Then Jesus came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. As usual he went into the synagogue on the day of worship. He stood up to read the lesson. 17 The attendant gave him the book of the prophet Isaiah. He opened it and found the place where it read:
18 “The Spirit of the Lord is with me. He has anointed me to tell the Good News to the poor. He has sent me to announce forgiveness to the prisoners of sin and the restoring of sight to the blind, to forgive those who have been shattered by sin, 19 to announce the year of the Lord’s favor.”
20 Jesus closed the book, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. Everyone in the synagogue watched him closely. 21 Then he said to them, “This passage came true today when you heard me read it.”
(Luke 4:16-21, God’s Word version)
Paul of Tarsus:
Brothers and sisters, I’m making known to you the Good News which I already told you, which you received, and on which your faith is based. 2 In addition, you are saved by this Good News if you hold on to the doctrine I taught you, unless you believed it without thinking it over. 3 I passed on to you the most important points of doctrine that I had received:
Christ died to take away our sins as the Scriptures predicted.
4 He was placed in a tomb.
He was brought back to life on the third day as the Scriptures predicted.
5 He appeared to Cephas. Next he appeared to the twelve apostles. 6 Then he appeared to more than 500 believers at one time. (Most of these people are still living, but some have died.) 7 Next he appeared to James. Then he appeared to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, he also appeared to me.
(1 Corinthians 15:1-8, God’s Word version)
In the last 500 years men have said:
The Gospel is that message which announces what a man must believe in order to obtain the forgiveness of sins from and reconciliation with God.
Each man has failed to keep the law of God and has transgressed it, his corrupted nature, thoughts, words, and deeds war against that law, and he is therefore subject to the wrath of God, to death, to temporal miseries, and to the punishment of hell-fire.
The content of the Gospel is this, that the Son of God, Christ our Lord, himself took the form of a man, lived a perfect life under the law, paid the required penalty for all our sins with his atoning sacrificial death, and conquered hell and death with his resurrection from the dead, and that this is an historical reality, to which the church testifies.
It is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone that this message is believed and we reenter that perfect relationship with God, obtaining the forgiveness of sins and being set free from death and all the punishments of sin, and are eternally saved to be forever with God.
These don’t seem the same, do they?
Are these three completely different views? Can they be harmonized somehow?
Did modern man get off track by misunderstanding Paul and creating a gospel that Jesus never intended?
Did Paul somehow co-opt the gospel of Jesus and create his own religion that missed the point of what Jesus came to proclaim?
And why would Jesus call a bunch of fishermen, tax collectors, militia men (Zealots), and other rabbi school drop-outs as his ambassadors, and then later on bring a highly-trained, intelligent, former member of the Jewish Sanhedrin to correct them all? Does that really make sense based on how Jesus started out?
Are men making up their own complicated gospel that focuses on shame and mental assent to doctrines instead of embracing the simple good news of Jesus and his way of love?
One of these things is not like the other.
In the last months as I’ve read Paul’s writings, I come away with this emphasis above all else as he wrote his letters:
“Know Who You Are In Christ.” The only reality that’s worth living from is that your Identity is shaped fully by what Jesus says is true about you. You are fused together with Him in a mysterious union as you begin to discover His Way, and His very life starts organically forming within you as a result.
I see him attempting to deepen the revelation of Identity at the beginning of nearly every letter, then highlighting what that reality should . . . and shouldn’t . . . look like as it is lived out in everyday life. At the heart of his message is the Person and Work of Christ, and how that instills the best Life within a person. His death somehow is also our death, so that His life could somehow become our life, and his ascension is also mysteriously our empowerment to ‘reign’ in this life, seated with Him in the heavenly realms.
This is the heart of his “doctrinal” discourses – Identity, sourced in Jesus. I don’t get it all. I don’t agree with all of it. But I see that his passionate motive was for people to look in the mirror and know who they are.
The concept you see in Paul I see in Jesus’ teaching on the Prodigal Son; both sons had the opportunity to believe what the father said was true of them, but only one chose to believe that.
Yes. . .and it seemed like after Pentecost, the disciples finally got it and started engaging into this life, this Way. Ultimately, Paul picks this up and recognizes the need for deep Revelation on our identity, even with relatively healthy folks (eph 1:16-23).
Thought this clip belonged here, maybe there’s a better place but oh well . . .
This, to me, was a breathtaking message on God as revealed in the Old Testament vs. God revealed in Jesus Christ, specifically on the cross. For anyone that’s ever tried to resolve the apparent ‘difference’ between God’s activity in the OT and Jesus’ activity in the NT (like I have), this piece frames Paul’s words in Colossians 2 related to 3 aspects of “the shadow of things that are to come”:
15 [God] disarmed the principalities and powers that were ranged against us and made a bold display and public example of them, in triumphing over them in Him and in it [the cross].
16 Therefore let no one sit in judgment on you in matters of food and drink, or with regard to a feast day or a New Moon or a Sabbath.
17 Such [things] are only the shadow of things that are to come, and they have only a symbolic value. But the reality (the substance, the solid fact of what is foreshadowed, the body of it) belongs to Christ.
I’d love to get your feedback if you have a chance to listen . . . I think you’ll enjoy the thought-provoking premise, regardless of whether you agree with everything. If nothing else, you gotta love a pastor who preaches theology in shorts and bare feet.