A Response to "Intro and Question #1: Good News?" - The Struggle of Two Gospels - The Message of Jesus and Paul

A link to another article, Intro and Question #1: Good News?, was posted on my post, What Is Really The Good News Taught By Jesus? - The Gospel Is The Kingdom, and I just never noticed. Today, I began looking through old posts for a class I am teaching, and I saw the link in a comment. The timing of this discovery was great, despite nearly three years after it being written. It appears that Kelvin has since become a missionary in Venezuela to help bring about the Kingdom of God.

These are the thoughts I had while reading the article. They might not be disagreements; they are just my stream of consciousness. The thoughts are written in reply to his article and to him; hence the use of the word "you."

Romans 1-3 (especially when it states that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God) is a proclamation that we can only be saved by grace. When you wrestle with whether we can be righteous or not, that is a different wrestling match than whether we can be saved by our own works or not. The latter is what Paul addressed in Romans when he wrote about us all being sinners. Jesus, at the end of Matthew 19, also touched on it when he was asked by the young man what he should do to inherit eternal life. Jesus pointed out that salvation was impossible for man yet possible with God. There are no works that we can do to be right with God; it is purely through his grace. As Paul said in Romans 3, God's grace is a gift.

Galatians 3 states that we were initially saved by grace and are continually made right to God by grace. When we think our works are what makes us right, even after we have been a Christian for many years, we run into the problems of pride and losing the blessing of God working among us. God does great things through the willing, not the prideful or "perfect."

You explained the two approaches to the Gospel in the following:

To sum up for side A, I see this as the message of salvation, which is true but not necessarily the gospel. Where I see it falling short is although there is a promise of love, peace, joy and new life, the emphasis is on snatched from Hell, wait for Heaven and don't do anything really bad till you die.

And what of Side B, pray tel? Side B relies heavily upon the life and teachings of Jesus, and not so much His death. After all, Jesus did do much more than just die. He lived: He was a little kid, He was a teenager, He worked, He learned a trade. Before He started His ministry, you probably wouldn't even have given Him a second look. In fact, He wasn't even physically handsome. (Isaiah 53:2). Once He began His ministry, He began with the poor. Many of the people that came to Him were broken, either poor, physically ailed, someone in their family had problems, etc. And, never, never once does Jesus ever turn away someone who is desperate for Him. He does turn away the pride and arrogance of the pharisees. Jesus even forgave sins of the people that came to Him . . . and He had not died yet to forgive them. Jesus preached the Kingdom of God while on Earth, and He said the prostitutes and charlatans were entering before the pharisees. He came to establish the Kingdom and He did. Its not something you can point to and say there it is, or here it is, rather it is within you. (Luke 17:20-21).

I’ve been wrestling with the two approaches toward the Gospel that you address, and I think it is a blending of the two that is true. Jesus is the entry to the Kingdom, but within the Kingdom is where disciples are made. You can substitute the word community for Kingdom, but Kingdom is great, albeit archaic, in that it signifies a community with Jesus as the ruler. The problem with the two gospels you address is that the one is good at making converts but not in shaping disciples. The other is good at shaping disciples but not good at making converts. That does not mean that disciples are not made in the one and converts are not made in the other; it just means that those two Gospels, when purely approached, do not naturally lend themselves to making converts in one case or disciples in the other.

If your goal is to transform the world, then many systems need to be transformed as well. If you are going to bring peace to the world, then wars need to cease; oppressors need to see the slave as their brother, not an object of hatred. If you aim to end poverty, you need to establish a just system of wealth and economics. How does Jesus address these issues? He doesn't.

I could not agree more. The goal of the Gospel is not to transform governments. Although I do believe a nation that consisted of Christians would steer toward being Christian in its policies, but that is not the goal of the Christian. We are focused on our citizenship in God’s Kingdom and the opportunities that being a follower of Jesus entails. In our life and our circle of ministry, we need to strive to bring about peace, justice, and an end to oppression. I am not worried about systems but hearts, mine included. I need to live at peace with those who attack me. I need to make purchasing, employment, and consuming decisions that do not proliferate this economy of oppression that we live in (and I am terrible at this). I need to live my life in such a way, along with my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, that we are an adequate representation of the body of Christ.

The body of Christ is such an amazing analogy. That means Christ is our head, but we are the body. The head sends us signals, and we are to do them. We are his hands and feet in the world. We bring about his will. “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” I think we do a disservice when we get this message confused with political activism rather than on the street love. I am not going to make a legalistic rule that there is never a place for political activism. I know that is not what I am called to. If someone else is called to political activism, who am I to say that they were not really called to that.

Transformation or peace corps can look the same.

I could not agree more. That is why we need to make sure that our transformative actions are rooted and expressed in and through Jesus. Many loving things can be done because of our love of Jesus, but we need to make sure that Jesus is proclaimed through our loving actions. Hmmm…I might even disagree with what I just wrote. Because if I love to just transform others’ hearts, then that love is manipulative. I need to make sure the love I express is an overflowing of the love that God has for me. It is not manipulative, despite proclaiming Jesus, because it is an overflowing of God’s love through me.

The Gospel that the Galatians had strayed from was a Gospel that included grace. As I previously mentioned, they were trying to say that works made a person right with God. Grace was the key omission of the Gospel in the case of the Galatians.

I think you wisely discern a difference between the Gospel Jesus taught to the Jews and the Gospel Paul preached to the Gentiles. The Kingdom analogy only works when one has a good grasp of the Old Testament Kingdom and God’s transition of that Kingdom from one of the nation of Israel to Cross-Nation Kingdom of people whose hearts are surrendered to God. In one sense, the Kingdom really is useless as a message to the non-Jew. However, it is still the concept that Jesus taught. To his audience, it was easily understood. The Jews were waiting for that new Kingdom to be ushered in by the Messiah. Jesus was at work transitioning the Old Testament Kingdom into a new Kingdom that had no partialities, hierarchies of leadership, boundaries, and concern in regard to the economic and political standing of the people that are part of it.

In the end, the key is that people surrender their hearts to God. The rest will fall into place after that. Although useful, whether a person understands the teaching of the Kingdom does not really matter. Teaching about the Kingdom is beneficial in that it focuses on us being a community under the King along with having a citizenship that is higher than our earthly citizenship. We are in relation to one another; that is an essential part of following Jesus. Too often, the gospel of just giving your life to Jesus for eternal salvation never really entails being part of the fellowship of believers. Teaching the Kingdom inevitably emphasizes that. Also, we must never compromise the Kingdom for our earthly nation. That is also an inevitable teaching of the Kingdom.

In the end, I find myself somewhere between a social gospel and a gospel of personal salvation. It is still working itself out. Thanks for your thoughts.