Mark 1 “What Is the Gospel?”

Posted on July 13, 2008. Filed under: Preaching, The Gospel of Mark |

Mark 1 “What Is the Gospel?”

Sunday, July 13, 2008 Bryan E. Walker

New Beginnings Evangelist Church, Pastor Eric Edwards

3800 Portland, Irving, Texas

Brief testimony: I want to thank my friend Eric here for inviting me to come preach the Word this morning. I want to commend Eric to you as someone who walks the walk and not just talks the talk. I work with Eric and I can tell you that he is a hard worker, he is professional, and he carries his Christian faith with him in the workplace. He is a man of integrity and I am proud to call him a friend.

But who am I? I believe that anytime I speak to a new body of believers who do not know me, I owe it to you, the Body of Christ, to briefly share my testimony. I was raised by Christian parents and grew up attending the Baptist church. We went to church Sunday mornings, Sunday School and worship both, and then turned around and went back to church on Sunday nights and Wednesday nights as well.

When I was 8 years old I was deeply listening to an evangelist during a revival service and what I heard convinced me that even though I was young and what you would call a good kid, I was lost in sin, and I needed Jesus in my heart or I would die and go to hell. That night I confessed to the Lord that I was a sinner and I asked Jesus to save me, to forgive me, to come into my heart. God saved me that night and he sent his Holy Spirit to abide in me. Through the years He is the One who has held on to me. I tell you this morning that my testimony is that apart from Jesus I have no hope. Apart from God’s Amazing Grace I have no hope. Apart from the power of the Holy Spirit I have no hope. My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.

I have served as a bi-vocational pastor in a Southern Baptist Church for 15 years, but left the pastorate last year and am now serving as a Sunday School teacher in a wonderful church that has tremendously blessed my whole family.

Read Mark 1

Introduction: I chose the text this morning based upon 3 things- 1) the name of your church includes the words Evangelist and Beginnings which are directly related to the words Beginning and Gospel in our text in Mk.1:1. 2) Mark has long been one of my favorite books of the Bible and I preached through this book at my church over the course of about 3 years. 3) My title for this sermon is “What is the Gospel?” and this leads me to my purpose in choosing this text- if I have only one chance at preaching to a congregation I want to very clearly and forcefully preach the Gospel because we live in a day of tremendous confusion over what the true Gospel is. There are many false gospels out there and the Church suffers as a result of a lack of discernment. We live in an age where tolerance and diversity are the watchwords of the culture and unfortunately the Church has grown to tolerate diversity in the content and meaning of the Gospel.

In this sermon then, I want you to see from the Gospel of Mark just what the Gospel is, what the Gospel is all about and what its implications are. The Gospel is not only from God, it is about God and it is for God’s glory first and foremost. The Gospel confronts us in the wilderness of sin and proclaims to us who Jesus is and what Jesus has done for our salvation. The Gospel affects all of life, not just our religious life, and the Gospel of Jesus Christ is our only hope for salvation.

I. Define Gospel…

Since the same Greek word that is translated here as Gospel is also part of your church’s name, Evangelist, I want you to help me define the word. What is an evangelist? What does Gospel mean?

1. Definition and usage- Here is the Webster’s Dictionary definition of gospel: It comes from Old English or Anglo Saxon god-spell meaning a good tale, good story or good news. It is the message concerning Christ, the kingdom of God and salvation. It is one of the first 4 New Testament books; it is an interpretation of the Christian message.

Vs.1 gospel- euangelion. This was not a word that originated with the Christians; it was a pagan word. For the Romans, and Mark’s Gospel was written with the Romans in mind, it meant Joyful Tidings! It was especially related to the cult of the Emperors who were considered divine. If an emperor had a birthday, or a son was born, or the son reached maturity, or the emperor won a big military victory, or a new emperor ascended to the throne (and they usually did that by killing off the old emperor!) then the State would send out heralds who would proclaim the good news, the euangelion. In fact an ancient inscription with a portion of a calendar has been found in ancient Asia Minor (modern day Turkey) that has an entry for the birthday of Octavian, Caesar Augustus, that says, “the birthday of the god was for the world the beginning of joyful tidings (euangelion) which have been proclaimed on his account.” (By the way, this is an excellent example of how the science of archeology has helped the biblical scholars to prove, understand and explain the Scriptures).

Notice how similar this ancient announcement about Caesar is to Mark’s opening line! Do you think that is an accident? Dr. William Lane writes, (p.43 of NICNT) “This inscription is remarkably similar to Mark’s initial line and it clarifies the essential content of an evangel in the ancient world: an historical event which introduces a new situation for the world. In this perspective the Roman would understand Mark’s proclamation of Jesus the Messiah. Beginning with the inauguration of Jesus’ public ministry, Mark announces Jesus’ coming as an event that brings about a radically new state of affairs for mankind.”

But there is another aspect to this opening line by Mark, the Jewish tradition. In vss. 2-3 Mark quotes from Ex.23:20; Mal.3:1; Isa.40:3 and in verse 1 there is also clearly a link to Gen. 1:1 with the phrase “The beginning”. Marks reference to Isaiah in particular points to his understanding that the gospel is to be interpreted in light of the coming salvation promised in the prophet’s words. In Isaiah the good news is the announcement of a future salvation. Mark then links the gospel to creation, the beginning, the Exodus where Israel met God in the wilderness, and to the prophets who looked forward to this day of salvation.

For the Romans then, the good news is about something that already happened. For the Jews it was good news about that which was to happen. And in 1:15 we see Jesus proclaiming that the kingdom of God is at hand now!

OK, this is all fine and good, but how does this affect my understanding of the gospel? How does this impact my life today? The Gospel is rooted in the Old Testament going all the way back to Creation, Gen. 1:1, and the Exodus. It is rooted in God’s Word prophetically spoken by the Old Testament prophets. The gospel is rooted in that which has already happened; it is historical and factual, not fiction. It pertains to us here and now, today is the day of salvation, the kingdom of God is here now! And the gospel always points us to the future as well, for Jesus is coming again and you better be ready. This understanding of the gospel helps us doctrinally too, because we have to realize that our salvation is rooted in what Jesus has accomplished in his life of perfect obedience in the past; in Jesus’ obedient atoning, substitutionary death on the cross- in the past; in Jesus’ literal, physical resurrection, in the past. But the gospel is also current in that if you are a Christian, if you have trusted in Jesus, you experienced the gospel first hand, you repented and believed, you trusted in Jesus, you are currently trusting in Christ and persevering in the faith. The Holy Spirit not regenerated your heart back then, but He abides with you today. And then we also experience the gospel as a future hope in that we still dwell in this sinful flesh, in this sinful, fallen world, but our hopes are for Christ’s return or for our going to heaven when we die. That is our future hope.

2. Literary Context of the gospel- by this I mean that I want to look at the first chapter of Mark and see the context in which he uses this word gospel.

In vss.1-13 Mark uses a key word 4 times. Does anyone notice what word I am talking about? Look at vss.3, 4, 12 and 13. The word I am noticing is “wilderness”. What would be the significance of this word for the Jews or for the gentile converts who were familiar with the Old Testament?

The wilderness is where Israel met God. The wilderness is both a time of testing, a time of drawing close to God, but also it symbolizes their sin because Israel rebelled in the wilderness. Notice that in Mark’s quoting Isaiah we see the voice of one crying in the wilderness. Going to where the people are being judged, going to where Israel was in rebellion. The prophet doesn’t speak so much to those who are in obedience, but rather, he speaks to those in the wilderness of sin, who need to hear the good news.

John did not appear in the big cities; he did not hold crusades in the stadiums of Jerusalem. He preached in the wilderness; but still the people came. The Spirit did not drive Jesus to a nice hotel in downtown Jerusalem, he drove Jesus to the wilderness to be tempted and to tested, to do battle with Satan. Including the story of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness points back not just to Israel’s time in the wilderness, but it goes all the way back to Gen. 3 and Adam’s temptation in the Garden. Adam was in the perfect environment with a perfect wife and perfect relationship with God, yet failed the temptation and test. Jesus was all alone in the wilderness with, as Mark alone includes this detail, the wild animals. Yet Jesus, fasting for 40 days, did not waver or fail. He was obedient where Adam failed.

Now what does this wilderness theme in Mark 1 tell us about the gospel? The gospel comes to us in the context of the wilderness. We all live east of Eden now, we are sinful creatures under God’s wrath in the wilderness, and God breaks into our wilderness and sends us the gospel; sends us his Son. We do not have a God who is far off and tells us, “You must work your way up to find me.” No! We have a God who seeks us and finds us in the wilderness with the good news of salvation in Christ. Christ himself experienced our wilderness. He knows what it is to be alone and tempted, facing danger, hunger and thirst. The gospel is for those in the wilderness.

Notice next that the Gospel context includes the Holy Spirit. In vss. 8, 10, and 12 we see the Holy Spirit. John says in vs. 8 that Jesus will baptize you with the Holy Spirit. Next we see Jesus getting baptized and the Holy Spirit in vs. 10 descends upon him like a dove. Then in vs. 12 it is the Spirit who drives Jesus out to the wilderness. What we see here is that this gospel is accompanied by the Holy Spirit the whole way. When you respond to the gospel, it is Jesus baptizing you with the Holy Spirit that enables you to respond. The Jesus in whom we believe is confirmed to be the Son of God here by the Spirit’s anointing and the Father’s words. Thus the true gospel is a Trinitarian gospel. Here is a key doctrinal point: whenever you hear a preacher in person, on the TV or radio, you need to know what he believes about the Trinity. What we see at the baptism of Jesus is that at the same time in the same place we have the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Three distinct persons yet one God, one in essence. There has always been the Father; there has always been the Son and there has always been the Son. Is the doctrine of the Trinity difficult? Yes. It is a mystery but that is what we find in the scriptures. In my studies and in my personal experience both, wherever the Trinity is compromised there is heresy and sin. Just about every cult in history has surrendered the doctrine of the Trinity and it has led to disaster.

The gospel is the good news that the Father has sent the Son and the Father and Son send us the Holy Spirit. The Father ordains salvation, the Son obtains salvation, and the Spirit applies and sustains it.

II. The Content of the Gospel in Mark 1

1. vs. 1 the gospel of Jesus Christ- first of all, the gospel is all about Jesus Christ the Son of God. Right from the beginning Mark identifies the key person of the story- Jesus. He is Jesus which in Hebrew would be YHWH saves. His very name bespeaks the salvation that is promised. This name was as popular in Jesus day as it is in Hispanic culture today, it is the name Joshua. Whereas in all the others named Joshua the parents were expressing their faith and hope in God for salvation, in Jesus his name guarantees salvation. Matt. 1:21 “She will give birth to a son and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” Acts 4:12 “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” Phil. 2:10 “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

The gospel is not about what I can do. It is not about me, it is all about Jesus and who he is and what he has done. Jesus is the Son of God, the Son of Man. 100% God and 100% man. Here in Mark’s gospel 2 we see the wonderful story of the paralyzed man whose friends dug a hole in the roof and lowered him down in front of Jesus while he taught. Look in 2:1-12 and you will see that he does something only God can do. He forgives sins. Oh, by the way, he also healed the man, which only God can do. But he forgave the man his sins. That is either God in the flesh or a bad heretic.

Jesus is recorded in John’s gospel as calling himself various names that the Pharisees considered blasphemous. They absolutely knew he was claiming to be God. In John 6:48 “I Am the Bread of Life.” 8:12 “I Am the light of the world.” 8:58 “before Abraham was born, I Am!” 10:7 “I Am the gate of the sheep.” 10:11 “I Am the Good Shepherd.” 10:30 “I and the Father are one.” 11:25 “I Am the resurrection and the life.” 14:6 “I Am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” The only explanation for these sayings of Jesus is that he is God, God in the flesh.

2. The Gospel is about who Jesus is and what Jesus did. 10:45 Look in Mark 10:45 for a central verse in his gospel that tells us what Jesus was all about. Here we see that Jesus came “to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.” In the context of ancient Rome, the ransom has a couple of very noticeable meanings. Slavery was practiced throughout the Roman world and that meant slave markets. If you were in debt and could not pay, you could be sold as a slave. But if a close relative or friend had the funds and the desire, they could ransom you from the slave block. They bought you back. In warfare in ancient times this is what happened to POWs, they were captured and then sold as slaves. If your army lost some troops, you could purchase them back from the country that captured them with a ransom price.

You and I, all people everywhere, are captive to sin. We are born sinners and are naturally enemies of God. But Jesus dies on the cross to pay the price, the redemption price, to take us back. Now do not even think that God pays the devil a ransom. The devil doesn’t get anything from God except ultimately the lake of fire! The ransom is a figure of speech but the one to whom it is owed is God, not the devil.

The gospel then is all about Jesus perfectly keeping God’s Law, living a perfect life so that he can be the Lamb of God, the perfect sacrifice for sins. Jesus then voluntarily dies on the cross as our ransom, in order to redeem us out of sin and to present us to the Father. The gospel is about what Jesus did!

Paul writes in 1Tim.2:5 “There is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” Jesus said in John 14:6 “I Am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” And Peter preached in Acts 4:12 “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” The gospel, then, is exclusive, not diverse and tolerant. There is only one gospel, one Savior, one way to salvation. These other world religions are all false and leading their adherents to hell. No matter what the politicians and movie stars and TV news anchors say, we do not all worship the same god, all religions do not lead up to the top of the same mountain by different paths. It is Jesus or nothing! Mohammed did not die for your sins. Buddha did not die for your sins. Hinduism has millions of gods, but not one of them died for your sins. Jesus alone died on the cross for your sins.

3. This gospel demands that you repent, believe and follow. Repentance is a key word for Mark in chapter 1. The baptism of John was for a sign of repentance in vs.4. For the Jews, baptism is what a gentile convert to Judaism did. The symbolic act that John is asking the Jews to do is to acknowledge that being born Jewish was not enough. They were still sinners who needed to confess their sins and be baptized as they asked God to forgive them. Jesus’ baptism then, since he never sinned, was an act of humble obedience to identify with his sinful people. It was all too easy for the Jews of that day to trust in their being a child of Abraham and trust in their offerings at the Temple for their salvation instead of trusting in God. Baptism was to remind them to trust in God alone.

Sadly, today when I ask people about their salvation, the most popular answer I receive is they start talking about their baptism. People are trusting in their baptism instead of trusting in the Lord! Baptism does not save you or earn forgiveness of sins. Baptism is a sign of repentance as you trust in God for forgiveness and grace.

Jesus first recorded sermon in vs. 15 involves repentance. What is repentance? The word used here is metanoeite which is an imperative or command to change your mind and turn to God with all your being. Repentance is always costly. People do not like to change their minds, to change the focus of their life. The concept “It’s all about me!” is deeply ingrained in our sinful hearts and culture. Notice that in vs.5 the people coming to John were confessing their sins. We must admit that we are sinners, take responsibility for our sins and cry out for God’s mercy. Most folks today want to blame their sins on somebody else. Well, it’s my parents fault; you don’t know what kind of bad environment I was raised in. It’s the government’s fault. It’s everybody’s fault but mine. That is the attitude today. That is not confession or repentance!

In Jesus’ preaching he also commands us to believe in the gospel. The word for believe is another imperative in the Greek so it has the force of a command. Notice that Jesus commands us to repent and believe. This is no weak invitation. This is a command from the Lord of the Universe, the King of kings. To fail to obey this command is to reject the gospel, to reject the Lord and condemn yourself to God’s wrath and ultimate judgment.

Repentance and faith go together. Many people say they believe, but few repent. Many people fool themselves into thinking that just because they have nice thoughts about God that they are believing. What is faith? This word in the Greek is pisteuete which means to place your trust in. Faith, belief, always has 3 elements. 1) content- there must be a basic content that is to be believed. Genuine faith is not a blind faith, it is an informed faith. We should know that Jesus is God the Son, that he lived a perfect life, died as our substitute on the cross to pay for our sins, that he rose from the grave and that he is coming again. We should know that he promises eternal life to those who follow him. 2) Faith is not just head knowledge it is a heart response. We must agree that this gospel is for us. I must respond to Jesus with love and desire him as my savior. 3) Faith, if it is to be a saving faith, must be a trusting faith that is committed. Many people know the gospel. Many have an emotional attachment to the gospel and to Jesus. But to believe ultimately means to follow, and that is part of repentance. It is leaving sin and self and turning to follow Christ.

We see this dramatically demonstrated in the next story in Mark, the calling of the 4 disciples. Jesus commands them to follow him, and they leave their fishing business and follow him. Notice the urgency in the situation- immediately they left their nets. Notice the authority of Jesus in this situation, he commands and they obey. Leaving and following are symbolic of repenting and believing.


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