What is the focus of the New Testament? Is it faith? Is it justification by faith? Is it the New Covenant? Is it the Kingdom of God? Is it the church? Is it faith? Is it the gospel? Or is it something or someone else?
There are many people today who stress that the New Testament is all about “the gospel”. Indeed one could think so when we realise that there are over 90 references to “gospel” in the ESV version of the New Testament. But the noun ευαγγέλιον (euaggelion) is not found in some books such as the Gospel of John, and the Epistles, Titus, Hebrews, James, 1,2,3 John and Jude. Neither is the verb to “preach the good news” ευαγγελίζω (euaggelizō) found in these books except for 2 occurrences in Hebrews. So one can’t really say that the gospel is at the centre of the New Testament when the word is absent from these books.
Well what is the answer? It is the Person of Christ Himself. He is referred to in every New Testament book except for the book 3 John comprising just 14 verses. But even here there is an emphasis on “truth” as there is in John’s 2 other epistles where truth is another form of describing the way of Christ.
It seems that some preachers in their desire to share the good news of Christ are focussed on the GOSPEL of Jesus Christ rather than on the gospel of JESUS CHRIST. In other words their emphasis is on the need to respond to the truths about Jesus rather than on the need to respond to the Person of Jesus Himself. Christianity is not just a doctrine to be believed. It is about a Person to be received. Many years ago I was struck by the title of the book by WH Griffith Thomas, “Christianity is Christ”. The title summed it all up. It’s all about Him. As others have said, “History is HIS story.” I was also struck by a phrase written by Dr James Packer many years ago which read something like this, “We preach Christ Jesus Who embodies in Himself all the saving efficacy of His work on the cross.” In other words the Christian message is not just about a plan of salvation accomplished by Jesus. Rather it is calling people to respond to the person of Christ whose work it was to bring about the salvation of humans by His sacrificial death on the cross. (Unfortunately I can’t remember which book the quote was in). But I do remember thinking at the time as a Christian minister that my message must be about Jesus as a Person, and that I should be trying to introduce people to Him as a living Saviour in my teaching and preaching.
Looking at the truths about Jesus in the Bible shows us His significance. In brief, He is the Creator of this universe and the One who now upholds it by His word of power. He is Lord of this universe and ultimately He will be the judge of all peoples. In the meantime He offers to be the friend of all those who put their trust in Him. That’s where the significance of the gospel of Jesus Christ comes in. The gospel is good news about Jesus as the Son of God who gave Himself on the cross to bring us back to God. The gospel offers Him to hearts ready to receive Him. So the gospel is extremely important but it gains its significance from the Person it proclaims. St Paul loved the gospel and longed to share the good news about Christ with other people. As he wrote in Romans 1:15-16, So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome. 16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. The gospel brings us face to face with Christ who is able to save all those who open their hearts to Him.
There are many in the world today who reject the gospel of Jesus Christ. They have no desire to follow Christian teaching or to adopt Christian morality. In fact some seem to be intent on destroying Christianity (and Christian people too unfortunately) and rubbishing and rejecting Christian morality. Others see Christianity as totally irrelevant, as of no significance to their lives. But they all need to understand that their rejection is not just rejection of a preached or read message about Christ. It is rejection of a PERSON, the PERSON of Jesus Christ. At the end of time they will not stand before Moses or Elijah or John the Baptist or Mohammed or Billy Graham or the Pope, or before Barak Obama or David Cameron or any other world leader. Indeed all these people and we ourselves will stand before Him.
The words that God used in changing my life from someone running away from God to becoming a Christian believer and minister were these words from this Jesus Himself. They are recorded in Revelation 3:20, Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. I remember well the night I opened the door of my life to Jesus as I knelt down and asked this Jesus to come into my life to be my Lord and Saviour. I remember too the ongoing transformation in my life since that time. It’s still going on, praise God! I long for everyone to know that exciting and life-changing experience as well.
There was a saying some time ago, “Put Christ back into Christmas”. I would change that to, “Allow Christ to come into your heart this Christmas to be your Saviour and Lord.” Then, and then only, will you begin to live!