28 Jul 2017

The Gospel According to Paul: God Has Kept his Promises in the Messiah

Author: Bobby Valentine | Filed under: 1 Corinthians, Acts, Jesus, Romans

What is THE Gospel? Whatever THE Gospel is it is Good News.

This is an important question.

There are numerous answers to the question, “what is the Gospel” given. The “Gospel Coalition” group (i.e. John Piper, John MacArthur, etc) states that the Gospel is the doctrine of Justification by faith especially articulated by Martin Luther or John Calvin. Some in Churches of Christ will say that the Gospel is the “plan of salvation” that Jesus died to give us by which we can be saved. This plan ranges from Five Fingers to the identity marks of the one true church. Others, closer to the biblical mark say it is the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus.

The Gospel is not justification by faith. The Gospel is not what the “planners” say. The Gospel certainly tells us how God will save us, don’t misunderstand. But in First Corinthians 15 we find how Paul summarizes both his, and the Jerusalem Church’s, statement of the gospel, but when people quote it they often “edit” it unconsciously.

For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received:
that Christ died for our sins
in accordance with the Scriptures,
and that he was buried,
and that he was raised on the third day
in accordance with the Scriptures,
and that he appeared to Cephas,
then to the Twelve.

Hearing Paul

Paul’s Gospel, the one he “received” is more than Jesus died, was buried, and raised. Paul uses the word “Christ” which has a boatload of Jewish meaning (it is a title not a name) … the closest equivalent in English for this is “King.” The KING died. He died and rose “according to the Scriptures.” Even in 1 Cor 15, Paul states that the Gospel is a JEWISH story about a JEWISH King. The Gospel is “according” to the Scriptures.  These means more than the death of Jesus was predicted. It means the message of the Gospel, is about the “Messiah” who is Israel’s King … and the world’s King.

Romans is where we get the clearest declaration from Paul. It is a “special providence,”  as James A. Harding would point out, perhaps that Romans 1 is on the very next page from Acts 28 in our Bibles. As Acts closes, Paul languishes in prison and declares the Gospel in Rome. The next page we read of the King being proclaimed in Romans.

So why is Paul in chains? Why has Paul been beaten? Why has Paul been shipwreaked? Why has Paul faced the beasts? Why the Gospel of course.  But let Luke and Paul tell us what this means. Paul tells us point blank in Acts 28.20 that it i,

for the sake of the HOPE OF ISRAEL that I am bound with this chain.” Jesus and the kingdom of God are about the “hope of Israel” (v.23).

When we open up Romans 1, just a column away from Acts 28, this notion of the “hope of Israel” is how Paul defines the Gospel.

Paul … set apart for the gospel of God, which he PROMISED beforehand in the HOLY SCRIPTURES, the gospel concerning his son, who was DESCENDED FROM DAVID according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Messiah our Lord … to bring the obedience of faith among the gentiles for the sake of his name …”

This is a different conception than many are used to, though Paul essentially says the same thing again in 2 Timothy 2.8.

Remember Jesus Messiah, raised from the dead, a descendant of David –
this is my gospel, for which I suffer hardship.

This fits quite well with the accusation that was made against Paul in Thessalonica. “They [Paul & Silas and company] are all acting contrary to the decrees of the emperor, saying there is another KING named Jesus” (Acts 17.7; cf. 16.25).  To proclaim Jesus as “messiah” meant to proclaim him as KING, the promised king, the “son of David.” Here we learn what “according to the scriptures” means for Paul.  To be the “son of David,” Paul connects Jesus to the promise that was made to the legendary King of Israel. The Gospel is “according” to the Scriptures. The New Testament Gospel simply does not exist apart from the Hebrew Bible. It cannot be minimized, it cannot be divorced from, it cannot be taught apart from those Scriptures … that is what Paul states in Romans 1, 1 Cor 15 and 2 Tim 2.8 and other places.

The Promises

The Gospel is about the PROMISES that God made to Abraham, Isaac, Israel, David and all the descendants of the Patriarchs. It is not simply about a man who died, even on a cross. Thousands of people died on crosses. It is about the promised son of David (=king), and through that King, God rescues the world from the mess we have made of it. God has kept his word to Israel. Paul calls this “the hope of Israel” in Acts 28. The Hope of Israel is actually the hope of the whole world!

The Gospel is the culmination, not the repudiation, of the story of the promises of God to Israel. Jesus is King and Caesar is not. Israel is the Kingdom of God, the Roman Empire is not. Paul has been appointed to tell the nations that Psalm 2 has come true in the person of the Jewish King. That King’s name is Jesus (notice how the nations are the “inheritance” of the anointed King of Israel in Psalm 2.7-8).  For a much more detailed look at these promises see my The Promise(s): The New Testament Gospel is the Old Testament Promise.

The Book of Romans

Paul’s concern for these promises frames the book of Romans. We have already quoted the opening way Paul defines his Gospel in 1.2-4 above. Note how he concludes the book in chapter 15, he states about the King,

I tell you that Messiah {King} has become a servant of the Jews {the circumcised} on behalf of the truth of God IN ORDER THAT HE MIGHT CONFIRM THE PROMISES GIVEN TO THE PATRIARCHS, and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy” (15.8-9).

At the very closing of the book Paul again ties what he writes with his statement of the Gospel in 1.2-4,

Now to God who is able to strengthen you according to MY GOSPEL and the proclamation of Jesus MESSIAH {King} … now disclosed and through the prophetic writings is make known to all the Gentiles …” (16.25-26)

Paul refers to these promises in between his opening and closing of Romans. In chapter 4 he mentions the promises that Abraham “and his descendants” were to “inherit THE WORLD” (4.13) etc.

The Gospel is message that the God of Israel has kept his promises to Israel. They are no one elses promises apart from the Jewish King. God has sent the Messiah and he is King. Through the Jewish King, the servant of Israel, the Gentiles are commanded to come and serve the God of Israel and share in the promises themselves. The sins of the world are dealt with through the Jewish King who has been raised from the dead by power of God in the Spirit.

The Messiah reigns. Jesus is the King of the Jews and thus the King of all Creation! The world is put back together by God through him. Jews and Gentiles together are brought together as a renewed Israel in the world as the portrait of the new creation … in accordance with the Promises, in accordance with the Scriptures.

God keeping his promises … no wonder the Gospel is seen as the “power of God …” The Power of God to save the world.

2 Responses to “The Gospel According to Paul: God Has Kept his Promises in the Messiah”

  1. Profile photo of limb2016 Robert Limb Says:

    Excellent!

    I’m working on “Hope”

  2. Dwight Says:

    I know many who argue that the Gospel is the coming of Jesus and the new laws put forth under Jesus, but in the gospels we read, “gospel of the Kingdom”, a lot.
    The gospel has little do with the New Law/Laws, for laws condemn, but rather the deliverance of God to all nations and freedom from the law of sin through Jesus.
    Most of the moral Laws of the NT are the same moral Laws of the OT. Only the terms for worship has changed from ceremonial to personal. We no longer go through the Temple to God, but through God’s own Son.

    Paul does say that he “came to preach Christ crucified”, but then again that is what Peter taught in Acts 1 and it entailed much more than just Jesus dying. Using the OT Peter taught the Messiah who came to man to liberate man. It was a message of mercy and of grace.

Leave a Reply