TheGospel preached by the Lord Jesus
Ian Jackson, Eastbourne, England [SEE PROFILE BELOW]
The purpose of His coming
What glorious announcements surrounded the coming into the world of the Saviour! To Mary, Gabriel indicated that His name would be called Jesus, Luke 1. 31, meaning Jehovah the Saviour, as did the angel to Joseph, with the added information that ‘he shall save his people from their sins’, Matt. 1. 21. To amazed shepherds, as the glory of the Lord shone round about them, there was announced by the angel of the Lord who came upon them the tidings of great joy, as in the city of David a Saviour, Christ the Lord, had been born, Luke 2. 9-11. Yet no angelic announcements, great as they were, could encompass the depth of truth unfolded by the Saviour Himself as He told of the purpose of His coming.
Here is divine initiative at work in the matter of man’s blessing, ‘I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of myself, but he sent me’, John 8. 42. Later, after His death and resurrection, the Lord Jesus would send His own, just as He had been sent by the Father, and on the same mission, 20. 21. He came to the lost. ‘The Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost’ is what He said to Zacchaeus, who thought, no doubt, that on the day he met the Saviour that he was the one who was doing all the seeking, Luke 19. 1-10. He came to the spiritually dead. ‘I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly’ is the wonderful statement He made regarding His sheep, for whom He would give His life, John 10. 10. He came to the blind. At the end of the section of John’s Gospel in which His public ministry was recorded and in which it is emphasized that He was the light of the world, He said, ‘I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness’, 12. 46.
What grace that He should come to the lost, the dead, and the blind. The helpless and hopeless, unable by any means to save themselves, found that they were the objects of divine mercy for whom God had purposes of blessing.
Our Lord was repeatedly concerned to speak of who He is eternally. Indeed, to ‘believe on His name’, 1. 12, is, among other things, to embrace all that is revealed of Him and by Him. We cannot be saved and deny who He is revealed to be.
‘What think ye of Christ is the test,
To try both your state and your scheme:
You cannot be right in the rest
Unless you think rightly of Him’,
His equality with the Father is an essential part of His teaching, just as it should be in the presentation of the gospel in our day. More than just a prophet, and greater than angels, the eternal Son came into the world to save sinners. He came forth from the Father, 16. 28. The significance of this teaching was not lost on the Jews. In that He said that God was His Father they recognized that He was making Himself equal with God, 5. 18. This He never denied and, indeed, He constantly affirmed it. Surrounded by enemies in John chapter 8 our Saviour, in words beautifully simple and devastatingly profound, declares, ‘Before Abraham was, I am’, v. 58. Here is the eternal One, co-eternal with the Father and co-equal with Him, though now in time, God manifest in the flesh, 1 Tim. 3. 16. ‘I am’ is the name of God revealed to Moses at the bush, the name of the ever existing One, belonging to One on earth and speaking to those whose only answer to this great statement of truth was to pick up stones to stone Him. It is no wonder that in the very next chapter they cast out the blind man whose sight was restored at Siloam’s pool, who gave testimony to the healing power of the Christ and who, afterwards, gladly acknowledged his belief on the Son of God, John 9. 35-38. ‘If ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins’, 8. 24.
When Paul went to Corinth he ‘determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified’, 1 Cor. 2. 2. The preaching of the identity of the Saviour is a vital element of the whole message. In the face of the wholesale denial of His person by cults, false religions and even professing Christians, we do well to maintain the glory of His deity in the public proclamation of the gospel.
The necessity of faith in Him
Our Saviour made it plain that the possession of eternal life is something enjoyed only by those who believe on Him. He is the great object of faith now that He has been revealed. Believing on Him is believing on God, for ‘He that believeth on me, believeth not on me, but on him that sent me’, John 12. 44. Here is such an important matter that it is surprising that it is often inappropriately stated in our day. He says nothing of opening one’s heart to Him, giving one’s life to Him, coming through for Him, confessing sins to Him or the like: rather, He is concerned to make it plain that He is to be the object of faith and when a person believes on Him, and through that means alone, that person is brought into divine blessing.1
Believing in Christ is more than mere mental or emotional acceptance of all that is revealed. It involves simple, unconditional, childlike reliance upon Him. And it is through faith that all divine blessing flows to the sinner.
The inevitability of the cross
Our Saviour made it plain to His own that His path here led inexorably to Jerusalem. ‘Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man shall be betrayed unto the chief priests and unto the scribes, and they shall condemn him to death. And shall deliver him to the Gentiles to mock, and to scourge, and to crucify him: and the third day he shall rise again’, Matt. 20. 18-19. These sentiments are repeated in Mark chapter 10 and Luke chapter 18. With great anguish of soul He anticipates all that Calvary would mean. ‘Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour. Father, glorify thy name’, John 12. 27-28. There could be no going back. After all, in John chapter 6 He had made it plain that ‘I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world’, 6. 51. In addition, He makes it plain that except they ate ‘the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood’, they would have no life in them, 6. 53. His sacrificial work in the giving of Himself at the cross is, therefore, fundamental to the enjoyment of salvation. Accordingly, blessing from the accomplishment of His mission depended, and depends, on both His person and work.
It is still the same. Many admire His life but despise the truth of His sacrificial death. Paul, at Corinth, did not preach Jesus Christ even though He was crucified; His cross was integral to the message Paul preached. We simply cannot err, either in relation to the person or work of Christ. This goes to the very heart of the gospel. If Christ is less than God we have no Saviour. If he did not die for sinners we have no salvation.
The glory of His resurrection and ascension
In John chapter 6, the chapter where we read of His giving His flesh for the life of the world, He also speaks of His ascension and, implicit in this, His resurrection: ‘What and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was before?’ 6. 62. This causes us to remember that salvation is now found in a risen man exalted at the right hand of God and that Christ Himself spoke of it.
All of this was new truth for the Jews who heard Him. Their expectation was Messiah reigning in Zion, the Redeemer of their nation and restorer of the kingdom to Israel. However, while asserting His identity as the Christ, He makes it plain that He must first be rejected and slain, and rise again and ascend to where He was before. For many this was repugnant, but He said, ‘All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out’, 6. 37. ‘As many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name’, 1. 12. What glorious soul-saving, life-changing power there was, and is, in Him. May each reader check again that his or her faith is truly in Him.
Thou hast no tongue, O Christ, as once of old,
To tell the story of Thy love Divine,
The story still as strange, as sweet, as true;
But there’s no tongue to tell it out but mine.
Thou hast no hands, O Christ, as once of old,
To feed the multitudes with bread Divine;
Thou hast the Living Bread, enough for all;
But there’s no hand to give it out but mine.
Thou hast no feet, O Christ, as once of old,
To go where Thy lost sheep in desert pine;
Thy love is still as deep, as strong, as kind;
But now Thou hast no feet to go but mine.
And shall I use these ransomed powers of mine
For things that only minister to me? Lord!
Take my tongue, my hands, my feet, my all;
And let them live, and give and go for Thee!
1 For example: ‘He that believeth on me shall never thirst’, 6. 35. ‘He that believeth on me hath everlasting life’, 6. 47. ‘He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water’, 7. 38. ‘He that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live’, 11. 25. ‘Whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness’, 12. 46.