If you ever open the Bible, the gospel should always be the first thing you read, the last thing you read, and the only thing you read.
And here’s why: what good is it to you if you had just a few minutes to read it and all you happen to have read is how others had understood God to be?
What if you were to read about all the characters in the Old Testament, but time didn’t allow you to even get to the gospel?
What if all you had read was how God “visited” Abraham and his wife? Would that subject you to waiting on God to “visit” you?
Which is greater, for God to “visit” you, for God to “be with you” or for God to “be dwelling in you?” Which is of more importance?
John recorded these words from Jesus concerning the Holy Spirit:
“And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Advocate to be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot receive Him, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him. But you do know Him, for He abides with you and will be in you.” (John 14:16-17)
God never leaves you, even when our natural mind cannot grasp what such means. Better yet, His Spirit is in you, not for a moment, not just during worship, not just when you think about Him, but always.
To help us remember such, John recalled Jesus saying, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make Our home with him.” (John 14:23)
“we will come to him and make Our home with him.” Jesus said.
We can seek the hope of being wise as Solomon then find ourselves messing up as Solomon did. We can seek the hope of being like any other praised or faithful of old. Yet the only hope that matters the most is the hope of eternal life, the hope whom we receive in only the name of Jesus.
Now you may understand why Jesus said that the gospel is to be preached to all ends of the earth, and not the many stories that only serve a reflection of what was to come.
Any tribe, any clans, any nation can relate to the gospel because it testifies that their Creator loves them and what He did to demonstrate such love.
We can read all we wish from the Old Testament, and sadly may not remember that our hope is not in a covenant that was mostly never ours as Gentiles. And when we’re done reading, almost nothing will remind us that what we just read is no longer applicable because Christ, according to the gospel, declared that “It is Finished”. He put an end to one covenant and started another covenant, one that all nations, in addition to the Jews, can now put their hope in. A covenant that cannot be broken because it is between Christ and His Father.
We come to the full knowledge of our inheritance of such covenant through faith in Christ. Even such happening is by the mercy of God.
The gospel is to be preached and reminded to all nations. It is not to dismiss the validity or authenticity of the former things that God has called us to forget, the past that God has called us to not dwell on, but to behold and honor and celebrate the present he had newly created who is Christ Jesus sacrificed on the cross for our sins and the sins of the whole world.
If I was to write you ten letters, and I called you and told you to forget those ten letters, would they stop being my words? No. I wrote or inspired them to be written. My latest directive as far as those letters is to stop giving attention to them and heed instead to the new letter which I’ve sent you.
If you as a general were to receive new commands from your commander to cease all battles, the war is over, and that you should return to base at once, would you do well by continuing the battles or by following the new instructions return to base at once?
The author of the Letter to the Hebrews emphasized such in starting this critical turning point with those words:
“In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. So he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs.” (Hebrews 1:1-4)
We can read the Old Testament like we read the newspaper: events that took place, things that are possible. And concerning such things, we’ve been told not to dwell on them anymore because the reality that these events pointed to has actually arrived: Christ Jesus.
Some folks find reading old stories fascinating. Many share a similar interest in the Old Covenant. Yet, many read the Old Testament as something they should understand God by and are usually left with a blurry and incomplete picture.
So imagine that you were given some old newspapers article to read, and then someone drops today’s paper on your desk. Now, which do you think you may find more advantageous to read: the old or the new? Which should be mostly of people’s concerns: the old or the new? Which should you find most folks talking about: the old or the new?
The baker just finished baking a loaf of bread: do you want a piece of the one that has gone stale by now or a piece of the one that just came out of the oven?
The author of the Letter to the Hebrews found it necessary to write such letter because his audience were held accountable to know and live by the directives of the old covenant. And now he wrote this letter to help them transition from a boat that has taken on water, the old covenant, to a boat that is simply unsinkable, the new covenant.
When the gospel was first preached to the Gentiles, the word “covenant” was very much foreign to them. Therefore, it was never presented to them as the word of a “new covenant” since they were never aware or part of an “old covenant”.
Luke, in his second letter to Theophilus, wrote of Paul’s encounter to individuals who for sure had no covenant with God in any shape or form. He wrote these words of Paul of presenting the gospel, not with terms or understanding of covenants, but simply stating what this “unknown” God has done:
““People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you.
“The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’
“Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by human design and skill. In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.”
When they heard about the resurrection of the dead, some of them sneered, but others said, “We want to hear you again on this subject.” ” (Acts 17:22-32)
Paul’s preaching of the gospel to the Gentiles was not that we now have a new covenant. It was simply that the God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and that he rose a man from the dead and appointed Him judge over the whole world. This was enough to kindle the curiosity of some to learn more about this message of someone being raised from the dead.
Luke recorded of Peter’s preaching the gospel to the Israelites where he referred to what they had already learned from infancy since there was not anything better for them to learn at the time. Peter referred to David, a certain Messiah, God, the Holy Spirit.l, persons that the Israelites were obligated to have a general understanding of even through their education as the chosen people of God in those days. He made such connections because they needed to know what one had to do with the other. He wasn’t imposing on anyone the need to go and learn all that was before they could understand the gospel. He very much paraphrased all that came before just to get to this point: “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.” (Acts 2:36)
When you open the Bible, is it the gospel that you’re reading, the word that says that Jesus is the one risen from the dead is now the judge over the whole world?
The other day, I opened a certain news website and went through a recent article. At the footing of that article, there were links to events that happened over a decade ago. The fact that the new and the old were both on the same page, it gave me the impression that the hyperlinked article at the bottom of the page were also recent when they were not.
Imagine someone got separated from their loved several decades ago. But you open a document informing you of such but without the date. And so you go that person trying to comfort them. Next, they’re finding your behavior to be a bit bizarre. But when they ask about what’s gotten into you, then you referred to something they have experienced and are well over by now which is decades later.
The gospel is not an exercise of trying to prove the world how every story in the Bible points to the gospel. The gospel is the message of reconciliation that God has for all of us so that we know what God knows: which is that He loves us and that because of such we have nothing to worry about.
If it was up to me, I would physically split the Bible into two separate collections of Books and Letters: The Old Covenant, being one of historical and passing value, and the Gospel being one of present and eternal value.
The Bible has more than twice as many books of the Old Testament than of the New Testament which guarantees and even subjects most readers to feel obligated to read of the Old Testament before remembering that there exists a New Testament. And of course, after gaining knowledge and much respect of the Old Testament focusing on the ministry of death, there’s barely any attention left to be directed toward the testament guaranteeing the ministry of Life.
So what should you read first, last and only when you open the Bible? The gospel. And to the Gentiles, the gospel starts with the book of Acts. The new testament, the new living will starts with the resurrection of Christ. Had Christ not risen from the dead, what good news would we have for the Gentiles? What other good news would we have for the Jews who had just witnessed themselves crucifying an innocent man?
Jesus is the word of God, the final word of God. His message supersedes all other messages that came prior. And this is why the book of Revelation is known as “The revelation from Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who testifies to everything he saw—that is, the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. ” (Revelation 1:1-2)
Whenever Christ says something, it’s always good news.
Christ said that God loves us, and that’s good news.
Rejoice in Christ, none other, but Christ.
Above everything else that the Bible wants to remind you of, wouldn’t you rather remember the man who walked out of the tomb to never die again?
Rejoice in Christ, none other, but Christ.