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04 October 2019

The Message, Sign and Hope of the Gospel

The Resurrection Proclaimed
After his Resurrection, Jesus appeared to the remaining disciples and proclaimed: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:18-19). 
     During his earthly ministry, Jesus commanded the disciples not to preach to Gentiles or Samaritans, though he himself did so on a few occasions (thus anticipating the opening of the Gospel to Gentiles).  They were to proclaim the Good News of God’s Kingdom only to the “lost sheep of Israel” (Matthew 10:1-6).
But once Jesus had been resurrected and made Lord over all things, his followers were tasked with bringing the Gospel to all nations, Jews and Gentiles alike.  Just before he ascended into heaven, Jesus commanded his disciples to tarry in Jerusalem until they “received power when the Holy Spirit came upon them.”  Thereafter, they were to be “his witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the uttermost part of the earth” (Acts 1:7-8).
The Apostle Paul wrote to a church in Rome experiencing tensions between Jewish and Gentile believers.  In Romans 3:22-30, he described the “righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe, for there is no distinction.”  Sin is the Great Leveler that put every man and woman in the same desperate place, both Jew and Gentile.
But now all may receive right standing before God on the same basis, whether Jew or Gentile, that is, from faith in Jesus.  There are therefore no grounds for human boasting or self-confidence, “since all have sinned and lack the glory of God.” 
Paul next appealed to his monotheistic faith.  “Is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, since God is one and he will justify the circumcised from faith and the uncircumcised through faith” (Romans 3:27-31). No individual is more advantaged or disadvantaged before God because of his or her biological ancestry, national origin or native culture.
Those who come to faith in Christ “have put on the new self that is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him, in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, and freeman, but Christ is all and in all” (Colossians 3:11).  God is creating a new humanity in Christ drawn from every nation, shaping it into the image of His Son.
The traditional distinctions of race, gender and economic status by which society divides itself are completely inappropriate in the Body of Christ. The announcement of God’s glorious salvation is One Message intended for all men and women, regardless of race, nationality, gender, culture, language, social or economic status.
The Church has a long sad history of linking the faith of Jesus to specific nations, cultures, civilizations, political ideologies and economic systems.  Such efforts are contrary to the teachings of scripture and counterproductive to the Church’s global mission.  The Gospel is a message that transcends all national, ethnic, social and economic boundaries.
Scripture declares all believers to be, “sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female:  for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's seed, heirs according to promise” (Galatians 3:28).
The primary task of the Church is to proclaim this Good News in every inhabited corner of the earth.  Its completion is necessary before this Age can be brought to an end with the return of Jesus in glory for all to behold (Matthew 24:14).  National borders, cultural imperatives, and ethnic barriers will not prevent the Divine proclamation from reaching God’s intended goal. His word will not return to Him void.
A day is coming when Satan’s destructive works will be finally and totally vanished from the earth.  Sin along with Death, “the final enemy,” will be eliminated forever (1 Corinthians 15:20-28).  This grand triumph will coincide with the arrival of Jesus in majesty and power at the End of this Age, at which time he will reward his faithful followers and usher in the consummated Kingdom of God.
God’s reign will be fully established in all its glory throughout the Universe.  In the interim, God’s sons and daughters are called to proclaim this Good News to any and all who will hear and respond in repentance and faith.
The Good News about what God has accomplished in Jesus Christ is for every man and woman wherever he or she may live.  All men have sinned, all need God’s gracious salvation, but no man deserves it.  God has graciously made it available freely to anyone and on the same basis:   faith in Jesus Christ.  In this sense, the Gospel is a universal, “inclusive” message. 
As disciples of Jesus tasked with Gospel proclamation to all nations, we must find any attempt to associate or identify Christianity with a specific nation, race or civilization wholly inappropriate.

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