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Jesus Creed

We will finish this series this week and we will begin [in two weeks] a series on the letter of James. But today I want to observe that Paul’s gospel can be “gospeled” or “proclaimed” through the grid of several terms. We have seen that Paul preaches the gospel of the narrative of the life, death, burial, resurrection, ascension and return of Christ. But Paul can also use the term “kingdom” (according to Luke’s narrative in Acts). Notice these verses, which form capsule summaries of Paul’s message:

22 “And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. 23 I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. 24 However,
I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race
and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me-the task of
testifying to the gospel of God’s grace
.

25 “Now I know that none of you among whom I have gone about preaching the kingdom will ever see me again. 26 Therefore, I declare to you today that I am innocent of the blood of all men. 27 For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God. 28 Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. 29 I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. 30 Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. 31 So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears.

32 “Now
I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you
up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified
. 33 I have not coveted anyone’s silver or gold or clothing. 34 You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions. 35 In
everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must
help the weak
, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It
is more blessed to give than to receive.’ “

36 When he had said this, he knelt down with all of them and prayed. 37 They all wept as they embraced him and kissed him. 38 What grieved them most was his statement that they would never see his face again. Then they accompanied him to the ship.

I’m impressed here with the variety of terms that can be used to express the gospel, leading me to urge us to avoid reduction to one set of words and to imagine ways to re-expressing this gospel in our day.

And… here’s how Luke sketches Paul’s time in prison in Rome, probably in that little hole off the Capitoline looking down on the Roman Forum…

23 They
arranged to meet Paul on a certain day, and came in even larger numbers
to the place where he was staying. From morning till evening he
explained and declared to them the kingdom of God and tried to convince
them about Jesus from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets
. 24 Some were convinced by what he said, but others would not believe. 25 They
disagreed among themselves and began to leave after Paul had made this
final statement: “The Holy Spirit spoke the truth to your forefathers
when he said through Isaiah the prophet:

26 ” ‘Go to this people and say, “You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.” 27 For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.’ 28 “Therefore I want you to know that God’s salvation has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will listen!” 30 For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. 31 Boldly and without hindrance he preached the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ.

Paul preaches the kingdom; he preaches Jesus; he preaches grace; he preaches the Old Testament coming to realization in Jesus Christ.

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