Thursday, March 26, 2015

Jesus’ First Sermon

Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the Gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the Gospel.” Mark 1:14-15 (RSV)

Empowered by the Holy Spirit and passing the test of pure evil (Mark 1:9-13; Luke 4:14), Jesus gives His first sermon in Galilee. Jesus proclaimed, “The time promised by God has come at last . . . .  The Kingdom of God is near (arrived)! Repent of your sins and believe the Good News!” (Mark 1:14-15 NLT). These first words spoken by Jesus give the theme and centerpiece of Jesus’ preaching and teaching (see also Matthew 4:17). Jesus’ teaching and preaching focused on the Kingdom of God, the need for repentance, and belief (trust) in the Gospel of God (Mark 1:14-15). More than a hundred references to the Kingdom of God appear in the New Testament Gospels, many in Jesus’ parables (e.g., see Matthew 13:24, 31-33, 44-47; Matthew 20:1; Matthew 22:2; Mark 4:11; Luke 8:1).

The Gospel is called “the Gospel of God” because the Gospel comes from God and reconciles (unites) us to God through wholehearted faith in Jesus (see 2 Corinthians 5:17-21; see also Romans 1:1; Romans 15:16; 2 Corinthians 11:7; 1 Thessalonians 2:2, 8-9; 1 Peter 4:17). Also, the Gospel is “the Gospel of the Kingdom” because faith (trust) in Jesus brings you into God’s Kingdom, into God’s family, and brings eternal life (John 1:12-13; John 3:15-16). Gospel is the usual New Testament translation of the Greek word “euangelion.” The word Gospel simply means “Good News.” The Gospel is the Good News that God's unique Son (Jesus Christ) has come into the world to bring salvation (Matthew 1:21). Through belief (faith or trust) in God’s Son and repentance, our sins can be forgiven, we can be reconciled to God, and declared God’s child (e.g., see John 1:12-14; John 3:16; Ephesians 2:5, 8-9; 2 Corinthians 5:11-21). Even more, the Gospel is God’s proclamation victory over sin, death, and hell (see 1 Corinthians 15:1-8, 51-52; Galatians 1:1-9). The Gospel is the power of God’s Holy Spirit to raise the dead, to bring new life, and release bondage from sin (Romans 1:16-17; Romans 15:13; 1 Corinthians 2:4-5; 1 Thessalonians 1:5). Most important, JESUS IS THE GOSPEL OF GOD! In Jesus is the fullness (totality) of God with all God’s powers and attributes (Colossians 1:19; Colossians 2:9).

With the arrival of Jesus, the Kingdom of God had come (Mark 1:15). The only response to the arrival of God’s Kingdom was to first repent and second trust (believe) in the glorious Good News (Gospel) of the Kingdom of God. Like the Old Testament prophets and John the Baptist, God’s unique Son Jesus also preached the necessity of repentance (Matthew 3:2; Matthew 4:17; see also e.g., Hosea 3:4-5; Joel 2:12-17; Amos 5:4-6, 14-15). Repentances mean wholeheartedly turning our hearts and minds away from sins and genuinely seeking God. God always grants forgiveness when there is honest repentance.

Next, the idea of God’s Kingdom is central to Jesus’ teaching and preaching. What does “Kingdom of God” mean? The basic meaning of Kingdom of God means the reign or rule of God. The Old Testament contains no specific references to the Kingdom of God. However, the Kingdom of God takes its initial shape from Israel’s understanding of God as King (e.g. see 1 Samuel 12:12; 1 Kings 22:19; Psalm 5:2; Psalm 47:2, 7-8; Psalm 146:10; Isaiah 52:7; Revelation 4:9). In the Old Testament, God is spoken of as ruling and reigning (e.g. see Psalm 103:19; Daniel 4:17, 25-37). As Creator of the world, God is exalted above all creation and rules in majesty. The arrival of Jesus ushered in the eternal and heavenly reign of God throughout all the earth.

The proclamation of God’s Kingdom by Jesus meant “the time has come” (Mark 1:15). The Apostle Paul calls this moment the “fullness of time” or “just the right time” (Romans 5:6; Galatians 4:4; Ephesians 1:10).  In Greek language, there are two words for time. The first is “chronos” which means progressive time, quantity of time, or chronological time. Second, mean “kairos” which means “critical or opportune moment” and this form of time requires an immediate action or an immediate response to a significant moment in time. So when Jesus said “the time has come,” Jesus was declaring the right “kairos” has come and you most do something now (Mark 1:15). The rule or reign of God’s Kingdom had now come into the human world and the Kingdom will also arrive at the second coming of Jesus (e.g., Matthew 25:1-46). So the Kingdom of God is the rule (reign) of God which He extended over human lives through the ministry of Jesus (Mark 1:15); and the Kingdom of God is also is God’s rule which will be consummated or made complete in the future.

From then on Jesus began to preach, “Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.” Matthew 4:17 (NLT)

Then, Jesus follows with two requirements of the Kingdom of God:  (1) repent and (2) believe in the Gospel (Mark 1:15). Entrance into God’s Kingdom require repentance (forsaking and turning one’s heart and minds from sin) and belief in the Gospel of God, which is Jesus! In His preaching, Jesus invited people to enter the Kingdom of God. We must make the Kingdom of God our first priority and seek the Kingdom ahead of everything else and turn from evil (Matthew 6:33). Righteous living (turning from evil and seeking God) was also the continued central teaching of Apostle Paul and the other Apostles (e.g., Romans chapters 12 through 15; 1 Peter 1:13-25).

For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. If you serve Christ with this attitude, you will please God, and others will approve of you, too. Romans 14:17-18 (NLT)

Throughout the Gospels and other books of the New Testament, there are direct references to the “Gospel of God,” “the Gospel of the Kingdom,” or the “the Kingdom of heaven” (e.g., see Matthew 3:1-2; Mark 1:14-15; Luke 9:1-2). Jesus prophesied this same message shall be taken to the ends of the world (Matthew 24:14; Mark 13:10) and Jesus commissioned His disciples (faithful followers) to continue the message of the God with the help of the Holy Spirit (see Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-18; Acts 1:3-8). Clearly, the early church proclaimed the same message Jesus Christ preached, that is, “the Gospel of the Kingdom of God” and the need to turn away from sin and turn to God (see Acts 8:12; Acts 19:8; Acts 20:25; Acts 28:23, 30-31). 

I have had one message for Jews and Greeks alike — the necessity of repenting from sin and turning to God, and of having faith in our Lord Jesus. Acts 20:21 (NLT)

Spirit Filled Life Study Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1991).
Zondervan NIV Study Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008).
Butler, Trent. Holman Bible Dictionary (Broadman & Holman Pub., 1991).
Edwards, James R. The Gospel According to Mark (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2002).
Kelber, Werner. Mark’s Story of Jesus (Houston, TX: Fortress Press, 1979).
Loyd, Melton, Ph.D., Professor of New Testament. Due West Campus: Erskine Theological Seminary, 2015.

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