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The Gospel of the Kingdom

A Message by R.C. Sproul

Beloved for the way in which it highlights Jesus' care for those on the margins of society and for its care in telling the story of our Savior's life and ministry, the gospel of Luke has always been treasured by the Christian church. Dr. Sproul's expositional study of this inspired account of Jesus looks at the significant events of His life and His teachings while unfolding the meaning of both for us today.

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    The Gospel of the Kingdom

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    The Gospel of the Gospels

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    Kingdom Prayer

The Gospel of the Kingdom

The book of Romans is well known as Paul's most comprehensive presentation of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Yet the Apostle's teaching on the gospel does not exist in a vacuum; rather, it presupposes and is connected with the other presentations in the Bible regarding the good news of salvation. In order to help us see how the perspectives of the other biblical authors on the gospel fit in with Paul's exposition of the book of Romans, we are now going to pause our study of this epistle for a two-day look at what the rest of Scripture says about the good news. Dr. R.C. Sproul's teaching series What Is the Gospel? will guide our consideration of this important topic.

You will note that we have used the phrase good news of salvation synonymously with the word gospel in the previous paragraph, and with good reason. That is because euangelion, the Greek word we translate into English as "gospel," literally means "good news" or "good message." In biblical times, euangelion could refer to any piece of favorable news, including reports that a city's army had been victorious in battle. The authors of Scripture took the term and invested it with new meaning based on divine revelation, so that now we as Christians use the word gospel to speak of the good message of salvation.

In the New Testament, we find the term gospel on the lips of Jesus Himself (Matt. 26:13). Christ uses the word most often in connection with the kingdom of God; thus, the Evangelists can speak of Jesus proclaiming "the gospel of the kingdom" (9:35). From Genesis to Revelation, we see the Lord's servants longing for the kingdom of God to come. Put most simply, the kingdom of God is that place where His reign is recognized openly and gladly (Isa. 52:7). When we speak of the kingdom of God, we do not mean to imply that there are places over which the Lord does not currently reign, for our Creator sovereignly rules over all (Ps. 9:7–8). However, since the fall of Adam, His realm has been in open rebellion against Him (Gen. 3). Men and women do not willingly or happily embrace, submit to, and rejoice in God's reign, and because of that they forfeit many blessings.

For people to recognize God's kingdom, our Lord had to act and overcome humanity's suppression of the knowledge that He is King and that we are to be His loyal subjects. This He did in the person and work of Jesus Christ, who as the second person of the Trinity and victor over sin and death now reigns as King of kings and Lord of lords (Rev. 19:16).

The Gospel of the Gospels

Daniel Hyde

Quick. What are the Gospels? Time is up. Did you answer: “The Gospels are the biographies of Jesus Christ?” When we read the Gospels as biographies only, we basically look at them like trees apart from the proverbial forest. There is a better way to read and hear them. The Gospels are biography, but they are theological interpretations of the life of Jesus Christ with the purpose of proclaiming the coming of the king of Israel and the inauguration of His kingdom over all the earth.

When read this way, we are enabled to read the gospel in the Gospels as the announcement of the fulfillment of the prophets’ promises. Among their promises were that a king would come to Israel, as the Lord promised to Abram (Gen. 17:6), to Judah (Gen. 49:10), to David (2 Sam. 7:12–13), and to the people of God through Solomon’s song (Ps. 72) and Zechariah’s prophecy (Zech. 9:9). When this king would come, He would usher in a kingdom of peace for all nations (Isa. 2:2–4, 9:1–7). We see this coming king and His kingdom in living color in the Gospel narratives.

The entrance of the king and His kingdom is expressed in the birth narrative of our Lord. In the genealogy of Jesus He is described as the “son of David” (Matt. 1:1). The fourteen generations from Abraham to David moved towards the great king and kingdom of Israel (1:2–6), while the fourteen generations from David to Babylon moved away from that glorious king’s kingdom (1:7–11). With the coming of Jesus the fourteen generations from Babylon to Christ are a restoration of the Davidic kingship and kingdom (1:12–16). The true identity of this baby boy is shown by the travels of the “wise men from the east” (2:1) who traveled to find “he who has been born king of the Jews” in order “to worship him” (2:2).

John heralded this king’s coming, preaching, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand” (3:2), while our Lord’s own preaching in the synagogue was characterized by an announcement of His kingdom (4:17). Throughout His ministry Jesus preached the “gospel of the kingdom” (4:23, 9:35; Luke 16:16), a phrase that means that the kingdom is the subject of the gospel. Our Lord preached His parables to communicate to His disciples “the secrets of the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 13:11 see also vv. 19, 24, 31, 33, 38, 41–45, 47, 52). Jesus used His identity as king to confound the Pharisees, asking them: “‘What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?’ They said to Him, ‘The son of David’” (22:42). Jesus then pointed out that in Psalm 110, David, “in the Spirit, calls him [the Christ] Lord, saying, ‘The Lord said to my Lord’” (Matt. 22:43–44a). Jesus’ conclusion was masterful, leaving the Pharisees speechless: “If then David calls him Lord, how is he his son?” (22:45).

Even the passion narrative is all about the king and His kingdom, not the sad ending of a biography. When the high priest Caiaphas interrogated Jesus, he said, “Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God” (26:63). Jesus answered, “You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven” (26:64). Yet this king would first suffer mocking: “Hail, King of the Jews,” having a scarlet robe placed on His back, a crown of thorns placed on His head, and a reed placed in His hand (27:28–29). Even above His head was placed a placard: “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews” (27:37). Yet as John’s gospel makes clear, through humiliation our Lord experienced exaltation: “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself” (John 12:32).

Of course, our Lord’s resurrection is the most powerful proof of His kingship and kingdom gospel: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matt. 28:18). The reason for this, as James said at the Jerusalem Council, was that the resurrection was the raising up of the fallen tent of David (Acts 15:13–18; see Amos 9:11–12). The king has come and has established His kingdom as the prophets foretold.

What should this way of reading the Gospels do to us? First, it ought to cause us to read the Gospels with more urgency, for the king has come and His kingdom is at hand. Mark’s characteristic word, immediately, shows us the force of reading and coming to grips with its message (1:12, 18, 21, 23, 29, 42). Second, since the Gospels are not mere biographies, they are not to be read from afar, as if they were only stories of what happened “long ago, far, far away.” We are to participate in these narratives by faith: “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:30–31). Third, preachers need to preach the Gospels not as historic artifacts, as principles for victorious Christian living, nor as window dressing in Holy Week services, but as urgent accounts of the inauguration of an everlasting kingdom that our king has established in this world. Ministers must preach the gospel from the Gospels and not turn them into new laws.

Kingdom Prayer

Burk Parsons

I have a good friend who is about twice my age. Over the past few years we have hunted together, fished together, and prayed together. He refers to himself as a recovering Pharisee who is learning how to quit praying for his own personal kingdom and how to pray for the kingdom of God. I have learned more about prayer from him than anyone. I have learned that faithfulness in the kingdom of God is more important than successfulness in the kingdom of man. I have learned that the power of God is not made perfect in our strength but in our weakness, and I have learned that kingdom prayer is not merely asking God for what we want in the temporal but what He wants in the eternal.

When the Lord taught His disciples to pray, he didn’t simply tell them what to do, He showed them what to do. Even as the Son of God, He demonstrated His humility and prayed to the Father that His kingdom would come and that His will would be done, and He knew exactly what He was asking for. For even when He prayed in the garden, He humbled Himself before the Father and fell down on His face and prayed, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will” (Matt. 26:39). On every occasion, our Lord prayed with an uninterrupted focus on the will of the Father. It would seem appropriate that if the Lord Jesus Christ prayed in such a manner, then so should we. When we come to God in prayer, we must empty ourselves of all arrogance and self-reliance; we must come to the end of ourselves so that our hearts can be lifted up to heaven, and we must focus our minds not on the goods and kindred of this earth but on the precious treasures that await us in our heavenly home.

In his booklet on prayer, entitled Of Prayer: A Perpetual Exercise of Faith, the Daily Benefits Derived from It, John Calvin provides several rules for prayer. He writes, “The third rule to be added is: that he who comes into the presence of God to pray must divest himself of all vainglorious thoughts, lay aside all idea of worth; in short, discard all self-confidence, humbly giving God the whole glory, lest by arrogating anything, however little, to himself, vain pride cause him to turn away his face.” In so doing, we shall conquer the kingdoms of men, tear down the strongholds of this world, and manifest what it means to live a humble existence coram Deo, before the face of God.

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