Thursday, November 20, 2008

Christians Need to be More Honest about the Gospel

Think about "the Gospel" for a moment. Whatever that means to you.

Now, remove anything related to Christ's death and resurrection. [[Note, this is a thought experiment, I'm not actually advocating that we remove such things from the gospel. Just work with me a bit...]

Now, remove anything related to Jesus being the Messiah.

What do you have left?

I think for most Christians the answer is "not much."

I'd like to challenge those Christians and everyone else to ponder a bit the gospel message of Jesus and His apostles.

The Bible indicates a wide variety of instances where Jesus and others spread "the Gospel" prior to His death. This includes John the Baptist preaching "the Gospel" before Jesus' public ministry. It includes Jesus preaching the Gospel throughout His three years of ministry on Earth [the word "Gospel' is not used in John's account, but "Word" is more or less his equivalent.] The disciples are sent out partway through Jesus' third year of ministry to preach the gospel to the surrounding areas.

What were these people preaching...and why is it called "The Gospel"?

At this point you might be looking at me like I have a third eye or a "I love Twisted Sister" tattoo on my forehead. But I'm serious...what do you think Jesus and His disciples preached as "The Gospel" during that time?

The reason why this is an interesting question is that no one knew Jesus was going to Die. Of course Jesus knew He was going to die, but the disciples didn't. Luke 24:26-27 and John 20:9 makes very clear that none of His disciples had realized that He was going to die, so what kind of Gospel were they preaching if no one had figured this out?

Note, I'm not saying Jesus never alluded to His coming death. It's sad I have to write this disclaimer, but you would not believe how many people read the last two paragraphs and immediately attack me for saying that Jesus never said He was going to die. I'm not saying Jesus never alluded to this event, I'm saying that it could not have played a role in the Gospel He and His disciples taught because no one understood His teaching.

We are told of many people who "believed" the message Jesus gave, and the apostles took that message to everyone else...which means whatever that message was, it couldn't have anything to do with Jesus' death. It would be hard for disciples to take a message to everyone that they themselves did not know!

Furthermore, whatever this message, this "Gospel" was, it couldn't have anything to do with Jesus being the Messiah either. It was not until rather late that even His own disciples identified Him as the Messiah, and that was not due to Jesus' instruction but by divine intervention [as Matthew 16:17 makes clear.] Furthermore, after Jesus verifies this, He tells them not to tell anyone!!

And that brings up another great question. It's easy to see why the gospel the modern Christian church preaches counts as "good news." But that message more or less disappears once you remove any reference to Jesus' death...that means that not only do we have to wonder what the message Jesus and His disciples taught was, but we have to wonder why it was good news (which as most know, is what "gospel" means)!

To add to the bizarre state of things, we see that even the message Jesus tells His apostles to take to "all nations" is not at all like the gospel Christians teach today. If you read Matthew 28:18-20 carefully, you'll note that Jesus is not saying "Go tell everyone about me in order to save them from Hell."
Instead Jesus says "Go teach them to obey the commands I have already given you, because I have been made Lord over Heaven and Earth."

It is worth pointing out here that these apostles that were told to make disciples of all nations only went to the Jews. No one preached to the Gentiles until nearly ten years after Jesus' resurrection. Anyone who believes the original Gospel was about "saving souls" is instantly making villains out of Peter, John, and the other apostles. Do we really think these holy men of God desired to abandon all gentiles to Hell? That is the logical deduction one is led to if we believe the early Gospel was about "saving souls from Hell."

But that isn't what the early Gospel was about. In fact, the word "hell" doesn't even appear in all of Acts. Not one time. Acts is the most abundant repository of early teachings to new believers by the original apostles, and the word Hell never even comes up in the nearly 20 passages describing their teachings in Acts.

So, regardless of what we teach as the Gospel today, we owe it to all Christians and anyone else to point out the original apostles never thought they were "saving souls" in the way the Gospel is described today. While we're at it, it might prove worthwhile to consider what the Gospel Jesus and His apostles preached really comprised.

32 comments:

Rachel said...

I like to think that they preached that the kingdom had come - not in all its fullness - but nevertheless, it had begun. There was a new way to live so as to be a part of that kingdom and even to help advance it and it was this kingdom-living that Jesus taught - the how and the why; the what a kingdom-life looks like.

David Rudel said...

Quite so!
I don't think you simply have to "like to think" that. I believe the Bible clearly says that is what Jesus and His disciples taught...which is why it is called "The Gospel of the Kingdom of God."

The wonderful thing about this is not merely that it is accurate Christianity rather than "the version of Christianity we make up because we like it," but also because it makes sense of Jesus' position in the Jewish context. It is perfectly compatible with the later prophets and what they declared...rather than merely compatible with a few scraps of Isaiah that everyone quotes.

The prophets speak a lot about the problems Israel faced, the problems God wanted to solve, and outlined how that solution was going to go...and it bears very little resemblance to the gospel the majority of Christians teach.

This should not surprise us because few Christians are encouraged to dig into the Old Testament prophets and really look at the rise and fall of Israel.

beowulf2k8 said...

Since you're a theoretic mathematician maybe you can explain to me how you arrived at the 10 year figure. It is interesting that in Luke 9:6 when Jesus sends forth the apostles "they departed, and went through the towns, preaching the gospel, and healing every where" and in Mark 6:12 of the same event it says "they went out, and preached that men should repent." So clearly repentance is a big part of the gospel, as is the nearness of the kingdom seeing they were commanded concerning even the cities that rejected the gospel to emphasize to them after wiping the dust of the city off their feet "notwithstanding be ye sure of this, that the kingdom of God is come nigh unto you." (Luke 10:11)

David Rudel said...

As an aside, I should point out that theoretic mathematics is not about numbers in the sense that most people think of them. It is mostly about logic and deduction, much like a good deal of philosophy and [hopefully] theology.

That being said, there are multiple sources that verify the 10 year mark. The most important of these is the dating of Acts 11:18 [which shows the disposition of the Jews who were carrying the Gospel.]

Acts 11:18 shows that even at the Council of Jerusalem [generally assumed to be about AD 50] the Jews in general still thought the Gospel was just for them. Peter's actual visit to Cornelius and his own proclamation that Gentiles could be baptized and receive the Spirit.

The actual conversion of Cornelius [by every timeline I've seen, for example here, here, and here place the story between Herod's exile and Claudius' ascension.

Just because the apostles went to various villages to teach the Gospel does not suggest they taught it to everyone. After all, Jesus went far and wide throughout the Roman-controlled holy land, and what do we read in Matthew 15:24? Racial divisions and allegiances [as well as the Jewish proscriptions with regard to what they were allowed to even do with Gentiles] were greater than most could imagine today.

Anonymous said...

What about where Jesus asked Peter,"Who do men say that I am?" and "Who do you say that I am?" and Peter responded, "You are the Christ(Messiah), the Son of the Living God." ? Seems like they could then proclaim the Gospel that Jesus is the Messiah.

David Rudel said...

They could have, but they didn't because Jesus explicitly tells them not to.
[This shows up in every account of Peter's confession, and only reinforces what I was saying earlier about that not being part of Christ's message.]
See Matthew 16:20, Mark 8:30, Luke 9:21.

Note, the current excerpt on my website gives a full description of this in case you want to read more.

Note that Christ had already been preaching for about 2 years at this point, and even after He had been preaching for 2 years, the crowds do not think He is the Christ, they think He is Elijah or a John the Baptist reborn. Obviously, if Christ has been preaching for 2 years and people are still not even suggesting He was the Christ, it could not very well have been a part of His message.

If Jesus had told people He was the Christ, they could hardly have been wondering that He might have been Elijah instead.

The first time we see the crowds even begin to think He is the Christ is about 7 months before He dies, and they bicker about it, some saying He is the Christ, some saying He is Elijah, other saying He is "the Prophet" [which is not the same as either one.]

Anonymous said...

I believe your interpretation is diminishing the work that Jesus did on the cross. I have not read enough of your material to say this with great certainty, but to say that Jesus dying does not hold our salvation sounds like a load of crap. Why then did God send his son, who he loved, to be tortured and killed for our sins?

David Rudel said...

Hi Anonymous,
Could you tell me where I said Christ's dying is not foundational to our salvation?

Anonymous said...

David,

In response to your question -

Could you tell me where I said Christ's dying is not foundational to our salvation?

among other things I read on your site - This is an excerpt from your page...Today a similar situation occurs in conservative Christianity. How many people love Christ's teachings but just cannot get over the idea that only Christians avoid hell? The requirement to hold this doctrine seems like a modern circumcision requirement, keeping millions of people from pursuing biblical Christianity...instead they find churches that do not care about the Bible or they just reject Christianity altogether...

Maybe I'm reading more into this than you intend, but it seems to me that you are saying there is another way to heaven other than Jesus Christ. Is that what you are saying? If so, that is where I think you are diminishing the work Christ did on the cross.

David Rudel said...

Hi again, Anonymous.

I believe Jesus, through His life, death, resurrection, and present intercessions, accomplished everything the Later Prophets (and the NT, for that matter) said the Messiah would, which is actually quite a bit.

This includes things most Christians do not acknowledge [certainly things they do not emphasize.] But it does not include some things the modern church contends.

I claim the church has rather gravely misunderstood what problem God was solving in Christ. I don't think that means I diminish His work.

Anonymous said...

Hey,
uh, i haven't studied anything and i havne't even read everything on this site, I just read a blog u posted , uh: http://www.biblicalheresy.com/Gospel.html?gclid=CNGFz5-46JgCFQ0Zegodi3Zt1A

You're point seemed to ask what there was to the gospel besides christ's death and stuff, uh quote" think about "the Gospel" for a moment. Whatever that means to you.

Now, remove anything related to Christ's death and resurrection.

Now, remove anything related to Jesus being the Messiah."

A few points that are probly obvious, but that I thought I might voice anyway,
1 - why would u remove christ from the gospel? Thats like removing the pigs from the big bad wolf (no reference or hint implied). Of course there's not much left! They only wrote to tell people the evidance they thought was important, and of course that was that jesus was messiah.
2 - The gospels weren't a diary that was kept everyday, they only included important events, and were written later in their lives, which might explain why they focus on Jesus, cause after everything that happend, who wouldn't?!?!
3 - Just cause someone hasn't died and done everything they came to do, doesn't mean that they can't spread the word of their work. Look at obama (bad example, but work with me here kk?), even before he was president officially, people were talking about who he was, who they were following, and what he was going to do. Isn't what the disciples would have done? "look, christ is here, he's done this this and this, which proves it, follow him?" that kinda thing? like the election speeches they give? I donno, but that seems likely to me.

i got a few other points, but i don't want to be to rude or anything, so i might stop here and see what happens.

Im sorry if I've offended you, really, its just nice to be able to talk about stuff like this, cause most ppl get heaps mad or worried when you start talking about religion and not assuming that its all correct and stuff, or they start giving you devotional books for 'doubting people'. lol. :P

Anyway, let me know what you think.

-From a Christ follower.

David Rudel said...

Hi Anonymous,
You didn't offend me, but I think you have taken my post in a way very different from how it was intended.

For example, when I said "remove anything about Christ's death" I didn't mean that we should remove that. I'm just asking you to do a "thought experiment."

What I was trying to get at in that post is the following question:

What was Jesus preaching when the Bible says He was preaching the gospel.

I'm not saying that later the apostles' message didn't include things about His death.

What I was asking was "What was Christ preaching on earth, and why was it called the gospel."

Now, the way I was trying to get you to see that that is an interesting question is that, whatever Christ was teaching, it did not include anything about His death or even that He was the Christ.

So, what could Christ have been teaching that was still called the gospel of Jesus Christ that did not include any of those two things.

This is important for a number of reasons, but one is simply that it shows our understanding of the gospel has a "blind spot" if we cannot say what is left after removing those two things. Evidently, there's something pretty amazing and important if Christ could be preaching the gospel without including either of those two things.

[btw, Rachel pinpointed what that important thing is...]

I hope that clarifies things.

Anonymous said...

ah, sorry!! i get it now. :P

if I can be so bold as to ask/point out another thing:

- Jesus didn't need to point out his death. He was the person from legends, he was what the kids were taught about, he was who they were waiting for. They knew that the messiah would die, so the question wasn't , would he die? , but if he was the real deal. that's the good news, not that Im dying, but i am the messiah and have the right to. It wasn't the gospel that was amazing, its the difference in culture. We weren't taught these things, so we don't take them for granted, whereas they did. it didn't need to be included. Like you don't start a book by teaching kids to read, you start with the story. They didn't tell everyone, he's gonna die, they said, he's the messiah, and the rest was assumed knowledge.

Thats it. :P

Again, no offence to anyone, and sorry if my facts are out.

:D - Same Christ follower.

p.s I really appreciated the response. :) thx.

David Rudel said...

Whoa, there.

This is the sort of assumption I'm trying to root out of Christianity.

You said that the Jews knew that the Christ would die, so Jesus did not have to point it out to them.

That is most definitely not the case. In fact, that goes against everything the Jews did think. On the contrary, NO ONE knew Christ was going to die. They thought the Christ was going to lead them to political/military victory over the Romans and everyone else who had oppressed them for centuries, how could they do that if the Christ was going to die?

N.T. Wright has discussed this in his books very clearly, and I very much recommend him.

There are several scriptural proofs that the disciples had no idea what was going to happen.

John 20:9 states this explicitly. It is also the reason the disciples are so devastated in Luke 24:21. Note also in Luke 18:34 that the disciples did not understand what Christ was telling them. In Mark 9:10, the disciples are trying to figure out what Rising from the Dead meas because it could not possibly mean that the Lord of Israel would actually die.

In fact John 12:34 indicates the Jews thought the Messiah would never die.

I've discussed this question at length in article you might want to read: What Jesus didn't preach.

Matt S said...

Christians need to be more honest about the gospel, and realize that it's mostly baloney. The end!

Being less abrasive, what you seem to be talking about is Thomas Jefferson's New Testament, which removes all the miracles and zombies, and leaves us with nothing I couldn't have moralized as a 6 year old.

David Rudel said...

Wow, Matt. I'm used to being misunderstood...but that's the first time someone has taken anything like that from my post.

What proof do you have that the miracles and other blessings/events recorded by the gospel writers are untrue?

Do you have any credible reason for that, or is it just a general lack of willingness to believe that such things are possible.

Have you read any of the several books that discuss this topic? I would recommend reading some of N.T. Wright's books on the resurrection. Those miracles and such you are blithely dismissing are not so easy to attack as you might expect.

JC Lamont said...

David -- you ask a question I've considered very much myself. Jesus preached a works-based gosepl/way to heaven. Yet the Protestant church teaches that Christianity/ Paul preaches a grace-only based gospel. But does it? Many NT epistle passages seem to be a blend of grace and works. I haven't done a detailed study on this yet(though I will soon be studying the gospels in depth for my next book) but it's on of the things I will be looking out for.

Anyway -- it's great to meet a fellow theologically conservative, yet open-minded Christian who really thinks. I'll be back to check on your blog more.

David Rudel said...

JC,
I really think you would get a kick out the book I just published [now available on Amazon, go to www.WhoReallyGoesToHell.com for more information. The whole book is dedicated to exactly that observation and how to resolve it.

E Foster said...

Hi there.

I'm a little confused about what your blog (www.biblicalheresy.com/Gospel.html)
was saying.
I agree with you that the majority of what Jesus preached before his death wasn't that he was going to die in order that our sins may be atoned for, and therefore that if we read the gospels before his death it would be logical to conclude that his "good news" was about his commandments, not salvation through his death.

What is the message you are making through this?

Are you saying that most of Modern Christianity is wrong in saying Jesus' message was that salvation came through faith in his death and resurrection and that it was in fact that we should do good works?
Therefore non-Christians are not damned?

If that is what you are saying (and I apologise if it is not and ask for clarification what you message is) are you suggesting that later parts of the bible which do explain his death and resurrection and salvation through faith in these things are wrong?

Thanks
E Foster

David Rudel said...

Hi E. Foster,
First, I appreciate your willingness to ask about my motives and message rather than jumping to conclusions. One of the biggest exasperations of discussing theology today is that people pigeon-hole others so readily (which conveniently allows someone to ignore whatever merit might be in the message the other person is actually saying).

First, let me make clear that I am absolutely not suggesting we ignore or discount the later books of the Bible. For example, I am a huge proponent of the gospel described in Acts, which was all about the risen Lord.

Secondly, I would give three reasons for pointing out that Christ's message had nothing to do with His coming death.

1) As a matter of Biblical literacy, we simply need to be more careful about what we let people assume. There are lots of obviously biblically false notions that seep into people's heads simply because they make certain assumptions that no one disabuses them of. For example, the church presents a certain message as "the gospel," and it is awfully easy for someone to assume that is what "the gospel" means when they read Mark 1:14 they will infer something incorrect because no one told them otherwise.

[In other words, the 1st reason is just being more accurate in our Bible study...]

The second reason is that understanding what Jesus taught helps us better interpret His specific teachings. For example, if we know that there was no "background gospel" that Jesus was going to die as "a ransom for many" it affects how we interpret what He preaches.

For example, often people see the word "repent" and take it to mean something very, very different from what the word means. The same thing goes for the myriad descriptions of the judgment that Jesus gives. Knowing that there was no "believe in me to save you from your sins" message in the background means we have to let Jesus mean what He says without doing rhetorical backflips to retroactively re-interpret His parables based on words Paul would write 20 years later.

3) The third reason I think it is important to bring up this point is that the modern gospel is so dependent upon Christ's death that if you took it away, there would be nothing left. Yet Jesus preached something called the gospel that had nothing to do with it. That suggests those who preach the modern gospel have missed something very important. It does not mean their gospel is wrong...but it must be incomplete, mispackaged, and not altogether connected correctly if Jesus can preach something that Mark, Matthew, and Luke call The Gospel without it having anything to do with His coming death. However we package and present the gospel cannot possibly be accurate based on that observation.

For that reason, it is important to fully appreciate and understand the value of whatever message Jesus preached. Not because it supersedes or is more important than the preaching that comes later, but because it shows something has been "lost" or misunderstood.

With regard to what that message was, I think it is most accurate to say it was about The Kingdom to Come. The Kingdom that is at hand. The Kingdom of the New Covenant that Jesus came to mediate. That is the kingdom of TODAY. We are in the kingdom of the new covenant.

A lot of problems come from people assuming the gospel is about "how we get to heaven." I noticed [and I hope you do not take offense at his] that it appears you may have done the same thing.

[This does not mean there is no heaven and hell, just to be clear.]

In fact, if you look at the gospel preached after Christ's death...it is more of the same. Look at the book of Acts [check out the Link above to see a chart showing all the teachings in Acts]. You see tons about Christ as Lord, gobs about Jesus as Christ, and you see heaps about the need for repentance, but you see very little about heaven...and the word "Hell" does not exist anywhere in the book. There is a big emphasis on The resurrection, but the emphasis there is that there would be one at all, which Jesus' resurrection gave significant proof for.

Same thing in the actual gospels. In my book I point out that simply reading any of Matthew, Mark, or Luke in its entirety might make you think many things but "Jesus came to save me from Hell" or "I need to go tell others about Jesus to save them from Hell" is certainly not one of them!

[Note, this assumes you do not read past Mark 16:8...I don't know of anyone who believes the original gospel of Mark went past that verse.]
Mark starts his gospel by saying "The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God." And then he gives an entire account [written, obviously, after Christ had died] that has practically nothing of the "modern gospel" in it.

E Foster said...

Got it.
So you believe that Jesus' purpose was to teach a new way to live and to die and rise again so that we might all believe in the second life, which is available to all, not just Christians. That fair?

David Rudel said...

Hi E,
I wouldn't say that. I'm not a Unitarian, a Universalist, or someone who claims Jesus as a mere "enlightened man.'

I do believe Christianity is an exclusive religion, but it is just not exclusive in the manner commonly understood.

That's a lot of what my book is about, answering questions like "In what way is Christianity exclusive? What did Jesus accomplish through His death? Why is His resurrection so important? How and why does God/Jesus judge people? Why is Jesus the savior "of all humans (especially those who believe)"? How can John say He is the propitiation for "the whole world"?

The most important question the book answers is "What, exactly, did the Savior save us from?"

E Foster said...

hmmmm
Ok then, I'm getting a better feel for what you're saying - except now I think I might be struggling to see where the contention with "most Christians" is - perhaps we are in agreement.

In response to your question what did Jesus save us from?
I think the gospels make it quite clear that this is hell (a place of eternal punishment after death) - here are the verses I could find - from the gospels - to support this (NIV):

Matt 23:33 "you snakes! you brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell?"

Matt 8: 12 "But the subjects of the kingdom (Jews who believed their birthright was sufficient for justification with God) will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth"

Matt 10:28 "Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell"

Matt 25:46 "Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life."

Luke 16:23 - in a parable Jesus clearly describes an evil man going to hell "In Hades, where he was in torment he..."

Henceforth (and thats leaving out the other evidence in the epistles), Matthew and to a lesser extent Luke make it very clear that a theme of Jesus' preaching was hell, and the eternal punishment for those who are not righteous. Elsewhere Jesus makes it clear that repentance and a new life were the conditions of this righteousness, so talking of the new convenant proclaimed in Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Hosea - the new covenant which was created through his death as Jesus' blood and sacrifice replaced and fulfilled the old system of atonement, so vital to the OT; the sacrificing of animals.

David Rudel said...

E. Foster,
I would totally agree that Jesus spoke of hell a lot...the thing is there's nothing in the gospels to suggest that that is why Jesus died.

For example, I challenge people in my excerpt t read all of Mark and pretend they were one of the original readers...without any other indication of Jesus' gospel. {After all, Mark wrote his gospel to spread the message about Jesus...so whatever the message is, it should be pretty clear in the gospel Mark wrote.)

And, as I claim in the excerpt, you might get many ideas from the gospel of Mark, but "Jesus died to save me from hell" is definitely not one of them. And you might come away from Mark with many impulses but "I need to go tell others to believe in Jesus or else they will go to hell" is not one of them.

Nor will you find those ideas anywhere in the evangelism shown in Acts.

Note that in those examples you refer to, Jesus uses hell as a goad to repentance. Telling people "You need to turn from evil, or else you are in danger of hell" is not exactly at the heart of the gospel according to most Christians. Most Christians believe that someone can repent of sin and attempt to do God's will all they want, but unless they know the Gospel of Jesus (which Jesus was not preaching...to get back to the beginning post :)) it will all be for naught.

Do this thought experiment with me. Pretend you are a Jew who hears the Sermon on the Mount. And note the end of the Sermon on the Mount contrasts those who hear Jesus commands and obeys them versus those who hear His commands and do not obey them.

Now, imagine this Jew [who knows nothing of Jesus as Christ...certainly nothing of Jesus coming death/atonement, etc.] goes off and tries to live according to the commands Jesus gave [which the Jew would take as simply a re-interpretation of the Mosaic Law...occasionally a rabbi would come along who was said to "have authority" (see Matthew 7:29) and they were able to reinterpret the Law.]

Now, if that Jew repented and followed this Law but never came to know Jesus as Christ/Lord/Savior, etc., most Christians would say all his repentance and efforts at obeying Christ were for naught. This makes a mockery of Matthew 5:19, Matthew 7:21, and Matthew 7:24-25.

Anonymous said...

Jesus says we are to sell everything we have and give to the poor, he says we are to hate this life and work only for the next, we are to basically forget about the concerns in this life as they mean nothing when it comes to eternity. I think I'm right on this stuff, and if this is ture, then how is it we are to be saved?

This exact question was asked by one of the disciples and Jesus says by human means we can't, but God makes it possible.

How does he make this possible if not through the death of Jesus Christ?

You even said that he did TRY to tell the disciples he was going to die, they just didnt get it...understandably.

My question is this...where are we to draw the line? Can we? Without trying to sound like a jerk, why have you not given everything you have to the poor? Jesus taught this. It seems like if we arent giving everything we have to give glory to God, like with every bit of spare time we have or something, we arent doing what Jesus preached.

If we dont feed people when they are hungry or give them water when they are thirsty as Jesus says to do, are we going to Hell?

I may be somewhat off base on some parts here in terms of what you are saying, but try to make sense of my post anyways.

I think for somebody who is struggling with belief issues to begin with, the added pressure of having to do things in addition to believe gets to be too much and may turn them off. What exactly are we required to do?

Your thoughts.

David Rudel said...

Hi Anonymous,
I am most definitely interested in replying to your post...but I'm a bit tired right now.

If I don't get back to you by Sunday, please repost/nag me. ;)

Rachel said...

Is this becoming a discussion about works righteouness (Palagianism) verses sola fide (faith alone). Looking at Luther is interesting. He flogged himself near to death, would lie out in the snow all night, would pray every minute of the day but knew himself still unworthy. His epiphany moment was in his realisation that salvation is delivered by grace and because of faith. There is nothing that we can do to become worthy of it. Faith justifies us and then our response to this great gift of forgiveness is surely to conform ourselves more and more in likeness to Jesus Christ (sanctification). Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. We need to start with God in his grace and mercy first and then occupy our lives in response to that gift.

David Rudel said...

I believe the discussion is more veering toward "We are saved by faith alone, but what are we saved from?"

I was pointing out that it is impossible to read any of the early gospels and conclude that "the thing we are saved from" is "the eternal wrath of God in hell."

You cannot find that message in any of the prophets [which speak a great deal about what the coming Messiah would do.]

Nor do the gospel narratives (which one would think were meant to relay the gospel message) support that conclusion.

Nor can you find such a claim in all the evangelism in Acts. Paul's message to the Athenians appears to be the direct opposite.

And, finally, that understanding is not even shown in the Nicene Creed or Apostle's Creed (the latter having been modified by the church for over 400 years before coming to its current form).

David Rudel said...

Hi Anonymous,
There were a few things you said that I wanted to address now that I have time.

I don't think the message is "hate this life and work for the next." I think the message is "live this life as someone who knows there is a God who cares how we act." The life we have now is itself a gift from God, so I don't think we should despise it.

What we should despise is a way of living that assumes this life is all there is...or assumes there is no God. That way of living is one that calls for people to be selfish or look for their own enjoyment rather than do God's will.

That way of thinking also encourages us to worry too much about our own safety because it assumes there is no God who cares about us.

I think you might be confused regarding a question the disciples ask. Let's look at this story [which occurs in all 3 gospels.]

Jesus says "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." [Matthew 19:24, Mark 10:25, Luke 18:25]

This surprises the disciples, so they are curious "Then who can be saved?" [One has to assume they mean "If the Rich cannot be saved, then who can?"]

And then Jesus says "What is impossible with people is possible with God." [Indicating that what He said earlier does not mean it is impossible for a rich man to enter the kingdom, merely hard [Note the wording of Matthew 19:23.]

Note, while it is still possible for the rich to enter the Kingdom of God...it is still not easy. And I believe this story describes why: it is hard fr the rich to put their trust in God. We tend to trust what is convenient for us to trust. Those who have wealth trust in their wealth, those with supportive families trust in those families, those with physical strength trust in their strength, those who are smart trust in their ability to know things. This is part of human psychology. And that makes it hard for those who have wealth to enter the Kingdom because they have so much to lose.

If you have wealth, it is harder to accept Jesus' message --- that you should live in God's ways rather than the world's, especially since the world's ways have evidently worked pretty well for you if you have lots of money. [Of course, that's not really true...the rich suffer the same emotional desperation as the rest of us...longing for fulfillment, searching for validation, etc.]

Anyways, Jesus is referring to how wealth is an obstacle to relying on God and seeing value in the way God sees value.

I do believe Christians are called to give up their worldly possessions, or at least those they can do without handicapping them from doing God's work in other ways.

But I don't think it is best to see this as an exhausting self-denial...like a marathon runner always wondering "how much longer? How much more?"

I believe that those with faith develop a desire to give what they have to the needy because it makes sense to them...and it might take a while for them to get to that point.

I think up until then, it is more important to respond to those God has placed in your life...try to meet the needs of those who ask for your aid.

In all things I think it is important to see these charitable actions as a natural outgrowth of the transformation God works in us...as we see things more and more as God sees things, it is a joy to give to others because it "makes sense."

Nor do these actions mean a life of sorrow, pain, and suffering...part of understanding Christ is realizing that fulfillment, joy, happiness, and blessedness can be found even while living in poverty. I don't think it is required to understand or accept/believe that to start down a path with Christ...but it's helpful to at least accept that it might be true.

I hope that helps.

Anonymous said...

I appreciate the reply first off. Thanks.

As for the part about the message not being about hating this life, I'm trying to find the chapter and verse but I'm pretty positive that Jesus actually uses the word hate (NIV). He also tells would be disciples who say "wait, let me go tell my family first" or the like that they are too concerned with the worries of this life and says they aren't worthy.

As Christians, the goal in this life I think is to be as much like Jesus as possible. Follow what he did and adhere to his commands. Well he had nothing and only accepted people who gave up everything to be his disciples, so it seems that not doing absolutely everything we can for others (and for God’s glory) is a bad thing. Am I way wrong here?

Another slightly different issue I suppose is this...when is it ok to do anything for ourselves? What I mean is, say there’s a football game on but I haven’t done my Bible reading for today. There is a greater than zero chance that God would want me to forget about the game and read his word, but it’s hard.

Maybe a less obvious example is this...I’ve done something really embarrassing, but no one will ever find out if I just lie about it and say it didn’t happen. No one else is going to be hurt and I end up covering for myself...what’s the problem? The problem is God detests lying, so I shouldn’t do it right?

This is basically a long way of saying, God is perfect and we are not, but how can we knowingly and willfully accept our own limitations? I am an incredibly shy person, so even the thought of talking to others about God or volunteering at a local food bank or something makes me shake just thinking about it. But isn’t that what God would want me to do? When the last thing I want to do at a given moment is read the Bible, wouldn’t God still want me to do it? I guess I find comfort in the fact that even when I mess something up completely, God still loves me and covered my sins up with the blood of Jesus Christ, and if I believe in Him, it’s ok. The person I referenced in my last post as having belief issues about God and Jesus, basically what the Bible says is fact, was really me, and it kills me to think that even if BY THE GRACE OF GOD I can come around and regain my faith in Christ, it’s not enough. I was selfish. I bought and HD TV when I could have given the money to the poor. I could’ve sat and read the Bible and not went to a movie, etc. If you’re saying that one is not saved by grace alone is true, I’m double screwed.

Reading through this post again…it sounds a little confusing but I hope you can get what I mean. Basically, I’ve been told my whole life that I’m saved by belief in Jesus Christ and nothing else, and you are saying that’s not true based on what is written in the Bible. It seems like, based on the trillions of differing interpretations of the Bible, no one really knows what is right, but it’s nice to think that even if I get it a little wrong, God has already covered for me.

Dale said...

Can you all imagine that if today one or any of you ,in your own mind and being achieved a toal sense of "inner peace". A feeling of awakened bliss that you carried with you every second of every day? Would you not want so much for your family and friends to "Feel" the same way you do? Your entire physical and emotional body would be in a constant state of" eurphoric nirvanna"! You would have a grin on your face that would never go away! Again you would want to "Share" this simply "state of beibg and awareness with "all" that you would meet! Would it matter where you were in this state of being? Of course not! What you were doing would be irrelevant, what you were wearing , what you were eating. Irrelavant! Wherever you were,the same feeling would be with you! Nothing else would really matter! Work, play, riding in the car....would all be enhanced simply because of your state of mind. Would you want to "kill" anyone that didn't "think" like you did? Of course not! You would again simply want them to know what you know!!So you could share your "BLISS" with them. Jesus..as were told was "The Son of God the Creator" God being the creator of this Beautiful planet we all live on with her song birds,pristine waters etc.(What an artist God was!) So,,,back to my point...Here is Jesus..the son of God. HIS "inner peace" because of what he "Knew" certainly had to be a hundred times greater then any "state of inner peace" we could achieve.He must of had grin on his face he could never get off. He walked the lands simply trying to convey to others what was in his mind that had him so happy! He wanted all to know "What he knew" just like we would if any one of us were to have this same "inner peace" This is what the saying "The Truth wil set you free" means. Again...If you had this "inner peace" (think about this now!!!!)would you have ANY need for people to "Worship" you because of it?? You would laugh at them if they tried!!In your laughter you would say...No..,No Just listen to what I am telling you so you can feel as good as I do! It's like the joy you have for your children? Is this not a feeling of bliss in your heart..at times ? When you see them laughing and playing. Do you not simply want them to "feel" the same love you do? This is all Jesus wanted people...He wanted us to "Know" His Father....The Creator of the Heavens and Earth and all the Beauty that it has. What do all "Artists" do? They/we simply try to emulate the beauty that is alredy here! Designed and Created by the Greatest artist af all times....God. To say (as many "religions" do) that this same God would then "destroy the wicked/ignorant simply because they don't recognise His Son is....ridiculous at least. The "Truth" of Gods creation and all its euphoric beauty and splendor is around us every day. Look! at it!(Seek first the kingdom of heaven)Recognise it and all things will be added unto you! What things we might ask? The greatest thing any one of us could possibly have! To be alive and walking this planet with joy and love in our heart!With a big ole grin on our face! Simply because ...of what we know. In other words Simply because of WHAT WE ARE THINKING! Ha, Ha, LOL, LOL....Yep None of any of this would be relevant if we were brain dead ha? As we think ...So it is! This was/is Gods greatest gift to us all. We get to choose joy or sadness every second of every day because we get to choose how and what we THINK in our own little individual brains. Look now(that you get this!)at what you are thinking? Are you choosing to think loving positive thoughts? Or negative, fearful, thoughts? Its up to you ..Is it not? I mean It is your brain... in your head.. right? Duh!!!! LOL It's OK! It took me over 50 years to figure this out! Just wanted to pass it on...! Peace and Joy to you all...Dale

Stephen. J said...

I'm sorry, I haven't read all of the responses (they are all so long), so please forgive me if this has already been said.

hmmm interesting ask:

I Believe the Deciples would have been teaching repentance, about the Kingdom of God, forgivness, Gods Grace, mercy and Love. Obviously, Jesus being their teacher, they would have been teaching the things Jesus tought them (From, an eye for an eye(Old Testament - No longer teaching) to turn the other cheek (New Testament - Jesus' teaching).

From Jesus' walk, they must have realised God was with Him - Being such with all the miricles He preformed, and thus believed, themselves, in His teachings (Without the need for His death and reserection).

When Jesus Asked, "who do you think I am?", Peter obviously already knew who Jesus was. When did Peter come to this realisation? We Don't know, could have been that day, or it could have been the moment he met Jesus - we can't say for sure, but we can say that he would have known something, through the works Jesus' preformed over the years, they were "amazed" after all.

Now, the significance of Jesus' death and reserection to this new form of teaching. (Changing the old covenant for the new convenant).

If Jesus did not Die and Rise again we could see the following:

1. He was not the son of God, thus the things he tought and claimed may be Herasy.

2. He was just a phrophet
and/or
3. He was a Mad Man.

Through the Death And resurection:

1. Proved Jesus was the Son of God

2. That his new teachings (the New covenant) where of God.

3. Everything he said and claimed were true.

To me, the Gospels where written after the death and reserection of Christ So the record and accounts of this is significant to Christianity, after all, Jesus does claim, "no-one can get to the Father except through the Son." - the full meaning behind this, we will probably never understand until we are with Him.

The question then arises - "If no-one can get to the Father except through the Son", what about the people who Died during Jesus' time on Earth, before His death and reserection and the teaching of salvation through Christ?

The answere would be simple, the same thing that happened to people who died for thousands of years beforehand. (what that is, I can not answere).

But, Christ came for the redemption of all mankind.