In popular folklore, “preacher’s kids” have become infamous for their rebellious nature and disregard for the faith and therefore it will come as no surprise that one of the most dangerous heretics of the early church was the son of a preacher. Marcion, whose father was a bishop and who would go on to become a bishop in his own right, began to teach that the God of the Hebrew Scriptures was a different god from the God of the New Testament. Marcion believed that the God of the Old Testament was an angry god, a draconian law-giver and therefore taught that the Old Testament was a substandard work that depicted a substandard god. It is unfortunate, however, that a subtle form of Marcionism still exists today and can even be found within the pulpit and pews of many so-called bible-believing, spirit-filled churches. This problem is perpetuated when Christians and churches are unable to answer two fundamental questions: (1) What is the gospel? (2) How did it begin?
What is the Gospel?
Jesus taught often about “the gospel of the Kingdom.” This Kingdom is past (Matthew 8:11), present (Luke 17:21) and future (Luke 17:20-25) and is, well, by theologians anyway, called “the now-but-not-yet of the Kingdom.” Paul naturally would have concurred with Jesus’ teaching and he goes on to teach that there is only “one gospel” (Galatians 1:6-9 also see Revelation 13:8, 14:6) which was concealed to the Old Testament saints (Romans 4:2-4) and is now been revealed to the New Testament saints, that is, that man has always been saved sola gratis, sola fide, sola Christi – by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone (Ephesians 2:4-5, 8). Does this mean that the gospel is merely synonymous with individual conversion? Definitely not! The Gospel is that by which man is reconciled to God (2 Corinthians 5:18), reconciled to creation (Isaiah 11:6-9, Revelation 21), reconciled to his fellow man (Galatians 3:28) and reconciled to himself (Romans 8:1). In a term, cosmic reconciliation (John 8:24, Romans 8:18-23, 1 Corinthians 15, Philippians 2:8-11, Colossians 1:16, 19-20). So how did it all begin?
How did it Begin?
Having disobeyed God (Genesis 3), the relationship between man and God (v8-11), man and creation (v13-14, 17-19), man and his fellow man (particularly among the sexes and among the generations) (v7, 12, 16) and man and himself was irrevocably shattered (v7, 17-19). Not because of man’s goodness or because of a sacrifice or obedience to any law but by grace, God pursues the sinner because He is the missionary God (v8-9), He points out the consequences of their sin (v14-19), makes the first proclamation of the Gospel (v15) (this is known as the “proto evangelion” or “first gospel”), makes the first blood sacrifice as a foreshadow of the One who is to come (v21) and forbids man to remain eternally within his miserable condition without an offer of hope (v24). In light of this truth there is no way that we can see that God of the Hebrew Scriptures differs from the God of the New Testament in any way, nor that the man or creation will be saved by anything apart from the Gospel. R C Sproul writes:
“Creation, both animate and inanimate, personal and impersonal, which is under the dominion of man – the rocks, the trees, the hills, the valleys, the seas, the plants, the animal kingdom. These aspects of the created order participate in the anticipation of the future manifestation of glory …The Bible does not teach the annihilation of this planet, but rather its renovation and redemption. The Scripture promises a new heaven and a new earth: a cosmic transformation whereby the work…effected by Christ will not only bring renewal, sanctification and glorification to man…but…to our natural world.
This is the Gospel and we are called to participate in it (2 Corinthians 5:18-20), so what practical steps will you take this week for the furtherance of the Kingdom?