Monthly Archives: October 2016

What Is The Gospel? Part Three: The Gospel According to Paul

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Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel (Timothy 2:8 ESV)

… on that day when God, through Jesus the Messiah, will judge people’s secrets according to my gospel. (Romans 2:16 ISV)

Now to the one who is able to strengthen you with my gospel and the message that I preach about Jesus, the Messiah, by revealing the secret that was kept hidden from long ago but now has been made known through the prophets to all the gentiles, in keeping with the decree of the eternal God to bring them to the obedience that springs from faith – to the only wise God, through Jesus the Messiah, be glory forever! Amen. (Romans 16:25-27)

Paul is the only New Testament author to use the phrase “my gospel.” His good news, gospel, differed from the gospel of Jesus in two important ways. Paul, with the gift of the Holy Spirit, had information given to him which Jesus had not revealed before ascending into heaven.

But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and remind you of everything that I have told you. (John 14:26)

For I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel that was proclaimed by me is not of human origin. For I did not receive it from a man, nor was I taught it, but it was revealed to me by Jesus the Messiah. (Galatians 1:11,12 ISV)

But when God, who set me apart before I was born and who called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me so that I might proclaim him among the gentiles, I did not confer with another human being at any time, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before me. Instead, I went away to Arabia and then came back to Damascus. Then three years later I went up to Jerusalem to become acquainted with Cephas, and I stayed with him for fifteen days. (Galatians 1:15-18 ISV)

Paul knew mysteries revealed to him Jesus and the Holy Spirit that no one else knew, including the other disciples.

Paul was also set apart from all the other apostles with a special gift from God. Paul was the apostle to the Gentiles.

I am an apostle to the Gentiles. (Romans 11:13 ISV)

This means that Paul had to do a great deal of background teaching. Many of his audience knew little or nothing of the Word of God. And sometimes Paul was driven away soon after arriving at a city. Paul had to simplify his message to what he considered to be the most basic points. Except for Romans and the two Corinthians, Paul’s letters are very short; six brief chapters, usually less. Paul’s gospel was the combination of new revelation and brevity. This combination became the foundation for Gentile churches.

The basic argument against “Paul’s gospel” was made by Jews who insisted that Gentiles become Jews in order to be saved. These men followed Paul and caused problems throughout the gentile churches. Paul wrote the book of Galatians to correct these problems. When Paul came to Jerusalem, a council to met to determine and make a rule on “Paul’s gospel.”

The Jerusalem Council was not ruling on everything the gospel included. But it did rule on what was the absolute minimum requirement for Gentile believers.

Greetings. We have heard that some men, coming from us without instructions from us, have said things to trouble you and have unsettled you. So we have unanimously decided to choose men and send them to you with our dear Barnabas and Paul, who have risked their lives for the sake of our Lord Jesus, the Messiah.

We have therefore sent Judas and Silas to tell you the same things by word of mouth For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to place on you any burden but these essential requirements: to keep away from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, and anything strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you avoid these things, you will do well. Goodbye. (Acts 15:24-29 ISV)

Later, Paul had the opportunity to put this into practice in Athens. When brought before the Athenians at the Areopagus, Paul had very little time. He had to get their attention and present as much of the gospel as they would accept before they force him to leave.

So Paul stood up in front of the Areopagus and said, “Men of Athen, I see that you are very religious in every way. For as I was walking around and looking closely at the objects you worship, I even found an altar with this written on it: ‘To an unknown god.’ So I am telling you about the unknown object you worship.

The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth. He doesn’t live in the shrines made by human hands, and he isn’t served by people as if he needed anything. He himself gives everyone life, breath, and everything else. From one man he made every nation of humanity to live all over the earth, fixing the seasons of the year and the national boundaries within which they live, so that they might look for God, somehow reach for him, and find him. Of course, he is never far from any one of us.

For we live, move, and exist because of him, as some of your own poets have said: ‘… Since we are his children, too.’ So if we are God’s children we shouldn’t think that the divine being is like gold, silver, or stone, or is an image carved by humans using their own imagination and skill. Though God has overlooked those times of ignorance, he now commands everyone everywhere to repent, because he has set a day when he is going to judge the world with justice through a man whom he has appointed.

He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead. When they heard about a resurrection of the dead, some began joking about it, while others said, “We will hear you again about this.” And so Paul left the meeting. Some men joined him and became believers. With them were Dionysius, who was a member of the Areopagus, a woman named Damarius, and some others along with them. (Acts 17:22-33 ISV)

Apostle Paul by Rembrant Widener Collection Photographer National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C. Wikimedia Commons

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What Is The Gospel? Part Two: The Gospel According to Jesus

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Then Jesus returned to Galilee by the power of the Spirit. Meanwhile, the news about him spread throughout the surrounding country. He began to teach in their synagogues and was continuously receiving praise from everyone. (Luke 4:14,15 ISV)

Soon after Satan tempted Jesus, Jesus returned to Galilee. Luke, written to Theophilus, a Greek, does not use the word gospel here. It only says that Jesus began to teach. Matthew and Mark record the same event with the word gospel.

Then he went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every disease and every illness among the people. (Matthew 4:23 ISV)

Now after John had been arrested, Jesus went to Galilee and proclaimed the gospel about the kingdom of God. He said, ‘The time is now! The kingdom of God is near! Repent, and keep believing the gospel!’” (Mark 1:14,15 ISV)

The first time Luke uses the word gospel is when Jesus read from Isaiah 61:1 in a synagogue.

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me;
he has anointed me to tell
the good news [gospel] to the poor.
He has sent me to announce release to the prisoners
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to set oppressed people free,
and to announce the year of the Lord’s favor.
(Luke 4:18,19 ISV)

The gospel Jesus proclaimed was not a new teaching. As Jesus was the lamb slain from the foundation of the world, so the gospel Jesus proclaimed was the same message proclaimed from the foundation of the world. It is the good news of salvation. But to understand salvation, we must understand sin, our need for a savior, and God’s righteous requirements for atonement.

When Jesus walked about teaching in Israel, He taught the same message over and over again. But he taught people who knew what we call the Old Testament. Jesus taught the gospel continuously throughout his life. To large crowds he taught in parables because many people in his audience were unwilling to accept everything included in the gospel.
The gospel according to Jesus included the entire Old Testament. It was not a simple list which could be accepted or rejected after a ten minute presentation.

When Jesus returned after his resurrection, he continued to preach the gospel. But he spoke only to his disciples. Jesus found two disciples, and walked with them over 7 miles, teaching as they walked.

Then Jesus told them, “O, how foolish you are! How slow you are to believe everything the prophets said! The Messiah had to suffer these things and then enter his glory, didn’t he?” Then, beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them all the passages of Scripture about himself. (Luke 24:25-27 ISV)

When Jesus left them, these two disciples ran back to Jerusalem to tell the other disciples.

While they were all talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and told them, “Peace be with you.” They were startled and terrified, thinking they were seeing a ghost. But Jesus told them, “What’s frightening you? And why are you doubting? Look at my hands and my feet, because it’s really me. Touch me and look at me, because a ghost doesn’t have flesh and bones as you see that I have.”

After he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. Even though they were still skeptical due to their joy and astonishment, Jesus asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate it in their presence. Then he told them, “These are the words that I spoke to you while I was still with you – that everything written about me in the Low of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms had to be fulfilled. Then he opened their minds so that they might understand the Scriptures. (Luke 24:36-45)

The gospel of Jesus: everything written about me in the Low of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms had to be fulfilled.

Image Credit “The Road to Emmaus” by Robert Zund St Gallen Museum of Art  Photographer joyfulheart upload by Adrian Michael Wikimedia Commons

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What Is the Gospel? Part One: What the Gospel Is Not

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“As you go into the entire world, proclaim the gospel to everyone.” (Mark 16:15 ISV)
The gospel, τὸ εὐαγγέλιον, can be translated good news. But it is not just any good news. A friend getting married, a job promotion, a medical checkup free of disease, and many other types of good news are not the gospel Jesus commands us to proclaim.
This is the beginning of the gospel [good news] of Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God. (Mark 1:1 ISV)

Mark wrote to Romans who knew little or nothing of God and the history of God working in mankind. But the Romans were busy with the activities of this material world and spent little time examining the religion of foreigners. So Mark had to educate his Roman audience about the gospel.

Then [Jesus] went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every disease and every illness among the people. (Matthew 4:23)

Matthew wrote to Jews who knew the Old Testament, but were blinded by additional traditions. So Jesus performed signs to proclaim the gospel to the Jews. When the signs had their attention, Jesus taught them that all of God’s revelation testified of Him. Was the gospel of kingdom which Jesus taught in the synagogues of the Jews different from the gospel of Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God that Mark wrote about to the Romans?

I am astonished that your are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of the Messiah and, instead, are following a different gospel, not that another one really exists. To be sure, there are certain people who are troubling you and want to distort the gospel about the Messiah. Galatians 1:6,7 ISV

But those who are deceived do not realize that they are deceived. Millions of people throughout the world claim to be Christians but display none of the characteristics of Christ. Paul’s concerns were well-founded. Certainly there are babes in Christ who need to grow in Christ. But there are millions who are self-deceived, who believe that they are Christians, but have nothing of Christ in their lives.

This need to define what is and what is not Christianity, at least to the extent that sinful humans can evaluate other sinful humans, resulted in Fundamentalism in America, Canada and to a lesser extent, England. Fundamentalism made creeds of what was minimal for what was and what was not necessary to believe for saving faith.

The ecumenical councils of the early church also examined the Scriptures to determine what beliefs were orthodox and what were heretical. Unlike Fundamentalism, which determined the minimal belief necessary for salvation, the ecumenical councils defined individual orthodox doctrines when individual heretical doctrines became popular.

What is the Gospel of Jesus Christ? There is no simple answer. Only God knows the heart of the individual. But many who claim the name of Jesus are not part of the body of Christ.
Jesus is not a commodity. That it, proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ does not mean that we are eternal life insurance salesmen. Accepting Jesus as the Messiah does not mean that we can live the way we used to, just adding Jesus to an already crowded life.

Image Credit: An illuminated manuscript painting by Sargis Ptisak, who was a 14th century Armenian artist. First Page of the Gospel of Mark, Cod. 2627, fol. 436 r. (Matenadaran). Work of Sargis Pitsak scanned from B. Choukaszian, Sargis Pitsak, printed in Finland, 1986. from Wikimedia Commons

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The Historical Context of Jonah

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Nimrod built Nineveh very soon after the flood. It was part of his kingdom to rebel against God.

[Nimrod’s] kingdom began in the region of Shinar with the cities of Babylon, Eriech, Akkad, and Calneh. From there he went north to Assyria and built Nineveh, Rehoboth-ir, and Calah, along with Resen, which was located between Nineven and the great city of Calah. Genesis 10:10-12

2,000 years later, every Jew listening to Jesus understood Nineveh.

An evil and adulterous generation craves a sign. Yet no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah, because just as Jonah was in the stomach of the sea creature for three days and three nights, so the Son of Man will be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights. The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment and condemn the people living today, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah. But look-something greater than Jonah is here! Matthew 12:39-41

Jeroboam II led the northern kingdom of Israel to its greatest glory since Solomon. Jonah prophesied that Jeroboam (II, of the line of Jehu) would take impoverished, defeated Israel and restore its borders to the Euphrates River. This was the same border Israel had under Solomon.

“God used Jeroboam to … restore the former borders [Numbers 13:21] from the entrance into Hamath to the sea of the plain. This fulfilled the prophecy of the Lord which was spoken by Jonah the prophet, the son of Amittai. 2 Kings 14:25,27,28.”
825 BC Ussher The Annals of the World

[Jeroboam] rebuilt Israel’s coastline from the entrance of Hamath as far as the Sea of the Arabah, in accordance with the message from the Lord God of Israel that he spoke through his servant Jonah the prophet, Amittai’s son, who was from Gath-hepher. 2 Kings 14:29
“Jonah was later sent to Nineveh …”
808 BC Ussher The Annals of the World

Sir Isaac Newton believed that Jonah actually lived and prophesied earlier, before the reign of Jeroboam II. “Homer mentions Bacchus and Memnon Kings of Egypt and Persia, but knew nothing of an Assyrian Empire. Jonah prophesied when Israel was in affliction from Syria, and this was in the latter part of the Reign of Jehoahaz, and the first part of the Reign of Joash, Kings of Israel, and I think in the Reign of Moeris the successor of Ramesses King of Egypt, and about sixty years before the Reign of Pul; and Nineveh was then a city of large extent, but full of pastures for cattle, so that it contained but about 120000 persons. It was not yet grown so great and potent as not to be terrified at the preaching of Jonah, and to fear being invaded by its neighbours and ruined within forty days: it had some time before got free from the dominion of Egypt, and got a King of its own; but its King was not yet called the King of Assyria, but only King of Nineveh, Jonah iii. 6,7 and his proclamation for a fast was not published in several nations, nor in all Assyria, but only in Nineveh, and perhaps in the villages thereof; but soon after, when the dominion of Nineveh was established at home, and exalted over all Assyria properly so called, and this Kingdom began to make was upon the neighbouring nations, its Kings were no longer called Kings of Nineveh but began to be called Kings of Assyria.”
Sir Isaac Newton The Chronology of Ancient Kingdoms p. 99

II Kings 14:25 means that either Jonah lived during the reign of Jeroboam II or Jonah lived and prophesied earlier and Jeroboam II fulfilled an earlier prophecy. According to Sir Isaac Newton, Jonah went to Nineveh around 850 BC, more than 40 years before Ussher’s date for the book of Jonah.

With either position, Nineveh was at that time a minor city-state. The original Jeroboam, son of Nebat, the servant of Solomon lead the northern kingdom in rebellion against Rehoboam. Jeroboam, son of Nebat, was allied with Egypt. So the northern kingdom of Israel was either an ally or a vassal state to Egypt. This relationship is rarely mentioned in the Bible. Later, Ahab also had a strong alliance with Egypt. It is impossible to know if Egypt viewed the northern kingdom of Israel as an ally or a vassal state.

It is very likely that Assyria was a small local power before Tiglath-pileser developed a professional military and marched on Israel. (747 BC, Ussher).

The people of Nineveh would have no problem adding Jehovah to their pantheon. Their problem was the first commandment, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” So what did Nineveh know about Israel when Jonah arrived?

  1. Abraham and his family left Mesopotamia traveled to Egypt, and left Egypt wealthy.
  2. Abraham headed a coalition from Canaan headed by 318 special forces from his own family which defeated a five nation alliance headed by the nation of Elam.
  3. Jacob and his children destroyed every person in Shechem.
  4. Joseph by skill becomes Vizier of all Egypt.
  5. As slaves, the Israelites, already skilled in the ways of Mesopotamia, learn all of the skills of Egypt.
  6. The God of Israel destroyed Egypt. This might be the most important point when they listened to Jonah’s message.
  7. Led by Joshua, Israel captured Canaan, destroying the most powerful city-states of that time.
  8. Led by Gideon, Israel destroyed the Midianites who were as numerous as the sand of the sea.
  9. Led by Saul, Israel destroyed Amalek, first among the nations.
  10. Led by David, Israel destroyed the Syrians. At one time, the Syrians had controlled Nineveh.
  11. Led by Solomon, every nation on earth paid tribute to Israel.
  12. Led by King Asa, Judah had defeated an army of one million Ethiopians.

Jonah did not arrive in Nineveh in a vacuum. God had prepared the people of Nineveh for Jonah’s message.

All Scripture quotes are from the ISV.

Image from Wikimedia Commons

Nineveh. Adad Gate. One of the fifteen gateways of ancient Nineveh. A reconstruction was begun in the 1960s by Iraqis, but was not completed. The result is an uneasy mixture of concrete and eroding mudbrick, which nonetheless does give one some idea of the original structure. The lower portions of the stone retaining wall are original. Fortunately, the excavator left some features unexcavated, allowing a view of the original Assyrian construction. The original brickwork of the outer vaulted passageway is well exposed. The actions of Nineveh’s last defenders can be seen in the hastily built mudbrick construction which narrows the passageway from 4 m. to 2 m. Height of vault is about 5 m. Photo by Fredarch.
Source http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Nineveh_Adad_gate_exterior_entrance_far2.JPG Author Fredarch

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October 14-16 Rake In the Savings 99 Cent Ebooks plus a Kindle Contest!

 

Don’t have a Kindle? Then enter to win a shiny new Kindle from the good folks at CIAN and CWW. Entering is simple. You’ll find the link to contest below. We’ve got some great books on sale and if you want to learn more about these groups you can do that also at the CIAN website link below.

http://www.christianindieauthors.com/special-events.html

99-cent-sale-books

Take a sneak peek at our 99 cent sale books! There might even be more!

 

 

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