The gospel of God (Matthew 17:5)

Recognize God’s gospel?

Did God announce the gospel? What does it sound like when he proclaims it? God’s gospel is a thing (Mark 1:14; Romans 1:1; 15:16; 2 Corinthians 11:7; 1 Thessalonians 2:2, 8-9; 1 Peter 4:17).

If you think the gospel is God making a statement about you (“I forgive your personal sins” or “I justify you”), then God didn’t. But if the good news is God’s appointment of Jesus as Lord, this is God proclaiming the gospel:

Matthew 17 5 And a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!” (NIV)

This is God’s gospel, his joyful announcement of rescuing the world from oppression under sin and death to be his kingdom, formed in the Son he loves, a world reunified in the leader God was pleased to appoint. Continue reading “The gospel of God (Matthew 17:5)”

Jesus as global leader (Matthew 16:13-17)

The good news is a person.

“You are the king, the elect heir of the living God!” Is that the declaration you ask people to make when you share the gospel?

We explained this was Peter’s declaration. Understanding what he said will move us from theology about Jesus into his regal mission for global restoration.

Continue reading “Jesus as global leader (Matthew 16:13-17)”

Declaring Jesus king (Matthew 16:13-16)

“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” — Apostle Peter, first century

“Do you believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God?” It’s the question I often ask when baptizing believers. Our faith is in a person, and Peter nailed it with his declaration. So, what did Peter mean by this great confession?

There’s a temptation to invest Peter’s words with later theological meaning and miss what he said. His phrases have snowballed with significant theological freight:

  • Christology is the study of the person and work of Christ. His person embodied two natures (fully God and fully human), so his work reconciled God and humans (atonement).
  • Son of God is a term we associate with trinitarian theology: the relationship between Father and Son who, with the Spirit, exist eternally as one God (trinity).

All of that is true and important, but this developed theology was not in Peter’s mind. Rather than treat his words anachronistically, let’s hear them in their context.

Continue reading “Declaring Jesus king (Matthew 16:13-16)”

How the kingdom rises (Matthew 16:5-12)

Our role: kneading or feeding?

Matthew 16 6 “Be careful,” Jesus said to them. “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” (NIV)

If you want dough to rise, why punch it down? Who figured out you could aerate a loaf by punching the air out of it? Continue reading “How the kingdom rises (Matthew 16:5-12)”

Peace and grace: the greeting that can deliver (Ephesians 6:23-24)

More than a wish; this good news heals the world.

Ephesians closes with two brief blessings that pull together the main themes of the letter. Peace and grace were common greetings in both the Jewish and Asian communities, but these words are much more than well-wishes. The good news in this letter is the divine grace that brings peace to the world. Continue reading “Peace and grace: the greeting that can deliver (Ephesians 6:23-24)”

Christ and the rulers of this world

How does seeking God’s kingdom affect the way we relate to existing rulers?

Some of my conservative friends worry about me. They fear that seeking the kingdom will make me a “leftie,” advocating for social change. They remind me Australia is a great place to live, with a Christian prime minister, who’s doing a good job with the Covid-19 lockdown. Surely, we all need to pray for him and support him as God’s man?

I’ve disappointed my radical friends too. I’m seeking the kingdom, but they don’t see me pushing for social change. They fear if we don’t call out the systemic injustice, nothing will change. They remind me how inhumanely Scott Morrison treated people seeking asylum when he was immigration minister. Surely, we must disrupt the way things are if we are to have a better society, a kingdom of God? Continue reading “Christ and the rulers of this world”

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.

Continue reading “The apostles’ gospel explained”

The apostles’ gospel (Acts)

A quick survey of the good news announced by the apostles in Acts.

Here’s an interactive study for you or your small group. We scan the Acts of the Apostles, asking “What was the gospel they proclaimed?”

Below are 16 texts that summarize their message. Print the list (or use a notes app) to jot down the key phrase in each one. We’re not asking how they asked people to respond; just the content of the good news the apostles proclaimed. Continue reading “The apostles’ gospel (Acts)”

Why didn’t God kill the devil instead of his Son?

Interesting question.

Recently I was asked this in a text message:
Q: Why did God sacrifice his only Son to save us instead of killing Satan directly?

Love this question! It accumulates so many misunderstandings of the gospel. Truth is, God’s goal wasn’t to kill Satan. God didn’t need a blood sacrifice before he would save us. And God didn’t kill his Son. Continue reading “Why didn’t God kill the devil instead of his Son?”

Jesus as Saviour

What do we mean when we call Jesus “Saviour”?

Would you describe Jesus as your personal Saviour? That’s good, but that’s only a tiny fraction of what the Bible means when it calls Jesus Saviour.

Let’s try a story. What’s your favourite spy movie? You know those ones where our agents have been incarcerated in a foreign land and condemned to death. With meticulous planning, satellite intelligence, and drone support, we send in the commandos to bring them home. Commandos are the “saviours” in our culture.

The gospel is that kind of story, with more intrigue and less gunfire.

Continue reading “Jesus as Saviour”

Society on the couch

Can you use cartoons in an academic paper? Ann Fink did. Her article is a case study I may use in ethics class.

She asks how to treat this police officer. During Algeria’s War of Independence, he presents to Dr Frantz Fanon (psychiatrist) suffering PTSD (posttraumatic stress disorder) as a result of his work, which involves torture. He’s not coping, and his home life is becoming increasingly violent.

The patient asks Fanon “to help him torture … with a total peace of mind.” Is it possible to treat the inspector in a meaningful way?

How would you advise the doctor?

Continue reading “Society on the couch”

What is the gospel of the kingdom?

When you hear the word “gospel”, do you think of God’s kingship being restored on the earth? Jesus did.

Jesus’ gospel was different to ours. Here’s how the Gospels summarize his message and mission:

Matthew 9 35 Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness.
Luke 4 43 He said, “I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent.”

What is the gospel of the kingdom? How is it different to a gospel of personal forgiveness? Jesus’ gospel is on a different scale — the difference between liberating a prisoner and liberating a planet. Continue reading “What is the gospel of the kingdom?”

Being good news (Ephesians 4:1-6)

At the hinge of the book, Ephesians calls us to outwork the gospel: to live a life worthy of the calling you have received (4:1).

Previously, it explained the good news: God is reuniting humanity in the reign of his anointed. Now it explains how the good news people embody his reign: in community (4:1-16), in ourselves (4:17 – 5:20), in home and business life (5:21 – 6:9), and in the wider community (6:10-23).

Did you notice what’s missing? In a book about the gospel, he forgot to advise us on how to get the unsaved to make a decision, how to get our neighbours into church, how to get that aunt to pray the Sinner’s Prayer before she dies. Continue reading “Being good news (Ephesians 4:1-6)”

God and the human family (Ephesians 3:14-19)

How do we respond to the news that God unites us as his family?

The gospel is the good news that God has restored peace to all the peoples of the earth through his anointed ruler (Ephesians 2). So what’s our response to this good news?

What people often do with the gospel today doesn’t match the response in Ephesians 3.

  • Evangelicals try to convince individuals they’re sinners and get them saved.
  • Justice warriors name and shame the regimes for their sins (systemic oppression).

But Paul doesn’t stand up to condemn individuals or regimes: Continue reading “God and the human family (Ephesians 3:14-19)”

The apocalyptic framework of Ephesians 3

Same apocalyptic problem (mystery); unexpectedly awesome answer (reveal)

After Babylon invaded Jerusalem and terminated the Davidic kingship, Israel was ruled by other nations. Floating adrift among the nations, they clung to their ancient stories of how God had delivered them from Pharaoh’s tyranny, committing himself to be the sovereign of their nation (covenant), giving them his wise law (Torah), and living among them to lead them (tabernacle).

But generations of Jacob’s descendants remained under foreign domination, rising and dying like the grass of the field. As nations fought and conquered each other, as empires rose and fell, Israel remained the meat in their sandwich.

They wondered how God would resolve this injustice. When would the day of the Lord arrive? How would the sovereign Lord overpower the evil that oppressed them and destroy the power of the nations? Continue reading “The apocalyptic framework of Ephesians 3”

What is the kingdom of God?

After eight years on this topic, I’m attempting a simple definition:

The kingdom of God is: earth living as the community under divine governance.

At the most basic level, kingdom implies two entities in relationship: a king, and the community under his reign. In the kingdom of God, God is king, and all the people and creatures on earth live as the community under his governance.

Clear enough? Can we now reframe our message to match what Jesus proclaimed? We would focus on just two things: the community, and the king.

Continue reading “What is the kingdom of God?”