BELIEVE IN THE GOSPEL
A Meditation on Mark 1:14-15 and other Selected Scriptures
Tragically, our truncated gospel, while strong on personal salvation—as it should be—only tangentially touches upon the kingdom of God. The reformed and evangelical community is seeing many deficient and superficial responses to the gospel, because it has been divorce from the kingdom. Before we can consider the appropriate response to the gospel, we need to know what the gospel is.
Our word gospel literally means “good news.” What is this good news? The Bible provides us with various definitions, but here is how Mark describes it at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry: “Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel’” (Mk. 1:14-15; note that Jesus preached the same message as John the Baptist, see Matt. 3:2). Clearly, the good news, the gospel, is that the kingdom of God is at hand. Now we need to consider how the Jews of the first century would have understood Jesus when He announced, “The kingdom of God is at hand…believe in the gospel.” Consider two points.
First, their concept of the kingdom came from what they were taught in the Old Testament Scriptures. This means that numerous passages that speak of a king reigning over the nations would naturally spring to mind. “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns’” (Isa. 52:7; Rom. 10:15). Second, Jesus says that the time of this kingdom is fulfilled. Old Testament prophecies concerning the kingdom of God are ready to come to fruition. The King has come and he is ushering in his kingdom.
The gospel of the kingdom is the good news that Jesus has atoned for our sins through His death on the cross, that He rose from the dead on the third day, that forty days later He ascended to heaven and sat down at the right hand of the Father, where He presently exercises dominion over His kingdom. Daniel had a vision of what would happen at the ascension of Christ: “I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed: (Dan. 7:13-14). This means that right now, at this very moment, King Jesus is reigning over his ever-increasing kingdom. I submit to you that this is not a peripheral issue, but the heart of the gospel—the good news of arrival of the kingdom of God.
On the day of Pentecost, Peter emphasized the reality that Jesus is both Lord and Christ. Peter spoke of Jesus’ life, death, resurrection, ascension, and reign at the right hand of God. The climax of his evangelistic (gospel) message was a quote from Psalm 110:1: “The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool” (Acts 2:34-35). Then Peter concluded, “Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified” (vs. 37). Often we emphasize that Jesus is a Savior from sin, but omit mentioning that he is also Lord of all creation. This omission, for whatever reason, is tragic, and it also explains why people are not responding appropriately to the gospel. We are presenting a truncated gospel; a gospel that leaves out vital truths about Jesus, namely His present reign, which requires individuals to confess that Jesus is Lord. This is the confession that leads to salvation and brings glory to God the Father.
The apostle Paul wrote, “[If] you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Rom. 10:9). In addition to believing that Jesus rose from the dead, we are saved by confessing that Jesus is Lord, but how can people make this confession if we fail to proclaim that Jesus is both Lord and Christ, as Peter did?
Paul also said, “Therefore God has highly exalted [Jesus] and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:9-11). The implications are staggering: We must proclaim the good news of the establishment of the kingdom, with Jesus as the reigning King, or people will not confess that He is Lord, bringing glory to God the Father.
Pastor Wayne Christensen, www.foxlakechurch.org, March 13, 2016