Rebuilding the Foundations
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At this stage of evangelical history, you may be expecting me to present the "Gospel of the Kingdom." If so, you are right. The apostles and I, however, prefer to call it the Gospel of the King.
In the New King James Version, the word "kingdom" is in the synoptic Gospels 116 times. It is in John 5 times. It is in the rest of the New Testament a total of 31 times.
On the other hand, "Christ" is in the synoptic Gospels 36 times, in John's Gospel 20 times, and in the rest of the New Testament 474 times.
Jesus did not reveal himself as the Christ to all of Israel until the week of his death. He came preaching the Kingdom of God, but he was not ready to tell them that he was the King of that Kingdom. When God revealed to Peter that Jesus was the Christ, Jesus was thrilled (Matt. 16:13-19), but he immediately told them not to tell anyone else (v. 20). It was only later in the Gospels, that last week before his crucifixion, that he began to reveal who he was. That revelation got him killed.
Once Jesus rose from the dead, however, he sent the apostles into Jerusalem and then into the world to testify of his resurrection (Acts 1:22). His resurrection was proof that he was the Christ, the Son of God (Acts 2:23-36; Rom. 1:4). The King of God's Kingdom is more important than the Kingdom itself. As a result, the King (Christ) is mentioned 474 times from Acts to Revelation while the Kingdom is reduced to a distant second¬ at 31 times. Jesus' Gospel was primarily the Gospel of the Kingdom because he was not ready to reveal himself as King. Now that he is revealed as King, the message is primarily the Gospel of Christ the King and secondarily the Kingdom of which he is King.
That is significant, but it is not as important as the confession that will get you into the Kingdom.
Christ and Son of God
We will go into this much deeper in the chapter titled "Building on the Right Rock," but it is necessary to give an introduction here.
The apostle John wrote:
But these [things] are written, that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life through his name. (Jn. 20:31)
John wrote his entire Gospel to get us to believe one thing: that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. The importance of that one statement is highlighted by Jesus' reaction to Peter when he said those words.
Now when Jesus came into the parts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?”
They said, "Some say John the Baptizer, some, Elijah, and others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets."
He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?"
Simon Peter answered, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."
Jesus answered him, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. I also tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my assembly, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give to you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will have been bound in heaven; and whatever you release on earth will have been released in heaven." (Matt. 16:13-19)
When Peter said that Jesus was Christ and Son of God, Jesus was so thrilled, he made huge promises to him, including the promise to build his Church on him. As we saw in John 20:31, it is this confession, that Jesus is the Christ and Son of God, that brings us the life of God. It is not a matter of simply saying those words, it is believing those words by the revelation of the Father, like Peter did. It is God who saves, and God saves those who believe that Jesus is the Christ and Son of God.
In the Bible, believing is not something separate from obeying. Both John 3:16 with John 3:36 and Hebrews 3:17 with 3:18 show us that belief and obedience are intimately linked. The apostle Paul gives us a picture of this too at the beginning of the letter to the Romans. He explains in verses 1-4 of the first chapter that the Gospel is the good news that Jesus has been proven to be the Son of God by the resurrection from the dead. Then, he writes that he and his traveling companions were given grace and sent in order to bring about "obedience of faith among all the nations" (Rom. 1:5).
This idea of obedience to the faith, or obedience to the Gospel, is driven home by the only Old Testament passage that talks about "Christ" and "Son of God" together: Psalm 2. That Psalm ends with:
Give sincere homage to the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath will soon be kindled. (v. 12)
The Septuagint (or LXX) is a Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures that is quoted more than any other version in the New Testament and by the churches the apostles started. Psalm 2:12, as translated by the Orthodox Study Bible, says: Lay hold of His instruction, lest the Lord be angry, and you perish from the righteous way when his fury is quickly kindled. Believing that Jesus is the Christ and Son of God is not just something you simply say and walk away from. If you really believe he is the Son of God, then you also believe that if you do not "lay hold of His instruction" and "give sincere homage" to him, you will perish along the way. As said, belief and obedience go hand in hand. It is this belief, the belief that Jesus is the Christ and Son of God who rules the kingdom you are called to enter, that will save you from perishing and bring you eternal life, as said in John 3:16.
I have been focusing on the King of God's kingdom, and the good news, the Gospel, is that the King has been revealed. He is Jesus, and all those who receive him (as King), have authority to become the sons of God (Jn. 1:1-12), and they enter his kingdom. The kingdom itself may take second place when the King is revealed, but it does not disappear. "[God] delivered us out of the power of darkness, and translated us into the Kingdom of the Son of his love" (Col. 1:13). Salvation is not a flippant occurrence; it is the translation from the authority of this world into the Kingdom of God which is ruled by Jesus Christ. Though we may hold earthly citizenship in some earthly nation, our allegiance is to our citizenship in heaven (Php. 3:20) and to our one and only King Jesus.
There is no other salvation than this. There is no other faith than this. Salvation is to join the heavenly kingdom and submit completely to the King, Jesus the Christ.
It does not require works, not any at all, to join the kingdom, but once you do, good works will become your way of life. Jesus died to procure a people zealous for good works, and the Bible tells us to teach this with all authority, letting no one despise us (Tit. 2:14-15). We are saved by grace, which we obtain by faith, and works are not involved with this, wrote Paul in Ephesians 2:8-9. The very next verse, however, says that we are created in Christ Jesus to do good works that the Father has prepared in advance for us to do. A saved person sets out, zealously, to do those good works. If he has no desire to do them, something is very wrong.
Everything I just wrote will be explained more fully, but first we must address the biggest misunderstanding I encounter when I teach these foundational truths.