Reflections for the Week of Sunday September 23, 2018 Eighteenth after Pentecost

Gospel; Mark 9.30-37. Jesus tells the disciples for the second time that He will be killed and on the third day will rise again. But they did not understand Him and argued among themselves about which was the greatest. Jesus said greatness is measured by service to others and welcoming those who are in need like children.

An interesting question is “what is  the gospel?” Most Christians if asked that question would probably say that the gospel––the ‘good news’ of Christianity––is that Christ paid the debt incurred by mankind’s sin so that believers are redeemed and can go to heaven. N.T. Wright (in Surprised by Hope and elsewhere) argues that that is too limited a view of the gospel. He looks for an answer in Romans 1.1-5 in which St Paul says that he has been ‘called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God.’ And he goes on to say that God “promised [the gospel] through His prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning His Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord… declared to be the Son of God…by the resurrection” through whom Paul has received apostleship to proclaim the Christian faith to the world. This doesn’t say anything about believers going to heaven, but is primarily about Jesus as the Son of God, the Messiah (the Christ), who has the power to save those who have faith in Him. In the rest of Romans Paul says all people are sinners (3.9, 23) and that no-one can be saved by keeping the law (3.20), or by works, but only through faith [trust] in Jesus Christ. There is a two stage process for believers: upon death they go to be with the Lord until Christ returns at the end of the age, when they will receive new bodies and be resurrected to continue to be with the Lord in a renewed world. So then the promise of the gospel is not living in a disembodied ‘heaven’, but to live by the Spirit of God (8.14) in a state of glory (8.18) in a redeemed world (8.18-22) with resurrected bodies (8.23). So the gospel is not about a disembodied life (a platonic ‘heaven’) but is eternal life in a renewed and restored creation (the kingdom of God of which Jesus spoke so often in the Gospels) with resurrected bodies (1 Cor 15). The gospel is not just about believers but is about the Lord Jesus and the restoration of the whole world which had been cursed by God in Genesis 3.17,18 as the consequence of the disobedience of Adam and Eve and which waits with eager expectation for the revealing of the ‘sons of God’ (Rm 8.19). The righteousness of God (1.17) refers to God’s faithfulness to His covenant promises to Abraham and the Patriarchs in Genesis 12.1-3ff. Abraham’s ‘seed’, his family/descendants including ultimately the Messiah Jesus were promised to be redeemed by the elect (chosen) nation of Israel. The Messiah came as God Himself (the Word) joined with the human Person of Jesus of Nazareth who was redeemed and sanctified during His life in union with the divine  nature of the Messiah, God the Son. That His life of active obedience and His death at which sin was defeated were accepted by God the Father as sufficient satisfaction for the sin of the world was shown by the resurrection of Jesus. Sin and evil and death could not separate the divine and human natures of the Messiah so they rose together in unimpaired union to be enthroned with God the Father to rule the new heavens and new earth along with believers at the Last Day. Evil and death and suffering will be put away for ever and mankind will live with God in a renewed earth come down out of heaven (Rev 21ff.).

Memory Verse: And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom and healing all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease among the people (Mt 4.23).

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