The Apostolic Gospel
Our esteemed friend Archie Naismith, well known on both sides of the Atlantic, has sent us an excellent series on the Apostolic Gospel. This is the first of these articles. It is appropriate for this time of the year.
The Coming of The Saviour
In every age men have eagerly sought after news. The nation of Israel desired some new thing in the days of the prophets. Many of the cultured, philosophic Greeks in Athens lived for nothing else but to hear or tell something new. Novelties are the craze in the present era of scientific and astronomical advance. The achievements of astronauts landing on the moon, photographing its surface and sending messages to earth, are examples of this. More than seven centuries before our Lord’s incarnation God promised to Israel through His prophet, Isaiah, “Behold I will do a new thing: now it shall spring forth: shall ye not know it?” God’s news for all men is the good news of the gospel concerning His Son, Jesus Christ. Yet, when He came to His own possessions, His own people did not receive Him: when He came into the world, the world did not know Him.
It was no new thing for children to be born in the likeness of their parents and after the image of the first man, Adam; but it was a new thing for “the Son of the Highest” to come to earth as “the image of the invisible God.” It was no new thing for Jewish teachers of great learning to meet within the precincts of the temple in Jerusalem and discuss the Law and the Hebrew Scriptures: but it was a new thing for a child of twelve years to sit among them and astonish those learned men by His understanding and answers. It was no new thing for Jews to be crucified under the dominion of the Roman Caesars: but it was a new thing for a man, by dying on a cross, to make full atonement for sin, rending the veil of the temple at the time of His death, and the hard hearts of sinners down through the centuries ever since. It was no new thing for men to die and be buried in Jewish sepulchres: but it was a new thing for one who died and was buried to rise from the dead and appear in human form to many who knew Him. All this took place in God’s appointed time, in fulfilment of His promise.
“When the fulness of the time was come God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law” (Gal. 4:4, 5). When the fulness of the time came, the angelic host was summoned to celebrate the advent of the Son of man; the morning stars sang their song of praise — “Glory to God in the highest” —and the sons of God shouted for joy when Jesus, the Son of God, was born in Bethlehem. He Who had come to fulfil the divine promise, to do the will of God perfectly, and to meet every requirement of a righteous God was not man only, but “God over all, blessed for ever.” In His earthly life His Godhead was veiled and the divine glory of His spotless human nature shone forth. “We beheld His glory,” wrote the apostle John, “full of grace and truth.” In Him deity and humanity each found perfect expression. Meekness and Majesty were perfectly blended in His sinless walk, love and light in His flawless deportment, courtesy and courage in His divine utterances, and pity and purity in His compassionate touch.
“As man He walked, as God He talked:
His deeds were miracles, His words were oracles:
Of man the finest specimen, of God the full expression:
Behold the Man! Behold thy God!
Veiled in flesh, the Godhead see!
Hail, Incarnate Deity!”
Jesus Christ came to reveal God to man, to instruct man in the will of God, and to display to man the heart of God. He came to fulfil in His life all the requirements of God’s holy law and to carry out the glorious purpose of God’s infinite and eternal love. For this He was ‘filled with all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.’ Taking the form of a bondservant, He finished the work His Father gave to Him to do in perfect obedience to the will of His Father — obedience ‘unto death, even the death of the cross.’ Girding Himself as a servant to wash His disciples’ feet, He could speak of Himself immediately after He completed the task as their Lord and Master. He came closer to man in His love for the sinner, yet towers far above the best of men in His moral character.
The love of God necessitated the cross of Christ; the righteousness of God required that a sinless substitute should bear the penalty of the guilty; and the power of God raised Him from the dead and exalted Him to His right hand as a living Saviour.
It was no new thing for the Spirit of God to clothe God’s chosen men and empower them to do special service for Him: but it was a new thing for the Spirit of God to come to indwell and fill men to be witnesses concerning the Son of God. It was no new thing for men of erudition to move about propagating their theories and philosophies; but it was a new thing for sinful men, cleansed and transformed, to travel over the world and proclaim for nearly twenty centuries the same message and see men of every nation transformed by receiving it as they themselves had been. Those men — the apostles of the Lord then and their successors until the present day — did this in obedience to the command, and in fulfilment of the commission of a unique Person, the sinless Son of God. They commenced their witness ten days after He left them and ascended into Heaven. On that same day the Holy Spirit descended and empowered them for their ministry. They were commissioned by the Lord Jesus, prior to His ascension, to preach the Gospel, make disciples of all nations, baptize the disciples in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and teach them to observe all Christ’s commands (Matt. 28:18-20). Becoming Christ’s witnesses, they proclaimed repentance and forgiveness of sins in His name (Luke 24:46-47).