What is the Biblical gospel? That is the first question we should contemplate when we enter into thought and discussion of the Scriptures. It seems that there is a lot of “this is what the gospel is”, being thrown around. It is my and many others contention, that the gospel being heard in a vast number of “churches”, is a “juvenilized”, “personalized”, “dehistoricized”, and debiblified message. Yes, debiblified- “not defined by the Bible”. Actually, recently I read through the book, Gospel: Recovering the Power that Made Christianity Revolutionary, and ironically the first chapter is called “The Missing Gospel”. Clearly it is not only the “Full Preterists” who are saying there is something wrong with the gospel message that has been and is being presented to the “church” at large.
Recent scholarship has noted that in the 21st century, the information age, is allowing for better clarity on the Biblical message. For example Bryan Lewis has written an article titled, “Jesus’ Eschatology in Jewish Context”, in which he notes:
“Due to a non-historical approach to theology, most theologians throughout church history have missed the significance of this historical conundrum. It is evident in the fact that their interpretations have been largely individualistic without any Judaic context. For example, Augustine, Calvin, Beza and Luther all interpreted redemption individualistically, thus, rejecting the significance of Israel’s restoration. In fact, I would dare say that other major doctrines such as: Resurrection, as it pertains to eschatology, have also been constructed without any first-century historical consideration”.
Many other writers and scholars have spoken upon this as well:
“Twentieth- century scholarship has atleast one great advantage over its predessors…it has been realized that Jesus must be understood in His Jewish context”– N.T. Wright
“Where N.T. scholarship is concerned, the literature can now be read as Jewish correspondence, written by and for Jews and Gentiles concerned with the Jewish context of their faith in Jesus- the Jewish Messiah- simply put, we can now read the New Testament as a Jewish book”. – Mark Nanos
“They are Jewish documents that must be read in the cultural and religious context of pre AD 70 Judaism”– Tom Hollett
If these things are ‘recent phenomenon’ we must ask- “In what view have we been viewing Jesus that was not the Jewish context? How much has this effected the message we preach?”.
At my recent debate with Sam Frost, I spoke about the “one hope” (Ephesians 4:4) of the Scriptures. I presented the case that the “hope of Israel” is what was being consummated at the “end of the age” (1 Corinthians 10:11) and this as a fulfilled hope is the summation of the gospel today. Instead of preaching the “hope of Israel” as a fulfilled hope, “orthodoxy” has gone and added a futuristic “hope” that is not seen in Scripture. This is a ‘foreign gospel’.
“…yes, Christianity has taught a great deal of this in spite of the fact that it has also hampered the full meaning of the gospel”- Sam Frost
Let’s look in Scripture. What was the gospel that Paul preached?
“For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own race, the people of Israel. Theirs is the adoption as sons, theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the Law, the temple worship and the promises. Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of Christ, who is God overall, forever praised! Amen. (Romans 9:3-5)”.
“For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the Jews on behalf of God’s truth, to confirm the promises made to the patriarchs so that the Gentiles may glorify God for his mercy….(Romans 15:8)”.
“However, I admit that I worship the God of our fathers as a follower of the Way, which they call a sect. I believe everything that agrees with the Law and that is written in the Prophets, and I have the same hope in God as these men, that there will be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked (Acts 24:14-15)”.
“And now it is because of my hope in what God has promised our fathers that I am on trial today. This is the promise our twelve tribes are hoping to see fulfilled as they earnestly serve God day and night. O king, it is because of this hope that the Jews are accusing me. Why should any of you consider it incredible that God raises the dead (Acts 26:6-8)”.
“… I am saying nothing beyond what the prophets and Moses said would happen- that the Christ would suffer and, as the first to rise from the dead would proclaim light to His own people and to the Gentiles (Acts 26:22-23)”.
“For this reason I have asked to see you and talk with you. It is because of the hope of Israel that I am bound with this chain (Acts 28:20)”.
SO PAUL HAS THE SAME HOPE AS THESE MEN, God has promised OUR FATHERS, THE HOPE THAT….AND THIS IS WHY HE WAS ON TRIAL.
How well acquainted are you with the Old Testament? It is pretty obvious here that Paul is not adding anything to the message and is speaking in line with the ONE “hope of Israel”. It gets pretty scary when you Start to read the rebuke and exhortations in the New Testament writings about the threat of a “different gospel” or “another hope”. It is clear that from the inception of the Christian faith there was “another gospel being offered”, a quite possibly a bunch of them. (Another point that J.D. Greear makes in his book is that there are quite a few messages being given prominence over the gospel in many “traditions” of Christianity today). Read Galatians chapter 1.
I accuse the Church at large with being guilty of what could be called the “Corinthian error”. Reading through the book of 1 Corinthians, one can clearly see the Gentile/Israel division that was occurring, as well as Romans chapters 9-11. As my “opponent” in recent debate once said, “First Corinthians is to be worked out in terms of Israel’s hope and the Jew/Gentile tension that occurred as a result of the outworking of the old and new covenants”. When we read the context of the New Testament and the shift of covenants that was occurring (Hebrews 8:13), we can clearly see “Paul’s aim was to show that Israel had not been cast away, and neither did Gentiles have to go through the Law of Moses to get to Jesus, but rather the message of the gospel is that of uniting both Jew and Gentile as one in Christ Jesus” (Another Sam Frost quote). We can see this division happening in Acts chapters 15 and 18. Have we created “another hope” detached from the “hope of Israel that is being expounded upon in Scripture? Uh oh…An oddly “Gentile hope”? Yikes!
So what was this “one hope” supposed to do? If you open up your Bibles to the book of Ephesians and read the context of this “one hope” you no longer need to be blind or assume what the “mystery” of Gods’ will was. Go ahead and open up.
“And He made KNOWN to us the MYSTERY OF HIS WILL according to His good pleasure, which He purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment- to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ (Ephesians 1:9-10)”.
“I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation so that you may know Him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the HOPE TO WHICH HE HAS CALLED YOU, the riches of His glorious INHERITANCE IN THE SAINTS….(Ephesians 1:17-18)”.
“…remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, exluded from CITIZENSHIP IN ISRAEL AND FOREIGNORS TO THE COVENANTS OF THE PROMISE, WITHOUT HOPE AND WITHOUT GOD IN THE WORLD. BUT NOW IN CHRIST JESUS, you who were once far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ. For He himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing in His flesh THE LAW WITH ITS COMMANDMENTS AND REGULATIONS. HIS PURPOSE WAS TO CREATE IN HIMSELF ONE NEW MAN OUT OF THE TWO, THUS MAKING PEACE, AND THUS IN THIS OWN BODY TO RECONCILE BOTH OF THEM TO GOD THROUGH THE CROSS by which He put to death their hostility. (Ephesians 2:12-16)”.
“This mystery is that through the GOSPEL the GENTILES ARE HEIRS TOGETHER WITH ISRAEL, members TOGETHER OF ONE BODY, and sharers TOGETHER IN THE PROMISE IN CHRIST JESUS (Ephesians 3:6)”.
My friends, I hope you have not been deceived and deluded through a “foreign gospel” that has been added to the clear and consistent Biblical hope aka “the hope of Israel”. As Max King once noted:
“It is strange indeed how frequently the distortions of the gospel’s message in later Church history (the period of the so-called “Church Fathers”) have been appealed to by interpreters of Scripture as though they are the historical framework for understanding Paul and the other writers of the New Testament. But the test for the rightness or wrongness of any interpretation of Scripture is not what the “Church Fathers” believed, nor how close to the apostolic time such a view can be traced in so-called Church history. To preserve the original purity of the gospel, it must always be read, understood, and preached in relation to the framework of history out of which it was originally preached”.
One can only wonder, how, when, and to what extend the pure gospel hope will accomplish when preached in its purity and we forsake a “foreign gospel” that so many seem so captivated with. To the Scriptures we go! As historian Tom Hollett wrote:
“To understand why it was so natural for Jews and God fearers to accept the teachings of the apostles we need to understand what the Jews has been waiting for”.
Study to show thyself approved! Blessings in Christ,