Lessons in Discipleship (5) دروس في التلمذة

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LID#5-Gospel Part I- Gospel of the Kingdom of God

          This is Dr. Ed Hoskins welcoming you to Lessons in Discipleship, a series designed to help new believers become established in their Christian faith.  Today’s lesson is Sharing the Gospel Part I – What is the Gospel of the Kingdom of God?  First, let me tell you a little about myself.  I’m a retired physician.  I spent 34 years in family medicine and student health, but I became a Christian 50 years ago.  I was helped early in my Christian faith by the Navigators, a nondenominational international Christian organization whose stated goal is “To Know Christ and to Make Him Known.”  I have been on associate staff with that organization since 1980.  Lessons in Discipleship is a compilation of what I learned during that time.  And what I learned then I now pass on to you.

The topic of today’s session is “What is the Gospel of the Kingdom of God?”  The most basic answer to this question is the following. The gospel of the kingdom of God is the story of a prophesied Messiah king who completes the biblical narrative.  It goes from Genesis to Malachi and into the New Testament.  It culminates in Jesus of Nazareth with his life, death, and resurrection.  Let’s examine the foundation stones for the gospel.

There are three times when the expression ‘gospel of the kingdom of God’ is used – all in the gospel of Matthew.  The first passage is in Matthew 4:23.  “Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people.”  The second usage is in Matthew 9:35.  “Jesus went throughout all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness.”

From these two instances we see that the gospel of the kingdom of  God involves verbal proclamation plus physical healing.  The gospel would also be proclaimed worldwide.  In Matthew 24:14 Jesus said, “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”

So, what is the central theme of the gospel?  It is the glory and beauty of Christ, the image of God.  In II Corinthians 4:4 the Apostle Paul describes it as “the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”  Most of us already know the basic facts of the gospel.  These are summarized by Paul in I Corinthians 15:3-5, “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the twelve.  After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time.”  But the gospel of the kingdom of God is so much more than just these basic facts.

First, the gospel involves salvation as well as justification by faith.  In Romans 1:16-17 Paul writes, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.  For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith.’”

Is there opposition to the gospel?  Absolutely.  In Ephesians 6:11-12 we learn, “Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.  For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

But in all our examination of the gospel we must be careful of reductionist thinking, oversimplifying it.  Is the gospel simply a plan of salvation to manage our problem with sin?  Or maybe it’s just a ticket to heaven?  How about another excuse for cheap grace?  Well, from an eternal basis, Jesus and his kingdom do ultimately involve justification by faith and eternal salvation.  But that’s not all.  Jesus prayed in Matthew 6:10, “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”  Everywhere the gospel went, society was at least partially transformed, whether it was England and the abolition of slavery through William Wilberforce or building orphan homes through George Mueller.  In many parts of the world, hospitals and educational institutions were established by missionaries and Christian organizations.

Over the years, I’ve come to think of the gospel in terms of four parts.   First, there was a promised Messiah king who came in the form of Jesus of Nazareth.  In Isaiah 40:3 we read, “A voice of one calling: In the desert prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God.”  We saw this come to fruition in Matthew 1:20-21 with the birth of Jesus, “an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.  She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.’”  From start to finish, the Bible is loaded with prophesies of a coming Messiah king, who would come in the form of Jesus of Nazareth.

In the second of our four-part gospel, the Messiah king came to proclaim good news and to make everything new.  In Luke 4:16-19 it’s written about the start of Jesus’ ministry, “He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath he went into the synagogue, as was his custom.  And he stood up to read.  The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him.  Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written ‘The spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.’” Jesus also said in Revelation 21:5 “I am making everything new.”

In the third part of our four-part gospel, this Messiah-king would come as God’s ‘suffering servant.’  One of the most famous of these suffering servant passages comes from Isaiah 53:4-5, “Surely he took our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted.  But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds, we are healed.”  Jesus of Nazareth, the suffering servant would die on the cross and was raised from the dead three days later.

In the fourth part, entrance into the Messiah’s kingdom is by invitation, only requiring an RSVP from us.  It requires a response from us of belief, obedience, and yes, allegiance to his kingship.  In John 3:16 we read that God “gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”  This requires a response of obedience.  In John 14:21 we see “Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me.”  All of this includes allegiance.  In Romans 10:9 we read “That if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus as Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

Well, let’s summarize what we’ve learned in this brief presentation about the gospel of the kingdom of God. The gospel involves verbal proclamation and demonstration of kingdom power in which society is at least partially transformed.  Second, proclaiming the gospel involves opposition.  There will be worldly and demonic opposition to enter God’s kingdom.  Third, the gospel is not just a sin management plan. It’s not just a ticket to heaven, nor is it just fire insurance to escape hell.   Fourth, the gospel of the kingdom of God requires belief, obedience and allegiance to Christ.

We will see you next time for another session of Lessons in Discipleship when we cover our second part in sharing the gospel: the Bridge Illustration.  Well, that wraps up today’s presentation. Thank you for participating.  Until next time, keep following Jesus. He’s worth it.

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