Monday, 23 April 2012

What is the 'good news' of the Gospel? Part2



What is the 'good news' of the Gospel?  I have examined the first two options, and found that neither of them answers my question satisfactorily: 
1. Search the Internet by ‘googling’ ‘What is the Gospel’? 
2. Go to church on Sunday.

In order to find the answer to my question, What is the 'good news' of the Gospel?, I am only left with the third option: 

3. Read any one or all four of the Gospels in the New Testament

 

I have taken the third option and read all four Gospels. The first thing that I have found is that there is no mention, in any of the four Gospels, of the Gospel of Salvation.  The phrase does not exist in the Gospels.

Jesus describes in Matthew 11 and Luke 4 the Gospel that He preached to the ‘poor’.

Matthew 11.4-5:
Jesus said, ‘Go and tell John the things which you hear and see;
1.the blind see and
2.the lame walk;
3.the lepers are cleansed, and
4.the deaf hear;
5.the dead are raised up, and
                     …the poor have the Gospel preached to them’
                    
                     Luke 4.18-21:
‘The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the Gospel to the poor; He has sent Me
6. to heal the brokenhearted,
7. to proclaim liberty to the captives and…..
8. to set at liberty those who are oppressed;
to proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD.’…And He began to say to them, ‘Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.’

This Gospel that He ‘preached to the poor’ has:
1.no mention of salvation,
2.no mention of saving us from God's righteous judgment upon sinners,
3.no mention of deliverance from damnation in the fires of hell, and
4.no mention of punishment for correction in order that others may become terrified and weaned away from the evils they would commit.

Rather, this Gospel that He ‘preached to the poor’ lists a total of 9 positive, life enhancing, healing actions that restore people to a normal, functional life in society.

When Jesus sent out His disciples to practice what He preached, it seems that they brought to people the same positive, life enhancing, healing actions that restore people to a normal, functional life in society:

Mark 3.14-15:
He appointed twelve, that they might be with Him and that He might send them out:
1.to preach, and
2.to have power to heal sicknesses and
3.to cast out demons

Luke 9.1-2:
He called His twelve disciples together and gave them
1.      power and authority over all demons, and
2.      to cure diseases.   He sent them:
3.      to preach the kingdom of God and
4.      to heal the sick.

Paul explains to the Corinthians that the Gospel that he preached was not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power.  It seems that the evidence of the Gospel that Paul preached was the same positive, life enhancing, healing actions in the power of God that restore people to a normal, functional life in society:

1Corinthians 1.17-2.5:
Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the Gospel, not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of no effect. …..When I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God.….  And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.

Is this the real Gospel; a demonstration of the Spirit and of the power of God in 9 positive, life enhancing, healing actions that restore people to a normal, functional life in society?
                
Is this why Jesus, His disciples, Paul….and all believers can answer these 7 questions from a ‘brokenhearted, oppressed captive’?:

1.To whom do I go when darkness engulfs my soul?
    Should the answer be to you and me?

2.Who can diagnose my case, my least apparent symptoms, and understand what I have resolved not to reveal?
    Should the answer be you and me?

3.Who can see into the depths behind the symptoms, and discern the extent of my pain that has to be revealed?
    Should the answer be you and me?

4.Who can explain to me that no amount of my anger, pain, or despair, is beyond the power of Jesus to heal?
   Should the answer be you and me?

5.Who can explain to me how Jesus saves and redeems me out of the shadow of death into His peace and rest?
   Should the answer be you and me?

6.Who can explain to me how God can illuminate His Being towards me bringing order to my fractured life?
   Should the answer be you and me?

7.Who can explain to me how God can provide me with what I need to be healed, whole, and complete in Him?
   Should the answer be you and me?

Surely, Jesus, His disciples, and Paul could all have answered every one of the 7 questions….from the evidence that I have quoted from Matthew 11 & Luke 4, Mark 3 & Luke 9, and 1Corinthians 1.

Are the answers to the 7 questions the 'good news' of the Gospel? They are certainly ‘good news’ for ALL people.

We read in Isaiah 53.3-6 that He was:
A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.

Yes, it is true and most important that:
1.      He was wounded for our transgressions,
2.      He was bruised for our iniquities; ….and
3.      the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.

Why did He do this? 
For at least one significant reason explained in 1John2.2:
He Himself is the atonement for our sins, and not only for ours, but also for the whole world. 

Is this why Jesus said in Luke 4.43?: 
‘I must preach the Kingdom of God to the other cities also, because for this purpose I have been sent.’   

What was the 'purpose for which He was sent' since we have seen that Salvation, Relationship with God, and Eternal Life were all already available, and had been available for centuries?

Before His Crucifixion and Resurrection, the only way that any person could receive salvation, a restored relationship with God, and Eternal Life, was through the sacrificial system administered in the Temple in Jerusalem.  It made no difference whether you lived in Jerusalem, Caesarea, London, Beijing, Mexico, or wherever...you had to go to the Temple in Jerusalem to go through the process of restoring your relationship with God through the sacrificial system. 
Therefore the Crucifixion of Jesus, His sacrifice for sin, made the sacrificial system redundant.....and, vitally, made the restoration of relationship with God available to ALL humanity, 'the whole world', without the necessity of travelling to Jerusalem. The fact of this change, and improved process, was confirmed by the destruction of the Temple by the Romans some 40 years later, in 70AD, which made the sacrificial system impossible to operate. 

This was, and is, a wonderful bonus for ALL humanity…not only the Gentiles of ‘the nations’, but also for the Jews who lived more than a few miles from Jerusalem!

BUT….there must be more than this to the Gospel. There must be more than the opening up of the opportunity of Salvation, Relationship, and Eternal Life to ALL humanity….rather than just to those who could get to Jerusalem….however great, wonderful, and life enhancing this change was.
                 
Perhaps the key is in Isaiah 53.3-4 because it is equally true and important that:
1.      He has borne our griefs and
2.      carried our sorrows; and 
3.   by His stripes we are healed.


If we only focus on Salvation, on the negatives of our sins, and the clear evidence in our lives that all we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; we will miss the positives which the Gospel brings that by His stripes we are healed.  

Is this, perhaps, what the 10 'googled' answers in Part 1 might have missed?  
Yes, Salvation from sin is fantastic, but the penalty from which we are saved is an awful long time in the future!  It is so far in the future that most people might, and do, decide not to bother. 

In contrast, the fact that He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; and by His stripes we are healed is for NOW!  This fact means that we are not waiting, and hoping that, because we are saved, we will inherit Eternal Life some time after we have died. 

Rather, it means that there is a practical, concrete reality that Jesus offers us....to be healed NOW of our  fear, anger, depression, grief, pain, despair, resentment, and bitterness.....and from all the physical, emotional, and neurological effects that have resulted in us from these problems.

I am tempted to return to McEnroe and say, ‘You can’t be serious!’.  Surely the Gospel is not suggesting that the ‘good news’ is that ALL people have the opportunity to be healed from all conditions? Now that really would be 'good news'!

The answer to this improbable suggestion is in the Gospels. In the following 9 references it seems that Jesus healed ALL who came to Him.  There is no evidence in any of the Gospels that He turned away any sick, or that He was unable to heal any condition.:

Matthew 4:24  Then His fame went throughout all Syria; and they brought to Him all sick people who were afflicted with various diseases and torments, and those who were demonised, epileptics, and paralytics; and He healed them.

Matthew 8:16  When evening had come, they brought to Him many who were demonised. And He cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all who were sick,

Matthew 12:15  But when Jesus knew it, He withdrew from there. And great multitudes followed Him, and He healed them all.

Matthew 14:14  When Jesus went out He saw a great multitude; and He was moved with compassion for them, and healed their sick.

Matthew 15:30  Then great multitudes came to Him, having with them the lame, blind, mute, maimed, and many others; and they laid them down at Jesus’ feet, and He healed them.

Matthew 19:2  And great multitudes followed Him, and He healed them there.

Luke 4:40  When the sun was setting, all those who had any that were sick with various diseases brought them to Him; and He laid His hands on every one of them and healed them.

Luke 6:19  And the whole multitude sought to touch Him, for power went out from Him and healed them all.


Luke 9:11  But when the multitudes knew it, they followed Him; and He received them and spoke to them about the Kingdom of God, and healed those who had need of healing. 

We must conclude that today Jesus does not heal all those who come to Him.  He heals some, occasionally, but the evidence is clear that He does not heal ALL those who come to Him.

Why not? The logical conclusion is that either He has changed His mind, and this 'good news' of the Gospel is no longer available...or that we are not following His instructions correctly in how to be healed.  It seems very unlikely that He has changed His mind given that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Hebrews 13:8  

Therefore, we must conclude that we are not following His instructions correctly in how to be healed.
             
Perhaps this is why the real 'good news' of the Gospel is not preached?  These 9 references present us with a real challenge, and a serious problem.  This obvious challenge is too great, and it is easier to offer a lesser Gospel of salvation…

But all is not lost. There is a route to follow which can face the challenge.  Until the next blog…

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