A FAMILIAR MESSAGE
A. Within the context of the first apostles, the message was very simple. Both at the beginning in Jerusalem as well as throughout Israel and the various synagogues within the diaspora, the message was essentially, “Jesus is the Christ.”
22 But Saul kept increasing in strength and confounding the Jews who lived at Damascus by proving that this Jesus is the Christ. (Act 9:22 NASB)
B. Thus, the early ministry of Paul and the other apostles was primarily to enter into a synagogue, and declare that Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ. This was not only an affirmation of the Messianic expectation, but it was actually giving the Messiah arms, feet, and even a mother, brothers, and a hometown.
2 And according to Paul’s custom, he went to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures, 3 explaining and giving evidence that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus whom I am proclaiming to you is the Christ.” (Act 17:2-3 NASB)
22 “Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know– 23 this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death. … 32 “This Jesus God raised up again, to which we are all witnesses. … 36 “Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ—this Jesus whom you crucified.” (Act 2:22-23, 32, 36 NASB)
C. An often overlooked but key point within the narrative of the Book of Acts is that the message of Paul and the other Apostles—along with all of it’s implications—was understood clearly enough to land them in prison and even martyrdom.
D. Saul was met on the road to Damascus on a mission from Jerusalem to stir up the Jews against the believers in Jesus, and to imprison them. The Pharisees and Sanhedrin were not doing this simply because they were zealous for truth, but rather because the identity of Jesus as the Jewish Messiah was sentence of condemnation to them since the Messiah will crush the wicked at His coming.
E. A primary evidence that the Gospel preached in the book of Acts was not a redefinition of the Messianic hope is that when it was preached in Jerusalem it was an offer of mercy for the ones guilty of killing the Messiah. The offer of mercy was placed in context to the One who is going to crush His enemies at His coming in the clouds (cf. Luke 11:20).
23 this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death. … 34 “For it was not David who ascended into heaven, but he himself says: ‘THE LORD SAID TO MY LORD, “SIT AT MY RIGHT HAND, 35 UNTIL I MAKE YOUR ENEMIES A FOOTSTOOL FOR YOUR FEET.“‘ 36 “Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ–this Jesus whom you crucified.” 37 Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ” Brethren, what shall we do?” (Act 2:23, 34-37 NASB)
14 “But you disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, 15 but put to death the Prince of life, the one whom God raised from the dead, a fact to which we are witnesses. … 17 “And now, brethren, I know that you acted in ignorance, just as your rulers did also. 18 “But the things which God announced beforehand by the mouth of all the prophets, that His Christ would suffer, He has thus fulfilled. 19 “Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord; 20 and that He may send Jesus, the Christ appointed for you, … 23 ‘And it will be that every soul that does not heed that prophet shall be utterly destroyed from among the people.’ … 26 “For you first, God raised up His Servant and sent Him to bless you by turning every one of you from your wicked ways.” (Act 3:14-15, 17-20, 23, 26 NASB)
F. The term ‘the Gospel’ was not a new term nor idea, as is commonly supposed. This is the primary reason that there is little clarity regarding the Gospel message itself. The assumptions which have been made regarding the nature of the Gospel within most of Western Christianity assume a totally new starting point in the New Testament. The Apostles clearly understood the Gospel within the context of a message preached in the Old Testament.
8 The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “ALL THE NATIONS WILL BE BLESSED IN YOU.” (Gal 3:8 NASB)
32 “We tell you the good news (Gr. euongelizo): What God promised our fathers 33 he has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising up Jesus. As it is written in the second Psalm: “‘You are my Son; today I have become your Father. (cf. Ps. 2) ‘ 34 The fact that God raised him from the dead, never to decay, is stated in these words: “‘I will give you the holy and sure blessings promised to David.’ … 38 “Therefore, my brothers, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. (Act 13:32-34, 38 NIV)
- 20 But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep. … 23 But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ’s at His coming, (1Cr 15:20, 23 NASB)
- 7 “I will surely tell of the decree of the LORD: He said to Me, ‘You are My Son, Today I have begotten You. 8 ‘Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Your inheritance, And the very ends of the earth as Your possession. 9 ‘You shall break them with a rod of iron, You shall shatter them like earthenware.'” 10 Now therefore, O kings, show discernment; Take warning, O judges of the earth. (Psa 2:7-10 NASB)
2 For we also have had the good news proclaimed to us (‘euongelizo’), just as they did (cf. vs. 7-11); but the message they heard was of no value to them, because they did not share the faith of those who obeyed. (Hbr 4:2 NIV)