Sunday, June 3, 2007

Jesus came preaching the Gospel...


The Gospel of the reign of God was not only the focus of the ministry of Jesus of Nazareth (Mark 1:14; Matt 4:17; Luke 4:43), but also the message entrusted to his followers at his ascension (Acts 1:6-8). Most evangelicals today assume that the Gospel is limited to the sacrificial death and bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ, for the atonement of sins and guarantee of heaven. I affirm that the Gospel is at least these things. Yet, I do not think it is only these things. (An indicator that there is more to the Gospel is the fact that Jesus preached the Gospel before his death and resurrection. What Gospel was he preaching?)

Several authors have influenced me in my thinking about the Gospel, including Dallas Willard, George Eldon Ladd, and G.R. Beasley-Murray. But, one book has been especially influential: Creation Regained by Albert Walters and Michael Goheen. Based upon their discussion of the Gospel, I offer my summary of the Gospel of the reign of God and invite your response.

When Jesus of Nazareth emerged on the stage of world history he announced that the healing power of God’s reign had now decisively broken into creation. His proclamation of this good news came at the climactic moment of the story of God’s redemptive work as told in the Hebrew scriptures, a story extending back to God’s original promise in Adam and Eve, and arising from God’s intention in his covenant with Israel. The gospel announced that in Jesus, by the Holy Spirit, the power of God to renew the entire creation was now present.

Jesus explained this liberating power by his teaching and demonstrated it in his life and deeds. He battled the powers of sin and evil through his death on the cross and gained the ultimate victory. In his resurrection Jesus entered as “the firstborn among many” into the resurrection life of the new creation. Before his ascension he commissioned his followers to continue his mission until he returned, making the Gospel known and initiating people from all nations into the reign of God. With the power of Jesus’ presence, the initiation into the reign of God takes place by submerging disciples in the Trinitarian reality and teaching them to obey everything Jesus taught.

Jesus now reigns in power at the right hand of God over all creation and by his Spirit, is revealing his restorative and comprehensive rule through his people as they embody and proclaim the good news. One day God’s reign will be fully realized through the new heavens and new earth. At that time, every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Creator, Redeemer, and Lord. Until then the church is called to participate in the Spirit’s work of making known the good news as a witness to, and sign of the reign of God.

Based upon this understanding, in summary, the Gospel of the reign of God is the power of God through which the exalted Christ, on the basis of his death and resurrection, restores all of life by his Spirit to be subject to his authority and word.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Rex Ray said…
Emily,
Like I said before; I tend to pick out things I have a different slant on than agree with all the good things a person says. I like your article, BUT… See that’s how James agreed with Peter.

You said, “He [Jesus] battled the powers of sin and evil through his death on the cross and gained the ultimate victory.”

That could be taken that during the 3 days in the grave; he went to hell and whipped up on the devil. I don’t think you mean that, but would you explain further?

God is in control of hell just as much as he is heaven. When Jesus went to hell he was under the law of God, and God’s law was the sins of man would be paid for in hell. So when Jesus took all of men’s sins upon himself, he SUFFERED those sins in hell. Every breath would be a scream. We cannot fathom the joy of heaven or the pain of hell.

Many men have suffered more in death that Jesus did on the cross. Was Jesus such a sissy that he sweat drops of blood in facing the cross? No. Fear is the absence of faith, so Christ was the most fearless man that ever lived. The drops of blood was because he knew what the pain would be in hell. Pain that turned his blood into water on the cross was the grief cause by: “My God. My God. Why have you forsaken me?”
That was not a fake question. It was real. God had ‘not revealed’ to Jesus that he would be alone on the cross once he became ‘sin’ for us. God cannot comfort sin or abide with sin. Jesus did not understand his Father would NOT be with him on the cross because he told his disciples in John 16:32 that they would desert him but his Father would never leave him.

Emily Hunter McGowin said...

Rex,

Thanks for your comments. I appreciate the time you took to respond.

When I said that Jesus "battled the powers of sin and evil through his death on the cross and gained the ultimate victory," I was trying to keep the language broad enough to include a variety of interpretations about Jesus' experience of hell.

I do not believe that Jesus "went to hell and whipped up on the devil." I would be more comfortable saying that Jesus experienced the full weight of evil on the cross. So, in that sense, for me "battled" would be a figurative expression. The point is this: Jesus defeated sin, evil, and death.

Honestly, I'm not sure what I think yet about Jesus descending into hell. I'm not sure if I believe Jesus went to hell or not. I've heard the arguments on both sides and I remain unconvinced by both.

As for Jesus' exclamation "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me," I agree with your affirmation that it was not a fake question. I don't know whether or not Jesus knew God would forsake him, but I do believe that he experienced the absence of the Father's presence on the cross--a presence in which he had walked with power for thirty-something years.

So, I hope this answers your questions. I appreciate your thoughtful comments.

Grace and peace,

Emily