Tradition Buries the Gospel of the Messiah
A learned commentator on the Bible wrote: "The dogmatic theology which understands its vocation will be neither more nor less than a theology of the Kingdom in all the force of the word...The idea of the Kingdom of God is the golden thread which runs through all Scripture; of this Kingdom the Bible is the document."
Another biblical expert noted: "The Kingdom of God is the central topic around which all other doctrines logically arrange themselves."
This being so, are you confident that the Kingdom of YEHOVAH God is at the heart of all you know and practice as a Christian? It may be that your church tradition has not equipped you to think as Yeshua did about the supreme purpose of YEHOVAH for you and for the world -- the Kingdom of YEHOVAH God.
It may be that you have not been invited to "repent and believe the Gospel of the Kingdom" (Mark 1:14, 15) and to receive forgiveness on the basis of your willingness to understand and accept the Gospel-word of the Kingdom as Yeshua announced it (Matt. 13:19; Mark 4:11, 12). When he invited his audience to embark on the journey which leads to salvation, the Messiah, the model evangelist, always began by teaching on the Kingdom (Luke 4:43; Luke 9:11; cp. Acts 28:30).
If you are a member of a Protestant church your tradition owes much to the reformer Martin Luther. How well did he reflect the Gospel teaching of the Messiah?
"Luther's remarks and hesitancy concerning the book of Revelation are attributable to a preconceived opinion of the Kingdom and to his `not thoroughly understanding the doctrine of God's Kingdom on the earth. "'
Did you know that Luther said of the book of Revelation that "Christ is neither taught nor in it"?
The Protestant Version of the Gospel
Protestants have inherited a Gospel from their Protestant heritage. The question is, does this Protestant Gospel accurately reflect the Gospel as the Messiah preached it? Does the offer of salvation put to the public in a mass of tracts and evangelical books do justice to the Bible's and Yeshua's definition of the Gospel? (Heb. 3:2)
Scholars who trace the history of Gospel preaching and teaching have noted some (we think disturbing) facts about how the Protestant reformer Luther understood the Gospel. What they have observed is that Protestants, while nervous about Roman Catholic dogmas, have in fact nodded in approval of equally dogmatic assertions from the founding fathers of Protestantism.
A Protestant Dogma
Luther decided arbitrarily to define the Gospel by taking texts from John and Paul and ignoring the accounts of Yeshua's ministry. The first casualty of this procedure was the Gospel of the Kingdom of YEHOVAH God, the Messiah's Gospel.
"Luther created by a dogmatic criterion a canon of the gospel within the canon of the books [i.e., to define the Gospel he chose some NT books and ignored others]. Luther wrote: `Those Apostles who treat oftenest and highest of how faith alone justifies, are the best Evangelists. Therefore St. Paul's Epistles are more a Gospel than Matthew, Mark and Luke. For these [Matt., Mark, Luke] do not set down much more than the works and miracles of Christ; but the grace which we receive through Christ no one so boldly extols as St. Paul, especially in his letter to the Romans.' In comparison with the Gospel of John, the Epistles of Paul, and I Peter, `which are the kernel and marrow of all books,' the Epistle of James, with its insistence that man is not justified by faith alone, but by works proving faith, is `a mere letter of straw, for there is nothing evangelical about it.' It is clear that the infallibility of Scripture has here, in fact if not in [Luther's] admission, followed the infallibility of popes and councils; for the Scripture itself has to submit to be judged by the ultimate criterion of its accord with Luther's doctrine of justification by faith." (Moore, History of Religions, Scribners, 1920, p. 320).
Consider those words most carefully. Luther replaced one dogmatic system, that of Roman Catholicism, with another, making the Scripture submit to his own process of selection. This is a serious charge. In the matter of defining the Christian Gospel it appears that Luther put himself in the driver's seat. He imposed on the Bible his own opinion that the Gospel is primarily to be found in Galatians and Romans -- and not in the words of Yeshua recorded in three parallel accounts by Matthew, Mark and Luke. We repeat: The casualty in this arbitrary decision-making of Luther was the words of Yeshua recording and defining the Gospel as the Gospel about the Kingdom (Matthew, Mark and Luke, and John, when properly understood).
Amazingly the celebrated C.S. Lewis seems to reflect the very same tendency. He does not think that Yeshua preached the Gospel! Neither would you think, reading evangelical tracts (try this sometime), that Yeshua preached the Gospel. C.S. Lewis says this:
"The epistles are for the most part the earliest Christian documents we possess. The Gospels [Matthew-John] came later. They are not `the Gospel,' the statement of the Christian belief. In that sense the epistles are more primitive and more central than the Gospels -- though not of course than the great events which the Gospels recount. God's Act (the crucifixion, and the Resurrection) comes first: the earliest theological analysis of it comes in the epistles: then when the generation which had heard the Lord was dying out, the Gospels were composed to provide the believers a record of the great Act and of some of the Lord's sayings."
What about the Messiah's saving gospel of the Kingdom? Luther and C.S. Lewis rather skillfully bypass the gospel according to Yeshua. But can one be centered in the Messiah while avoiding the Gospel as Yeshua preached it?
Now a comment from a historian of Christianity. As a historian he has less of a theological ax to grind. He recognizes that the teaching of the Messiah recorded in the gospels is absolutely essential for the new birth:
"The idea that the entrance into the new and higher life, the immortal life, must be by a spiritual or intellectual rebirth, or rather regeneration, meets us often in the mysteries [mystery religions], and especially in the intellectual mysticisms of the age. Anagennasthai (to be born again) and paliggenesia (rebirth) are familiar terms in them. In John it is the sine qua non [absolute essential] of salvation. Flesh breeds flesh; spirit alone can engender spirit, and only he who is begotten by the divine spirit can enter the `Kingdom of God' (John 3). In the thought of the time spirit was not only the principle of divine life but of the higher knowledge; so Paul conceives it (e.g. 1 Cor. 2:14). In John [recording Yeshua] the two are inseparably connected, or rather they are the same thing."
Knowledge and spirit are closely linked. Knowledge of the Gospel of the Kingdom is the key to the reception of the spirit, which is the mind of Yeshua himself (I Cor. 2:16). What then would be the results of following Luther's and Calvin's arbitrary demotion of Yeshua's Gospel? Could any teaching more savagely attack the Bible than the concept that the Messiah did not really preach the Gospel?
It is reasonable to ask why the Kingdom of YEHOVAH God features so little in modern evangelism. The answer is to be found in this long-standing de-emphasis on the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, dating from Calvin and Luther. An unconscious offense at the Messianic Jewish Yeshua caused these two Protestant leaders to express a curious preference for the Gospel of John (and for Paul) over the other three Gospels. Luther, writing the preface to his translation of the New Testament (1522), stated: "John's Gospel is the only Gospel which is delicately sensitive to what is the essence of the Gospel, and is to be widely preferred to the other three and placed on a higher level. "
There is the fateful dogma of the Protestant Luther! He was followed by Calvin in this opinion. Calvin even ventured to suggest a different order for Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, making John the ideal introduction to his three fellow reporters of the life of the Messiah:
Calvin wrote: "The doctrine which points out to us the power and the benefit of the coming Christ, is far more clearly exhibited by John than by the [synoptists]. The three former [Matt., Mark, Luke] exhibit [the Messiah's] body...but John exhibits his soul. On this account I am accustomed to say that this Gospel is a key to open the door for understanding the rest...In reading [the four Gospels] a different order would be advantageous, which is, that when we wish to read in Matthew and others that Christ was given to us by the Father, we should first learn from John the purpose for which he was manifested."
Wow! On whose authority did these church leaders relegate the precious Gospel of the Messiah recorded by the first three Gospels to an inferior position? Christians should awake to the fact that their various traditional systems, claiming to be based on Scripture, have not served them well. Scripture nowhere says that John's Gospel is to be preferred over Matthew, Mark and Luke. It is sheer dogmatism to declare that John is a better representative of the Gospel than Matthew, Mark and Luke. It is dangerous to move one inch from the teachings of the Messiah. Note the impassioned warning in 2 John 9: "No one has God who goes beyond the teaching of Christ and does not keep within it. He who keeps within the teaching of Jesus has both the Father and the Son."
Another popular but perilous evasion of the teaching of the Messiah goes like this: "Jesus preached a Jewish Message up to the cross; whereupon Paul then took a different Message of grace to the Gentiles." The New Scofield Bible, read by millions, says that a "strong legal and Jewish coloring is to be expected up to the cross." On Revelation 14:6 Scofield diverts attention away from the saving Gospel of the Kingdom, and thus from Yeshua himself.
We are at the crux of the problem which afflicts current versions of the faith. A false distinction and division is being created by the so-called "dispensationalist" school. The teachings of the Messiah do not remain at the center of the scheme of' salvation proposed by dispensationalists. John Walvoord says that the Sermon on the Mount "treats not of salvation, but of the character and conduct of those who belong to Christ...That it is suitable to point an unbeliever to salvation in Christ is plainly not the intention of this message...The Sermon on the Mount, as a whole, is not church truth precisely...It is not intended to delineate justification by faith or the gospel of salvation."
Rather ambiguously he adds that it should not be relegated to "unimportant truth."
Hope of Israel
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