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.