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Exploring the gospel – The gospel in the Old Testament

12 Jun

The gospel is often presented as a ‘New Testament’ phenomenon with a huge chasm between its counterpart ‘the Old Testament’. It is offered as a new message, bringing a seeming divide between the Ancient Jewish/Gentile and first-century Jewish/Pagan worlds. Was this the case concerning the gospel in the days of the likes of Isaiah? Is the gospel present in the Old Testament, and if so, is this the gospel message personified in Jesus the Messiah?

700 years before Jesus’ ministry on earth the prophet Isaiah emerges amongst an exiled Jewish people who desire desperately for God to vindicate them and to rid them of evil that manifested itself in forms of oppression, injustice and poverty. Their beloved temple had been desecrated and its creator God had seemingly withdrawn. Their world seemed to be in major disorder, their land desolate and government corrupt. Israel had failed to be a light and redeeming nation, there seemed to be no hope. This sets the scene for the announcement of ‘good news’. Isaiah proclaims as follows in chapter 40 and 52:

Get yourself up on a high mountain,
O Zion, bearer of good news,
Lift up your voice mightily,
O Jerusalem, bearer of good news;
Lift it up, do not fear.
Say to the cities of Judah,
“Here is your God!” (40.9)

How lovely on the mountains
Are the feet of him who brings good news,
Who announces [b]peace
And brings good news of [c]happiness,
Who announces salvation,
And says to Zion, “Your God [d]reigns!” (52.7)

These scriptures speak of God returning to Zion and returning his people from exile. The good news is to be announced, declaring ‘here is your God’, ‘your God reigns’. God is creation affirming, he is coming to restore his earth by becoming King, by reigning on earth as he does in heaven.

N T Wright states, ‘When their [Israel’s] god, YHWH, acted within history to deliver his people, the spurious gods of the heathen would be defeated. If and when YHWH set up his own king as the true ruler, his true earthly representative, all other kingdoms would be confronted with their rightful overlord.’

The hope of the gospel had been proclaimed through Isaiah, that God would send his messenger to declare God King of all by bringing forth justice.

So is this the same gospel we see proclaimed in the New Testament?

The good news is announced in and through the Messiah to Israel as he gathers disciples unto himself. Jesus presents throughout his life the Kingdom of God through word and deed as he heals the sick and raises the dead, affirming God’s creation and restoring God’s people unto himself. As the climax of Christ’s death and resurrection unfolded, many of his follower’s hopes would have dwindled. Their longing for restoration, vindication, freedom from exile, oppression, and purging of evil had been dashed as they saw their beloved teacher and hopeful Messiah overcome, yet again, by the imperial pagan powers they longed to be freed from. But, the story did not end there.

This Messiah who looked in certain defeat, gloriously and authentically rose from the powers of death. The King could not be overcome by evil, rather the declaration that ‘God reigns’ was confirmed eternally. ‘God is King of this world you belong to, and as you follow this announcement your belief and confession grants you to become part of the King’s redeeming, earth affirming, and creation dwelling family.’ The gospel spoken by Isaiah of peace, happiness and salvation becomes very real as God continues to redeem his creation through his reign. The world that is in turmoil, conflict and chaos is reordered through the death and resurrection of the Messiah.

The gospel therefore is continuous throughout all scripture, New and Old. The good news is declared all the way through the Old Testament and points to the climactic appearance of the Messiah, who will one day return with an even fuller climax to establish his Kingdom, renew his creation and grant his sons and daughter’s peace, happiness and salvation from this present evil age.

Sources:

http://ntwrightpage.com/Wright_Gospel_Theology_Galatians.pdf

 

Seeing The Gospel Objectively

31 Jan

Seeing the bigger picture in the gospel is highly important in giving us insight, deeper understanding and meaning to Christianity. The gospel subjectively is one of a very personal nature, in that God saves me from my sins that have separated me from Him. Now I have personal access to the God who walks with me every day, I have a relationship with Him. These facts may be very true, however to naively focus on the subjective gospel would do salvation an injustice. Seeing the gospel through an objective lens is essential for contextualising our individual and corporate experience/journey.

The promise fulfilled in Christ

2 Corinthians 1:20 For as many as are the promises of God, in Him they are yes; therefore also through Him is our Amen to the glory of God through us.

In order to understand the gospel more fully there has to be an understanding of the promise given to the fathers, as the gospel is a fulfilment of the promise given to Abraham.

Genesis 12:1-3:

Now the Lord said to Abram,

“Go forth from your country,
And from your relatives
And from your father’s house,
To the land which I will show you;
2 And I will make you a great nation,
And I will bless you,
And make your name great;
And so you shall be a blessing;
3 And I will bless those who bless you,
And the one who curses you I will curse.
And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.”

Genesis 22:18 “In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.”

In chapter 12 the promise given to Abraham has three focuses.

1/ The Land – Abraham is to go to the land God shows to become a great nation

2/ The Nation – the Nation is to be blessed

3/ The Nations – all the Nations are to be blessed by this formed Nation

Abraham gives birth to Isaac and Isaac gives birth to Jacob. In Jacob God forms the Nation Israel. Israel is to enter the Promised Land to be a blessing to the surrounding nations, sharing the light of God. However, cutting a long story short, Israel had failed to be a blessing to other nations because of disobedience and turned away worshipping idols and false gods, therefore invoking the wrath of God in the form of exile (Babylonian and Assyrian invasion).

Israel’s rebellion sets the stage for the long awaited Messiah who will redeem the nation back to God, therefore enabling it to become once again a light to the other nations through Him(Isaiah 42:6, 49:6, 60:3). 700 years after the prophet Isaiah speaks of the Messiah, Jesus is born in Bethlehem.

The Nation Israel who were commanded to be a light had failed, therefore the Light of the world (Jesus) appeared in the form of a man to be a light unto the nations (gentiles). In Matthew 4:15-16 the writer quotes the prophet Isaiah:

“The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali,
By the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles
16 “The people who were sitting in darkness saw a great Light,
And those who were sitting in the land and shadow of death,
Upon them a Light dawned.”

Here we see the Messiah promised to Abraham (Galatians 3:16) and prophesied by Moses (Deuteronomy 18:15) accomplishing the promise by fulfilling Israel’s destiny. Christ chooses His disciples and walks with them for 3 years founding them on the revelation of Himself and The Kingdom. The gospel of the Kingdom is proclaimed through Him telling of God’s ruler-ship and reign, not of an earthly Kingdom but of a heavenly one.

Nearing the end of His ministry on earth, Christ is put to death at the hands of gentiles and Jews. Israel due to disobeying God’s law had bought a curse upon themselves and although now not in physical exile, were exiled spiritually (Deuteronomy 27:26), therefore Christ became a curse on Israel’s behalf (Galatians 3:13).

He is then buried in a tomb; however He could not be held by death and therefore rises from the dead in the form of a resurrected body. Jesus then ascends in to heaven 40 days later after a period of revealing Himself to His disciples where He must remain until the period of the restoration of all things (Acts 3:21). The redeemed nation in Christ (Church (1 Peter 2:9)) receives the Holy Spirit promised by Jesus and go into the known world (nations) preaching repentance and the forgiveness of sins through Him.

We see this gospel preached in Acts 13:32-39:

32 And we preach to you the good news of the promise made to the fathers, 33 that God has fulfilled this promise to our children in that He raised up Jesus, as it is also written in the second Psalm, ‘You are My Son; today i have begotten You.’ 34 As for the fact that He raised Him up from the dead, no longer to return to decay, He has spoken in this way: ‘I will give you the holy and sure blessings of David.’ 35 Therefore He also says in another Psalm, ‘You will not allow Your Holy One to undergo decay.’ 36 For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep, and was laid among his fathers and underwent decay; 37 but He whom God raised did not undergo decay. 38 Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through Him forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, 39 and through Him everyone who believes is freed from all things, from which you could not be freed through the Law of Moses.

So in summary the gospel is the good news that all people can be part of the promise given to Abraham by faith in the death, burial and resurrection of Christ through the forgiveness of sins. This gospel Jesus bought to earth in Himself was the fulfilment of the promise given and repeated to many other Israelite generations. The promise was fulfilled in Christ’s resurrection in that Christ is the Messiah, foretold to come from the Kingly line of David (the blessing of David). David served the purpose of God in his generation, however died. Christ served the purpose of God in His generation however lives.

Returning back to the promise, we look again at the focuses in the light of Christ’s fulfilment:

1/ The Land – Abraham is to go to the land God shows to become a great nation

Christ fulfils the land promise in that He forms a nation in Himself, called in Galatians 6:16 “The Israel of God”. This new nation is not an earthly but a heavenly nation, God does not replace Israel (Romans 11 (The Church does not become Israel, however Jews and gentiles must be saved and grafted into Christ through faith)), He forms a new creation (one new man) of people through faith in His son. It is formed not through ethnicity, for Christ brings down the dividing wall of Jew and Gentile and fashions a commonwealth of believers through faith and not allegiance to the law.

The hope of the promise is fulfilled in the resurrection of Christ. The resurrection of the heir of promise (Christ) affirms that the promise inherited through the righteousness of faith (Romans 4:3), to all who believe and have faith, past and present have the hope of a bodily resurrection on earth. Therefore the promise that Abraham and his seed would inherit the land is confirmed in Christ’s resurrection. This promise to Abraham is still yet to be completely fulfilled at the consummation of age when the righteous dead are raised and given new embodiment in the eternal Kingdom of God.

2/ The Nation – the Nation is to be blessed

3/ The Nations – all the Nations are to be blessed by this formed Nation

This new nation formed in Christ, composing of Christ’s disciples of faith is blessed. Christ fulfils the promise given to Abraham that “all the families of the earth will be blessed” by turning everyone away from their wicked ways (Acts 3:26).

Acts 3:24-26:

24 And likewise, all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and his successors onward, also announced these days. 25 It is you who are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant which God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’ 26 For you first, God raised up His Servant and sent Him to bless you by turning every one of you from your wicked ways.”

Now in Christ, His followers are sent into the entire world to preach the gospel of the Kingdom to creation (Mark 16). The gospel enables even gentiles to become heirs and partakers of the promise in Christ (Ephesians 3:6). God through Christ dwells no longer in a temple made with hands (which is how God dwelt with Israel under the old covenant) but in those who are Christ’s disciples. His disciples bear God’s image throughout the earth as people from every tribe and tongue through the good news are born in to His new covenant, preparing the way for His Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. His body (Church) is sent out to usher in the “already here but not yet” Kingdom before His return to reign on earth.

So what does this mean in terms of seeing the gospel objectively?

Christ dwells in me – Christ dwells in His creation

As we have seen, in the promise fulfilled by Christ, God wishes to dwell in the earth and rule and reign in the nations. He wishes to bless the nations and become central to them, being central in their political, social and economic systems. After all, Christ’s inheritance is the nations (Psalm 2:8). Christ dwells in His believers, but to what end? The glory of God in all the earth, and as believers we are to recognise and serve as part of this much bigger plan.

The gospel changes my heart – The gospel transforms the world

The gospel not only transforms an individual’s heart, it penetrates the world systems that misrepresent and disrepute God’s Kingdom.  Fruit must be seen in a person who has heard and believed the gospel; however, the earth’s transformation is essential in a world that refuses to acknowledge its creator.

“The call of Jesus is actually much more radical than simply a moral repentance; his call is completely world altering. It defies the religious, political, economic structures, even so far as the basic family structure. What is beautiful about Jesus is he goes further with his message than even the average radical street corner proselytizer is willing to go; Jesus goes all the way down to destroying your whole world view, not just your moral code.” (http://jonathanperrodin.com/2010/08/n-t-wright-on-repentance/)

Sin separates me from God – Sin distorts and contaminates God’s creation

Sin is destructive; in Genesis we see sin separating God and man but also man’s involvement in creation. When Cain murdered Abel, Abeles blood cried out to God from the land. This murderous act not only meant his punishment was becoming a vagrant wanderer in the earth but also had an impact geologically and geographically. In Numbers 35:30-34 we see that sin pollutes the land.

The gospel enables me to have a relationship with God – The gospel restores the world into its rightful place with its Creator

When I believed in Christ and He forgave my sins I entered into a relationship with God. This gospel stretches further than my redeemed relationship, it re aligns the world into its rightful place. God is a God of order and cannot contend with sin; therefore all things stained by sin must be redeemed. This includes not only my personal relationship but order is also required in governmental, political, social and economic systems.

I speak the gospel to my friends and colleagues – We speak the gospel to creation

To belittle telling the good news to friends, family and colleagues would be wrong. This gospel must be spoken to those we interact with in our daily lives. Nevertheless it is not solely spoken to humanity, but to creation itself. To explain this further we could take the example of global warming. As I have described above, sin distorts and affects our earth geologically. The gospel therefore must also be effective in redeeming our physical earth. Scientists need the gospel to research renewable clean energy, governments require the gospel to keep recycling a priority and farmers must grasp the gospel to use ethical products in their farming.

So how can we conclude?

1/ our focus on the gospel must not be merely subjective but objective.

2/ the gospels bigger picture is one of fulfilment of the promises given to the fathers.

3/ an objective lens helps us to contextualise our personal experience of salvation.

References

http://jonathanperrodin.com/2010/08/n-t-wright-on-repentance/

The bigger picture of Creation

9 Aug

Christ’s redemptive work brings harmony to his father’s creation

The Jew and gentile are made one in Christ through his blood, the dividing wall has been broken down so that we become one new man. However this speaks of something even greater than Jew / gentile relations. It speaks of harmony within creation, which is Gods temple where he dwells. His purpose is not just to bring Jew and gentile together but something far greater, his plan of redemption is to bring creation back into alignment, to synchronise it with his purposes rather than mans. God not only brings down the wall that divided sacred and secular, he brought down the whole temple and made it irrelevant under a new covenant. Why because God cannot be contained in a temple with walls, his temple is his creation. The cross does not solely unite humanity, it reforms/realigns creation into its rightful place. Therefore this brings hope to our world rather than a longing to escape.

The bigger picture is creation not humanity, Israel or the church.

Israel were chosen to be lead stewards of God’s creation on earth. They were to be a light of stewardship, an example of good stewarding to the gentile nations. However Israel/humanity proved to be bad stewards. God therefore sent the creator / gardener to redeem the garden /creation and also the failed stewards of the garden. Humanity is one aspect of the much greater creation that had to be redeemed. We are now redeemed stewards in which the Gardner, that is Christ, lives within to bring his kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.

 Creation is God’s temple

God’s ultimate purpose is that He may fill the earth with His glory, “the earth is the LORD’S, and all it contains, The world, and those who dwell in it” (Psalm 24:1). Creation is redeemed for the sole purpose that he may fill it with his presence.

Creation is his temple. Acts 7:48-50:

48 “However, the Most High does not live in houses made by human hands. As the prophet says:

49 “‘Heaven is my throne,
and the earth is my footstool
.
What kind of house will you build for me?
says the Lord.
Or where will my resting place be?
50 Has not my hand made all these things?’

Ezekiel prophecies regarding the new covenant God will make with his people. Ezekiel 37:24-28:

24 “My servant David will be king over them, and they will all have one shepherd; and they will walk in My ordinances and keep My statutes and observe them. 25 They will live on the land that I gave to Jacob My servant, in which your fathers lived; and they will live on it, they, and their sons and their sons’ sons, forever; and David My servant will be their prince forever. 26 I will make a covenant of peace with them; it will be an everlasting covenant with them. And I will [a]place them and multiply them, and will set My sanctuary in their midst forever. 27 My dwelling place also will be with them; and I will be their God, and they will be My people. 28 And the nations will know that I am the Lord who sanctifies Israel, when My sanctuary is in their midst forever.”’”

God’s purpose is to dwell amongst his creation forever on earth. Ezekiel prophecy’s that Gods sanctuary/temple will be in our midst forever under the new covenant.

All that God has made he dwells in and with. He cannot be confined to a temple, to buildings made with hands. Mark 16:15 “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation”. His purpose is that we steward the earth , proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ who redeems creation in order that it may be a sanctuary for God.

For those with dispensational theology regarding the rebuilding of the temple I would suggest that moving towards a rebuilding of an earthly temple made with hands is unbiblical in the light of the greatness of God and new covenant, he cannot be contained. God can only dwell within that which he has made.

Psalm 78:68-70

69 And He built His sanctuary like the heights,

Like the earth which He has founded forever.

God has founded the earth forever to be his tabernacle. His sanctuary as the psalmist declares is built like the heights. In other words there is no limit. “Heaven is my throne,
and the earth is my footstool”. His tabernacle is not temporary like temples made by man, it is eternal, designed to be a dwelling place for an eternal God.