The Gospel of Jesus and Paul

Without a doubt, the main message of Jesus’ preaching of the gospel was the Kingdom of God.  Had we been in 1st century Palestine, we could have asked Jesus just what his purpose was.  I believe this was his answer:

Luke 4:43 – But He said to them, “I must preach the kingdom of God to the other cities also, for I was sent for this purpose.”

But what about the apostle Paul?  Many churches today look only or first at Paul and then look at Jesus’ words to know what should be preached as the gospel.  Many will use I Corinthians 15:1-3 to define what Paul’s message was:

I Corinthians 15:1-3 – “Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins acording to the Scriptures.”

I want to propose that I think that Paul is continuing this Kingdom idea when he says what he did in I Corinthians 15:1-3. I think that it is significant that Paul uses the language that he does. Verse 3 says that he delivered to them “as of first importance…” This does not mean that Paul simply went around talking to people that Jesus died for their sins and that that was the gospel in full. I think the key lies in the rest of the verse – “that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures.”

Notice that Paul does not say that “Jesus” died for their sins, although obviously Jesus did – Paul told people that the Messiah (Christ) died for their sins. This was a big deal. The King of the coming Kingdom of God was the one who died in stead of you and I! This indeed is good news.

But at the same time, for Jesus to be the Christ (Messiah) speaks more than simply a common title of Jesus or his last name (Jesus of Mary and Joseph Christ). Sadly this has become what most think of when they read the word “Christ.” The Christ/Messiah was the anointed ruler over the people of God, the descendant of David who would rule forever. For people of the time to be well acquainted with this understanding, for Paul to preach that the Messiah died for their sins would have been a very big deal.

But my reason in bringing this up is the kingdom understanding is directly tied to this word Christ/Messiah and thus is apart of what is being communicated when Paul/Peter/Phillip, etc “preached Christ.”

Paul tells us elsewhere that “I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God (Acts 20:24).” Some would finish reading here and declare that Paul was the preacher of the gospel of grace. This is what he preached about. However, in the very next breath, Paul continues and says:

“And now, behold, I know that all of you, among whom I went about preaching the kingdom, will no longer see my face. Therefore, I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men. For I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole purpose of God (Acts 20:25).”

The book of Acts closes with the following description of what Paul did:

“And he stayed two full years in his own rented quarters and was welcoming all who came to him, preaching the kingdom of God and teaching concerning the Lord Jesus Christ with all openness, unhindered (Acts 28:30-31).”

I think it would be odd for Paul to preach different things to different people, when there is only one gospel message that saves, we hear about this truth so often from Paul himself! Rather than looking at these texts with a modern evangelical understanding and comparing it to what we hear preached today, I’ve had to consider the original intention of the preachers themselves and change my perspective.

Much of this has occured when I have looked at the Scriptures with a fresh desire to understand what is written (I have seen the problems that dispensationalism and other Bible-filters can cause…).

I don’t think that the Kingdom of God is simply a metaphor or another way to talk about the church. I think it is the hope of the Christian and will begin when Jesus returns to fix all that is wrong with the world.

I Corinthians 15:24 – “then comes the end, when He hands over the kingdom to the God and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power.”

May that day come quickly, when God’s will will be done on earth as it is in heaven. And may we challenge men to repent in light of the soon coming Kingdom judgement and turn to the Messiah, who died so that we could be forgiven and enter into this time of life in the age to come.

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One response to this post.

  1. This same understanding of “Christ crucified” (not just Jesus) can also be seen in verses like I Cor. 1:23 (“But we preach Christ crucified…”). I would think it is also the intended meaning of I Cor. 2:2 (“For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.”), even though he says “Jesus Christ.”

    Reply

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