The apostles’ gospel explained

In our previous post (the apostles’ gospel), we surveyed 16 samples of the gospel in Acts. What phrases did you find recurring?

The heart of the apostolic gospel is a person: Jesus. They used these phrases to say Jesus is good news:

  • Jesus is the Christ (Messiah)
  • Jesus is Lord
  • Jesus is resurrected
  • Kingdom of God

Are those the phrases you would use to explain the gospel to someone? How are these four things the gospel?

Let’s enrich our understanding of the gospel by unpacking what the apostles said. It turns out to be the same gospel Jesus announced.

Jesus is the Christ (Messiah)

When we hear the word Christ, we’re hearing a title. It’s not Jesus’ surname. It’s a transliteration of the Greek word for anointed (christos). To proclaim someone as the anointed was to claim they were God’s chosen leader for his people.

The Hebrew word for anointed was mā·šîa (Messiah). In the Old Testament, priests and kings were anointed with oil to identify them as the ones chosen by God to lead his people. Priests were still active in Jesus’ time, but the Davidic kingship had been cut off, so declaring Jesus as God’s anointed (Messiah/Christ) was recognizing him as the Davidic king who represented God’s reign on earth (as in Psalm 2:2).

That’s the opening claim of the New Testament: “Jesus the Messiah the son of David” (Matthew 1:1). When the apostles pronounced Jesus to be the Christ, they were declaring him to be the king God has chosen to rule his people (e.g. Acts 2:36).

That’s the same gospel Jesus proclaimed. When Jesus announced the gospel of the kingdom (Matthew 4:23, 9:35 etc), he was declaring that God had given him the kingship, and that’s really good news. The turning point of Mark’s Gospel is when Peter declares, “You are the Christ” (Mark 8:29).

Being released from oppression back into God’s reign through his anointed ruler (the Christ) — that’s good news!

Jesus is Lord

Since God chose Jesus as his anointed king, our response should be to recognize him as our Lord. These are two sides of the same coin: Jesus is God’s Christ (his anointed ruler), so he is our Lord (the one we recognize as our ruler).

The apostles’ gospel expects the response, “Jesus is Lord.” God decreed it (Acts 2:36), so the appropriate response is to recognize Jesus as our ruler and trust his leadership. A servant of Caesar’s would have understood the significance of being asked to place his trust in Jesus as Lord in order to be saved (Acts 16:31).

Jesus said that those who recognized his authority would be recognized as the people under his kingship (Luke 12:8). No one can truly make the declaration “Jesus is Lord” without the Holy Spirit working in them (1 Corinthians 12:3b). Accompanied by trust in the resurrected king, openly declaring that “Jesus is Lord” is what saves (Romans 10:9).

Jesus is resurrected

How God restored his kingship over the earth is the most astounding story in history. God didn’t send heaven’s armies in judgement against the earth. He sent his Son — his anointed ruler — to be our Lord.

If sin is the rejection of God’s authority over us, sin assassinated God’s anointed. God responded not by giving death to the rebels but by giving life to his Son — restoring justice by raising up his Anointed out of death to the throne. No one had ever gained kingship like that!

The resurrection is God’s vindication of Jesus. As Jesus’ Advocate, the Holy Spirit testified that the world got it badly wrong in killing our God-sent king, so he overruled Jesus’ conviction and execution — raising him from the dead to restore justice to the world (John 15:26 – 16:11). This same Holy Spirit continued his testimony through the apostles who saw Jesus alive after his resurrection, and he continues to do so until Jesus’ kingship extends to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8).

That’s why the resurrection is the core of the gospel. It upsets those who want power (Acts 3:15; 4:2, 10, 33 etc), and it’s a sticking point for those who don’t recognize God’s authority (17:18, 31-32; 26:8). Nevertheless, the resurrection of Jesus is the moment when everything changed.

The power of sin and evil failed when God raised up his Christ as our Lord. In raising Jesus from the dead, God fulfilled what he had promised to do for the world throughout the Old Testament. The resurrection of Jesus is the good news (Acts 13:32-33).

The kingdom of God

Did this one surprise you? The kingdom of God is the phrase that summarizes Jesus’ message (1:3), Philip’s gospel (8:12), and Paul’s preaching (19:8; 20:25;28:23).

The good news of the kingdom of God is the joyful announcement that God is back in charge of the world. In a sense, God was always in charge, but humans attempted a coup (resisting God, taking power for themselves). God anointed Jesus as his Christ, but humans killed our Lord. The resurrection was God reinstating his Christ as our Lord, restoring God’s reign over the earth in him. It’s all about his kingship.

The Book of Acts concludes with this summary of Paul’s message:

Acts 28 31 He proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ — with all boldness and without hindrance! (NIV)

The good news according to Paul is that Jesus has been installed as humanity’s ruler (Lord) because he is God’s anointed (Christ). In other words, God’s kingship over the planet (the kingdom of God) has been restored in him (implying his resurrection and ascension). That really is good news.

Summary

This is the gospel:

  • Jesus is God’s appointed ruler (Christ).
  • Jesus is our leader (Lord).
  • He received the leadership by being raised out of death to the throne (resurrection).
  • In him, we’ve been rescued from the control of evil, restored into God’s reign (kingdom of God).

Prayerfully ponder how this affects the way we share the gospel:

  1. Do you understand the gospel in the same way that Jesus and his apostles did?
  2. What words or phrases would we use to convey this same message in our language and culture?
  3. How do we model the message of Jesus as ruler of a world that is restored in him?

Related posts


The verses from Acts

Acts 2 36 [Peter:] “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.”

4 2 They were greatly disturbed because the apostles were teaching the people, proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead.

4 33 With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus.

5 42 Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Messiah.

8 12 When they believed Philip as he proclaimed the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.

8 35 Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.

10 36 [Peter:] “You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, announcing the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all.”

11 20 Some of them, however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus.

13 32 [Paul:] “We tell you the good news: What God promised our ancestors 33 he has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising up Jesus.”

14 15 [Barnabas & Paul:] “We are bringing you good news, telling you to turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made the heavens and the earth and the sea and everything in them.”

16 31 [Paul & Silas:] “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved — you and your household.”

17 18 … Paul was preaching the good news about Jesus and the resurrection.

19 8 Paul entered the synagogue and spoke boldly there for three months, arguing persuasively about the kingdom of God.

20 21 [Paul:] “I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus. … 24 My only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace. 25 Now I know that none of you among whom I have gone about preaching the kingdom will ever see me again.”

28 23 He [Paul] witnessed to them from morning till evening, explaining about the kingdom of God, and from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets he tried to persuade them about Jesus.

28 30 For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. 31 He proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ — with all boldness and without hindrance!

Author: Allen Browne

Seeking to understand Jesus in the terms he chose to describe himself: son of man (his identity), and kingdom of God (his mission). Riverview College Dean

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