Thursday, September 29, 2005

The Enduring Gospel

My good friend and brother in Christ, Michael Millier, commented on the last post, and he brought up a subject I am fond of: the true Gospel, particularly as it relates to the Tanakh (the Old Testament) and the saints who lived before Jesus came.

Michael, his wife Deborah, and their children currently serve the Lord in the Philippines; they lived in Israel for several years before moving to Manila. (Michael, feel free to fill in anything I've left out.)

Check out Michael's short but stellar essay about the gospel:

WHAT IS THE GOSPEL? Do we even know?

Have you ever wondered what the Gospel really is? When we mention the Gospel, many think it is something that began with the Apostolic Scriptures, i.e., the so-called New Testament. But the Gospel message did not appear for the first time in Matthew, nor even in the Apostolic Writings. God "preached the Gospel beforehand to Abraham" (Gal. 3:8). The generation in the wilderness "had the Gospel preached to them just as we have" (Heb. 4:2). Clearly Moses, David and all the people of faith in the Tanakh (i.e., the so-called Old Testament) possessed faith unto salvation. Thus, the Gospel message must be something older than we think.

What then is the Gospel? When we search all four gospels, we never find that Yeshua (i.e., Jesus' Hebrew name) preached a sermon presenting the Four Spiritual Laws, nor did He ever lead anyone in the 'sinner's prayer.' He never shared a tract with a single person. He never asked, "Do you know for sure that you would go to heaven if you died?" He never told anyone, "You need to have Me in your heart." If these cliches were not the message taught by Yeshua and His disciples, what was the message?

His message was the Gospel: "Repent, the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!" (Mat. 4:17; cf. Mat. 3:2 where John the baptizer said precisely the same thing). Or put another way, Yeshua proclaimed, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the Gospel" (Mar. 1:15). What exactly does that mean, though? It means: Turn your life back from sin because God's rule and reign have already begun through His Messiah!

That's the Good News!

It means that the King has come, as prophesied in the Tanakh. It means that even though Yeshua died and was buried, He rose from the dead and therefore will return to complete His earthly mission as Messianic Ruler (1 Cor. 15:ff). It means that we must therefore submit to the authority of this G-d-installed King (Psa. 2). Now! (Act. 17:30, 31) And the way to do that is to respond to G-d's kindness and turn away from sin, modeling our lives from that point on after Yeshua's.

Salvation truly comes by G-d's grace bestowed upon people to help them to repent; multiplied upon those who respond to that grace and actually *do* repent. But let us be clear: a Gospel message that neglects to state the need for repentance is no Gospel message at all!

Yeshua was preaching repentance. His Gospel was not a sales pitch for people to feel better about themselves. We cannot say that His message was therefore devoid of grace; just the opposite. But neither was it an easy sell. Nevertheless, the message had a "pay-off." Yeshua's Gospel required a *radical* life change, however, in order for a person to "collect" anything lasting from the G-d of grace.

It required turning away from sin.

And folks, how do we know what sin is? We know via the Torah (i.e., what is commonly called the Law). In case we did not know from the rest of the Bible, G-d has graciously and clearly defined sin for us in the Apostolic Scriptures. Sin is quite simply any transgression of the Torah (1 Joh. 3:4). This definition was restated so that we could know what sin is, so that people could repent of it.

More likely than not, if our Master were preaching His Gospel in much of the Christian world today, He would quickly be disregarded as a legalist. He would probably be called a Judaizer. I am certain that He would be told by someone to let go of 'the old ways of the Law' and learn to walk in the 'new way of the Spirit.'

We as followers of Yeshua should be passionate about restoring the whole message of the Gospel to the Body of Messiah. We each must strive to assist both Jewish and non-Jewish believers to return to the feet of the Master for a fresh encounter with the One they have confessed as Lord. It's time to take off our gentile-centric theological goggles, stop pitting Law against Grace, and to deal honestly with the real Messiah and His real message-the man from Nazareth who rebuked sin, hypocrisy and pretense while encouraging true repentance and obedience to the commandments of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. (link)

Some of my older posts address aspects of this topic:

Fruit in Keeping with Repentance
Credited as Righteousness
The Kindness and the Severity
To Believe Is to Obey

Michael's comment brought a couple of scriptures to mind:

Psalm 19:8
The precepts of the LORD are right,
rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the LORD is pure,
enlightening the eyes.

James 1:25
But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does.