A number of my colleagues recommended I read What is the “Good News” of Jesus Christ?*, delivered by David Suryk at the 2016 Midwest Faculty Conference (Cedar Campus, 6/19/2016). When I had opportunity to connect with David at this summer’s Midwest Faculty Conference, I asked him not only for a copy of What is the “Good News” of Jesus Christ?, but also the permission to share the sermon with the Emerging Scholars Network via a series on the blog (Part 1, Part 2). “Thank-you!” to David for the series and Hannah for editing. To God be the glory! ~ Tom Grosh IV, Associate Director, Emerging Scholars Network
WHAT IS “THE GOSPEL”? Con’t
Today that very same danger [i.e., confessing ultimate allegiance to power other than Jesus] is present around the world. To believe in Jesus is never easy, once you understand what professing Jesus as Lord really means. In 1 Corinthians 12:3, Paul said that it was only by the Holy Spirit that a person could confess that Jesus is Lord. What he meant was, that when push came to shove and your life and freedom were on the line, only genuine Christians would profess that Jesus is Lord.
In what do people today place their ultimate love and loyalty? Who today at the University and in the Academy are threatened by the announcement that Jesus is Lord? Money, Sex, Power, Position, Status, Success, etc. are not merely ideas or social phenomena. They continue to have tremendous spiritual power including over those at the University and in the Academy. Genuinely to believe is never easy—we should meditate sometime on John 12:41-43 replacing “synagogue” with “Academy.”
Let’s now summarize the Gospel. Tom Wright has very helpfully stated that for Paul, God’s Gospel concerning Jesus is first a two-fold announcement about God (What Saint Paul Really Said, Eerdmans, 1997, pp. 65-66):
- The God of Israel is the one true God, and the pagan deities are mere idols. [That’s the OT message!]
- The God of Israel is now made known in and through Jesus himself. [That’s the NT message!]
And more specifically the Gospel is a fourfold announcement about Jesus:
- In Jesus of Nazareth, specifically in his cross, the decisive victory has been won over the all the powers of evil, including sin and death themselves.
- In Jesus’ resurrection the New Age has dawned, inaugurating the long-awaited time when the prophecies would be fulfilled, when Israel’s exile would be over, and the whole world would be addressed by the one creator God.
- The crucified and risen Jesus was, all along, Israel’s Messiah, her representative King.
- Jesus was therefore also the Lord, the true king of the world, the one at whose name every knee will bow.
Paul’s Gospel is thus the royal announcement that the crucified Messiah Jesus was raised from the dead to be the world’s true Lord. That is the message God had entrusted to Paul for Jews and Gentiles alike. That is the Gospel Paul said he was not ashamed of because it is the power of God for the salvation of all who believe, to Jews and Gentiles alike. And so we too are not ashamed of this Gospel today including in the University and in the Academy.
The summons of this Gospel is for all persons in the world of every ethnicity, race and culture to “repent and believe” that Jesus is Lord and to live their lives accordingly. This Gospel summons men and women to abandon all rival loyalties and loves, and to embrace Jesus as Lord so that they can begin to live a new life of obedience, what Paul called “the obedience of faith” (Romans 1:5, 16:26). I find it sad that Christians who preach some gospel of sin management but who also care about racial reconciliation must find ways to apply or stretch their message to speak to such reconciliation. Paul’s Gospel has racial reconciliation at its heart because of Christ’s death and resurrection and the royal announcement that all who believe are now part of God’s one new multi-ethnic humanity together with the Lord Jesus Christ.
This Gospel is also the message that Titus knew very well. In Galatians 2 we learn that Titus was with Paul at that very important meeting in Jerusalem when Paul laid out the Gospel message that he had been presenting to the Gentiles. Titus was no mere bystander at that meeting. He was a Greek uncircumcised follower of Jesus who stood as living evidence that the Gospel claims even Gentiles by faith in Christ apart from works of the Law. So, in Titus 1:4 when Paul casually but deliberately mentioned “Titus, my genuine son in a common faith,” he spoke loudly about the Gospel’s power to unite Jewish and Gentile believers together in Christ in one new humanity marked only by the same faith in Christ and not by race or status or importantly, or by possessing the Law. . . .
Next week: Who is Jesus?
Texts for your prayerful consideration as you engage this series: Matthew 10:1-15; Matthew 28:16-20; Romans 5:7-13; and Philippians 2:5-11.
*Material in [ ] were omitted during preaching. Note: The picture was taken during a time of morning reflection at the 2017 Midwest Faculty Ministry Conference / Cedar Campus.