Saturday, November 24, 2007

The Power of the Gospel

The word “gospel” is used quite frequently in the New Testament therefore we thought it to be beneficial to explore its meaning. First we begin with a paragraph from Nelson’s Bible Dictionary.

“In the second century, the word gospel came to be used for certain writings in which the "good news" or story of Jesus Christ was told. These writings were written in the first century, but they became known as ‘gospels’ much later. Mark was the first to write such a story (Mark 1:1), and in so doing he invented a literary form that we call a ‘gospel.’ The New Testament has four versions of the one gospel: the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.” (from Nelson's Illustrated Bible Dictionary) (Copyright (C) 1986, Thomas Nelson Publishers)

Nelson’s Bible Dictionary also tells us that the Greek word translated “gospel” means “good news.” This is the definition of the word “gospel” upon which we will base our brief study.

The “good news” is not news of a “new plan of salvation,” nor does it announce Jesus as “new Savior,” but the good news is about the fulfillment of God’s plan of redemption for mankind. Jesus came as an evangelist or messenger bearing the good news; but He is much more than a messenger of the gospel, He is the gospel!!! The good news of God was present in His life, in His teaching, and His atoning death. God had his plan in place before the fall of man, but it had been kept a mystery (Romans 16:25-27) until it was fulfilled in the coming of the Messiah and announced by Him.

“And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up; and as was His custom, He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath, and stood up to read. And the book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him. And He opened the book, and found the place where it was written, ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He anointed me to preach the gospel {good news} to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are downtrodden, to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord. And He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant, and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed upon Him. And He began to say to them, ‘Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing’.” (Luke 4:16-21 NAS)

In announcing the gospel Jesus proclaimed, “the Spirit of the Lord is upon Me.” This anointing of the Spirit of the Father was His credentials, and by the Spirit of the Father He would speak with authority and power. His words and deeds would loose the captives, cause the blind to see, and set free the oppressed. And He would declare, “Today is the day of salvation (Hebrews 3:7),” now is “the favorable year of the Lord.”

As we examine our Lord’s words we think, maybe Jesus was speaking of the financially poor, but He was likely speaking of the spiritually poor as well. The good news was further proclaimed and explained by Jesus when speaking with the financially wealthy Nicodemus (John 3:1). When Nicodemus came to Jesus he was spiritually bankrupt. Even though he was a teacher of the Law and the Prophets (John 3:10) he did not have access to the wealth of the kingdom of God. The mystery of God’s plan was first revealed while Jesus was speaking to Nicodemus. This mystery was the concept of a new birth for man.

And Jesus said to him,

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3)

And then He explained the “Law of the Spirit of life (John 3:5-8; Romans 8:1-2);” and He also spoke of His Father’s love for mankind and of His sacrificial death (John 3:14-17). Through the preaching of the good news of the possibility of a new birth to Nicodemus, He provided him with the enlightenment to enter the kingdom of heaven and to the wealth therein, if he would believe (John 1:4). Thus we see that the gospel is for the financially wealthy as well as the poor. Although He tells us it is more difficult for the rich to enter into the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 19:23-24), His word also teaches us that He is no respecter of persons {Galatians 3:28-29}; salvation is for all who believe (John 3:16).

When He spoke of the captives His gospel was a proclamation of liberty, like that to Israel in Egypt and in Babylon. When Israel went into Egypt they were a small company of peoples, about seventy-five souls (Acts 7:14). They were there four hundred and thirty years. During that time they became a large nation of people enslaved to the Egyptians, but all of them were born into that enslavement and did not know any other life. They were blind, miserable, poor and downtrodden and in darkness (ignorance), without a way of escape. In this we see a likeness of the people of today, born into and guilty of sin, born enslaved, bound by the chains of darkness (ignorance); for these there is the gospel {the enlightenment}, the good news concerning Jesus. By the merit of Christ, the Living Word of God, these captives may be loosed from the bonds of darkness and of guilt, and by his Spirit and grace from the bondage of corruption. It is a deliverance from the worst of servitude or slavery, which all those shall have the benefit of that are willing to believe and submit to Christ as their Head (Ephesians 1:18-23), and are willing to be ruled by Him.

And so the gospel, or good news, is of the saving work of God in His Son Jesus Christ and it is also a call to faith in Him.

The Apostle Paul exclaims,

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” (Romans 1:16 NAS)

[For I am not ashamed of the gospel,]

Isaiah 28:16 & 49:23 best illustrates this text, quoted by the apostle: “For the Scripture says, ‘whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed (ashamed)’.” (Romans10:11 NASU)

Having turned his back on his own method of salvation by the works of the law and turning to Christ, seeking God’s method of salvation, which is by faith, states he has no fear of shame--that is--he has no fear of embarrassment, disgrace or disappointment for his confidence and trust for salvation is in the good news of the accomplishments of Christ in His work on the cross of Calvary and His subsequent resurrection from the dead. The Apostle boldly declares the power of God’s word; for he himself has experienced salvation and a personal relationship with his Savior (Acts 9:3-6). Thus he proclaims with certainty that the anointed preaching of the gospel has the power to cause the ear of the dead souls in sin to hear, and the power to bring faith to the hearer (Romans 10:17).

And of this faith he says,

“For in it (the gospel) the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘But the righteous man shall live by faith.’” (Romans 1:16 NAS)

The gospel not only reveals the trustworthiness, integrity, faithfulness, the holiness and the righteousness of God but also His method of salvation. And it is those who are of faith in Jesus, the Word of God, that are by grace “reckoned” as righteous before God (Ephesians 2:4-10). This faith we speak of is NOT an intellectual agreement to a theoretical truth; it is a gift from God. Thus faith is hearing Him, believing Him and obeying Him from a pure heart of love. Faith by any other definition is not faith at all; any other faith is a speculative faith based upon a theoretical and false gospel, or rather it is no gospel at all (2nd Corinthians 11:4), and has no saving power.

And so we conclude our brief look at the word “gospel” with these thoughts. The gospel is NOT a biography intended to provide information about a historical character. It is the evangelical proclamation of the life of Jesus and His saving power through faith; God’s only method of salvation for mankind. Thus the gospel is both “good news” and a call to faith. It is a message of God’s gift of His Son in the atonement for sin. The good news is the anointed message of our Father’s love, mercy and grace brought to us by His beloved Son. The gospel--the power of God unto salvation.

James C Sanford

No comments: