A Closer Look at Motivations for Sharing the Good News

Image result for pictures of the good news

Just the other day I was having a conversation with a friend of mine about why we even share the Good News/The Gospel with people. This may seem like a very simply question. We both agreed that a common response to this question is that we don’t want people to go to hell. Sadly, this is an overaly  reductionistic reading of the Good News. Here we salvation is reduced to being only about the afterlife. I have discussed elsewhere, the Good News is presented in different contexts.  I should also note that we can get some additional understanding about this from Steve Gregg’s book,  All You Want to Know About Hell: Three Christian Views of God: God’s Final Solution to the Problem of Sin. He says:

“Salvation” is seen as a rescue from “the wrath to come” (Matt. 3:7; Rom. 5:9; 1 Thess. 1:10; 5:9), though what form this wrath may take remains obscure. It does not necessarily refer to postmortem destinies. Though frequently mentioned in the Old Testament, God’s “wrath” is never clearly identified there with circumstances of the next life, but with severe temporal judgments upon nations or individuals.

We are often told that Jesus spoke more on the topic of hell than did any other person in the Bible. This would not be difficult for Him to do, since almost all the biblical authors were silent on the subject. When Jesus and His disciples preached the gospel to unbelievers, there was little attempt to turn the listeners’ thoughts to matters of the afterlife. While the eternal ramifications of turning to, or away from, God were not entirely out of view, they did not comprise a central thrust of their message.

Jesus seldom spoke of hell—probably on less than six or seven occasions out of about forty recorded days of His ministry. He also seldom spoke of heaven, conceived as a place where people go when they die. Unlike our modern preaching, Jesus’ message was not about going to heaven after death. Jesus compared His movement, which He called “the kingdom of God,” to a small seed, or a pinch of leaven, which was destined to expand and to permeate its environment (the earth). Disciples were taught to pray not that they might go to heaven when they die, but that this kingdom would come here, resulting in God’s will being done “on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10). It was concern for this kingdom “on earth,” not for a postmortem heavenly home, that was the focus of the majority of His parables, and remained the burden of His teaching to the disciples, even after His resurrection. The same is true of the apostolic preaching in the book of Acts. The gospel that must be preached in all the world as a witness to all nations is the good news “of the kingdom” (Matt. 24:14).

Judging from the samples of evangelistic preaching found in Acts, we would have to conclude that the main elements of this message were as follows:  Long ago, God made promises to the patriarchs and to David that a King of David’s lineage would be permanently enthroned in David’s place—one called the “Messiah,” or “Christ.” (Acts 2:16–21, 25–31; 3:18, 22–25; 4:11; 10:43; 13:27, 29, 32–35; 26:22).

These promises have been fulfilled in Jesus of Nazareth, the Promised One, whom God publicly endorsed by working acts of power through Him before many witnesses.22 3. Jesus had enemies who crucified Him, but God restored Him to life, after which He was seen by witnesses, prior to ascending to His throne at the right hand of God. (Acts 2:23–24, 32–35; 3:14–15, 26; 4:10; 5:30–32; 10:39–41; 13:28–35; 17:31; 26:23).

Since Jesus has been enthroned, it is incumbent upon all people to acknowledge His royal prerogatives (or “lordship”), and to repent of their rebellion against Him. To those who do this—embracing Him as Lord and Messiah (King)—He will graciously grant amnesty for all past rebellion. (Acts 2:36–39; 3:19–20; 4:12; 5:31; 10:43; 13:26, 34, 38–39; 17:30–31; 26:23).

The gospel is the good tidings of the reign of the righteous King Jesus. The message that the church is commissioned to preach has never been about hell, but about Christ.”

Building on these comments, here are some of my reasons for sharing the Good News:

1.The Command to Make Disciples: Matt 28:19

If you don’t agree with the following syllogism, it makes it hard to want to share your faith:
1. The New Testament documents are historically reliable evidence.
2. The historical evidence of the New Testament shows that Jesus is God incarnate. This claim to divinity was proven by His miracles/His speaking authority, His actions, and His resurrection.
3. Therefore, there is reliable historical evidence that Jesus is God incarnate.

So if this syllogism is correct, it leads to the next syllogism:

1. Whatever Jesus teaches is true.
2. Jesus taught that we are to “Go and make disciples of the nations” (Matt 28:19).
3. Therefore, Christians should desire to “Go and make disciples of the nations” (Matt 28:19).

This command does not mean we need to be sent to some far distant land to preach the Gospel. The command applies to every Christian no matter where they are located. God uses us wherever we are.

It is true that much of the Church has focused on the “go” part of this command. But we need to remember that The Great Commission is accomplished while we “go” about living our daily lives.

The context of Matt 28:19 is that in fulfillment of the Great Commission, we are to make disciples. We are to baptize new believers and we are to teach them. Unless there has been teaching and instruction about the commands of Jesus, there has not been any discipleship. So it is clear that people can’t enter into the process of discipleship without hearing about the Gospel. By

2. God usually uses a missionary or person who proclaims the Gospel

In Acts 10, the context of this chapter is Peter’s encounter with Cornelius. The normative way God reveals Himself to all humans is through the proclamation of Jesus as the Messiah by a specific individual who takes the initiative to explain the message of salvation to another. This matches up with the biblical data. There are cases in the Bible where people are sincerely religious but still had to have explicit faith in Jesus as Savior and Lord. For example, in this chapter, Cornelius is shown to be a God fearer. He worshiped the correct God. However, he received a vision with instructions to send for Peter and awaited his message (Acts 10: 1-6, 22, 33; 11: 14). Because Cornelius ended up responding to special revelation concerning Jesus the Messiah, he attained salvation. In the Bible, people do experience salvation by the explicit preaching of the gospel (Luke 24:46-47; John 3:15-16;20-21; Acts 4:12; 11:14; 16:31; 1 Cor. 15:1-4; Heb. 4:2; 1 Pet.1:3-25; 1 John 2:23; 5:12).

In Acts 10:43 Peter says that “All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his NAME.”

There is a similar theme in Acts 4:12: “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”

What is the significance of this verse in relation to the name of Jesus?

How could Jesus be declared as the only one whom God’s salvation is effected? In the ancient world, a name was not merely what someone was called, but rather the identification of the being and essence of its bearer.

We see that just as in the Hebrew Bible where the name of God represents the person of God and all that he is, so in the New Testament “the Name” represents all who Jesus is as Lord and Savior. James Edwards sums it up:

” In the ancient world, a name was not merely what someone was called, but rather the identifi cation of the being and essence of its bearer. To the Jewish people, an idol could not properly have a “name” because it has no being represented by the name (Is. 44:9-21). The “name” to which the apostles refer does not signify an event, but a person, in whom the authority and power of God was active in salvation. The saving activity of God was and is expressed in the name of Jesus Christ.The name of Jesus is thereby linked in the closest possible way to the name of God. “No other name” does not refer to a second name of God, but to the unity of God with Jesus, signifying one name, one nature, one saving activity. The shared nature of God and Jesus is signaled in the most striking way by the custom of the early church to pray to God in the name of Jesus” (1)

3. God has given the world more revelation of Himself in the person of Jesus the Messiah

Historical verification is a way to test religious claims. We can detect God’s work in human history and apply historical tests to the Bible or any other religious book. The late Anthony Flew said the resurrection of Jesus was the best attested miracle claim that he had seen. Perhaps the most reasonable expectation is to ask when  and where God has broken through into human history.

Let’s look at what Paul preached in Acts 17. It details Paul’s mission efforts to two synagogues and then his journey into Athens. As he is speaking to his audience towards the end of the chapter he says the following:

“Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.” (Acts 17:30-31).

What stands out here:
(1) Paul is urgent in his appeal for repentance
(2) According to Acts 14: 26, Paul states there was “a time in which God allowed the nations to walk in their own ways,” but now Paul states in Acts 17: 30, “The times of ignorance is over” – God has given man more revelation in the person of Jesus the Messiah
(3) Paul uses the same language as is used in the Jewish Scriptures about judgment (Psalm 9:9)
(4) The judgment will be conducted by an agent, a man who God has appointed
(5) Paul treats the resurrection as an historical fact and he uses it as a proof of God’s appointment as Jesus as the judge of the living and the dead! (2)

Have you ever been asked this question?

What about those people in the Tanakh (the Old Testament ) that never exercised explicit belief in Jesus as the Messiah? What about people like Melchizedek, Jethro, Job and Rahab?

In response, it is true that people in the Tanakh did not have explicit knowledge of the death and resurrection of Jesus the Messiah. However, this objection fails to take into account the issue of progressive revelation. The principle of progressive revelation means that God does not reveal everything at once. In progressive revelation, there are many cases where the New Testament declares explicitly what was only implicit in the Tanakh. One of these truths is that Jesus is the long awaited Messiah who takes away not only the sins of Israel, but the entire world (John 1: 29;3:16). That is what we see in Paul’s message in Acts 17.

4. The Reign of God has broken into the world

In the New Testament, the Greek word for kingdom is “basileia,” which denotes “sovereignty,” “royal power,” and “dominion.” Biblical scholar J. Julius Scott Jr. has noted that in the ancient world, “kingdom” referred to “lordship,” “rule,” “reign,” or “sovereignty,” rather than simply a geographical location. Scott asserts “sovereignty (or rule) of God” would be a better translation than “kingdom of God,” since such a translation denotes God’s sphere or influence or control and includes any person or group who, regardless of their location, acknowledge His sovereignty. (3)

There is no kingdom without a King. In observing the ministry of Jesus, He demonstrated one of the visible signs of His inauguration of the kingdom of God would not only be the dispensing of the Holy Spirit (John 7: 39), but also the ability to perform miracles. If the reign of God is breaking into human history, then the King has come. If the Messianic age has arrived, then the Messiah must be present.

There is a relationship between Paul’s commission in Acts 26:16-18 and 2 Corinthians 4:4-6:

“I am sending you, to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in me.” (Acts 26:15-18)

“The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Christ’s sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,“ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.”
(2 Corinthians 4: 4-6).

We see the relationship between these two passages:

Acts 26:16-18:
(1) Paul’s commission;
(2) Vision of God
(3) Existence under Satan
(4) [Blinded-presupposed]
(5) Turning to God
(6) From darkness to light

2 Corinthians 4:4-6:
(1) Paul’s commission
(2) Vision of God
(3) Under “god of this age”
(4) Blinded
(5) Implied: Turning to God
(6) From Darkness to Light

Source: Data adopted from Seyoom Kim, Paul and the NewPerspective: Second Thoughts on the Origin of Paul’s Gospel (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002), 102; cited in John Piper’s God is the Gospel.

5. All of us miss the mark!

Imagine someone with a bow and arrow who is trying to hit the bullseye on a target but they keep missing. This is a picture of what sin is. The Greek word for sin is “harmatia” which means “to miss the mark.” Sin is missing the mark, falling short of God’s absolute standard of perfection. Sin is going astray, being in autonomy of God. Because of sin, humans have an alienation problem. Alienation means to be estranged or split apart from someone or even a community, etc. Alenation does not allow us to have the harmony and proper relationship with God that he intended.

There is a Hebrew word called “Shalom” which means peace, completeness, or wholeness. It can it can refer to either peace between two entities (especially between man and God or between two countries). Why do we lack this wholeness? Sadly, sin causes us to be fragmented. Jesus is the one who offers reconciliation and shalom with our Creator.

6. We share our faith because we think the Gospel is true

Guess what? We are living in a day where there is a loss of objective truth. I hope we all know that our faith doesn’t make the Gospel true. My faith won’t change the fact that objectively speaking, God exists or doesn’t exist or that Jesus rose from the dead in the past. The proposition “God exists” means that there really is a God outside the universe. Likewise, the claim that “God raised Christ from the dead” means that the dead corpse of Jesus of Nazareth factually rose from the dead in the context of real time, space, and history.

What about the person who says, “If Jesus works for you, that is great, but it is not my thing.” This is what is called “The Felt Needs Gospel.” It is true that the Gospel does meet a variety of needs in people’s lives. But I still concur that we need to present our faith as something that is true and reasonable. As J.P. Moreland says:

“ Today, we share the gospel as a means of addressing felt needs. We give testimonies of changed lives and say to people if they want to become better parents or overcome depression or loneliness, that the Jesus is their answer. This approach to evangelism is inadequate for two reasons. First, it does not reach people who may be out of touch with their feelings. Second, it invites the response, “Sorry, I do not have a need.” Have you noticed how no one responded to Paul in this manner? In Acts 17-20, he based his preaching on the fact that the gospel is true and reasonable to believe. He reasoned and tried to persuade people to intelligently accept Jesus.” (4)

7. We share the Good News because eternal life starts today

Eternal (“aiōnios”) life can mean unending, but also focuses on the quality or characteristics of that which is age-long or eternal.  “Now this is eternal life—that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus the Messiah, whom you sent.”- John 17:3.   “Combined with the Greek zoefor “life,“ eternal life is not simply life that never ends, but a fullness of life that is unending. In other words, when people come to faith in the Messiah, eternal life starts today. It isn’t something that starts the moment we die.

1. Edwards, J.R., Is Jesus the Only Savior? Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Group, 2005, 106.
2. Marshall. I.H., The Acts of the Apostles. Tyndale New Testament Commentaries. Grand Rapids: MI: Intervarsity Press. 1980, 288-290.
3. Scott Jr, J.J., Customs and Controversies: Intertestamental Jewish Backgrounds of the New
Testament. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1995, 297.
4. Moreland, J.P. Love Your God With All Your Mind: The Role of Reason in the Life of the Soul. Colorado Springs, CO: Navpress. 1997, 25.

Advertisements
Uncategorized