the gospel means understanding this twofold aspect: on the one hand, the promised presence of the king, who is already living in his people, and on the other hand, his dramatic return.
The good news of your salvation
The missionary Paul helped to trigger the second Great Movement of the Gospel - its spread from tiny Judea to the highly cultivated Greek-Roman world of the middle of the first century. Paul, the converted Christian persecutor, directs the dazzling light of the gospel through the prism of everyday life. While praising the glorified Christ, he is also concerned with the practical consequences of the gospel. Despite the fanatical resistance, Paul conveys to other Christians the breathtaking meaning of Jesus' life, death and resurrection: «Even to you who were once alien and hostile in evil works, he has now reconciled by the death of his mortal body so that he place yourself before his face holy and blameless and flawless; if only you remain in faith, founded and firm, and do not depart from the hope of the gospel that you have heard and that is preached to all creatures under heaven. I, Paul, became his servant » (Colossians 1,21:23 and). Reconciled. Flawless. Grace. Salvation. Forgiveness. And not just in the future, but here and now. This is the gospel of Paul.
The Resurrection, the climax to which the Synoptics and John drove their readers (John 20,31), releases the inner power of the gospel for the daily life of the Christian. The resurrection of Christ confirms the gospel.
Therefore, so Paul teaches, those events in distant Judea give hope to all people: «I am not ashamed of the gospel; for it is a power of God that blesses all who believe in it, the Jews first and the Greeks as well. Because it reveals the righteousness that applies before God, which comes from faith in faith ». (Romans 1,16-17).
A call to live the future here and now
The apostle John adds another dimension to the gospel. It shows Jesus how the «disciple he loved» (John 19,26), remembered him, a man with the heart of a shepherd, a church leader with a deep love for people with their worries and fears.
«There were many other signs that Jesus made before his disciples that are not written in this book. But these are written so that you can believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that you can have life in his name by faith » (John 20,30: 31).
The gospel presentation on the part of John has its core in the remarkable statement: "so that you can have life through faith". John miraculously conveys another aspect of the gospel: Jesus Christ in moments of great personal closeness. John gives a living account of the personal, serving presence of the Messiah.
In the Gospel of John we encounter a Christ who was a powerful public preacher (John 7,37: 46). We see Jesus warm and hospitable. From his inviting invitation "Come and see!" (John 1,39) up to the challenge to the doubting Thomas to put his finger in the stigmata on his hands (John 20,27), the portrait that became flesh and lived among us is unforgettable (John 1,14).
People felt so welcome and comfortable with Jesus that they had a lively exchange with him (John 6,58). They were lying next to him eating and eating from the same plate (John 13,23: 26). They loved him so deeply that as soon as they saw him they swam to the bank to eat fish that he had fried himself (John 21,7: 14).
The Gospel of John reminds us of how much the gospel revolves around Jesus Christ, his example, and the eternal life that we receive through him (John 10,10).
It reminds us that preaching the gospel is not enough. We have to live it too. The apostle Johan nes encourages us: Our example could help convince others to share the good news of the Kingdom of God with us. This is what happened to the Samaritan woman who met Jesus Christ at the well (John 4,27-30), and Maria von Magdala (John 20,10: 18).
The one who wept at the tomb of Lazarus, the humble servant who washed his disciples' feet, lives today. He gives us his presence through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit:
«Whoever loves me will keep my word; and my father will love him, and we will come to him and live with him ... your heart will not be frightened or afraid » (John 14,23:27 and).
Jesus is actively leading his people today through the Holy Spirit. His invitation is as personal and encouraging as ever: "Come and see!" (John 1,39).
by Neil Earle