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The Gospel of Christ.

The Gospel of Christ.

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Published by: glennpease on Jul 29, 2013
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OUR next inquiry is whether the doctrine of Justification through Faith, as expounded above,which we have traced to the pen and lips of Paul, ordoctrine equivalent, was as matter of historical factACTUALLY TAUGHT BY CllRIST ; whether the Apostlehad correctly understood and reproduced the mind andpurpose of Him whose ambassador he professed to be.We shall also ask to what extent the teaching of Christ as it passed through the active intelligence of Paul was moulded and coloured by his own thoughtand surroundings. Our task is to eliminate from theteaching of Paul the merely Pauline element, in orderthus to reach the actual teaching of One Greater thanthe great Apostle.This elimination is made easy by our possession, inthe New Testament, of other very early Christiandocuments which are manifestly independent of thewritings of Paul. To these we now turn.The FOURTH GOSPEL and the First Epistle of John,which are evidently from the same pen, at once claimour attention. In the former we have an account of 119120 JUSTIFICATION THROUGH FAITH. [PART II.the teaching of Christ, and in the latter a profoundmeditation on that teaching. Both documents wereaccepted in the latter part of the second century inall Churches without a shadow of doubt as written bythe beloved Apostle John. This agreement provesthat they were then very old and well known. It isexceedingly unlikely that the real author, who musthave been a man of intellectual power, should fallutterly out of sight ; and that another should, in theconfident opinion of all Churches throughout the RomanEmpire, be put into his place. This is made moreunlikely by the late survival, as attested by unanimoustradition, of the Apostle John. This strong externaltestimony is confirmed by internal evidence. Seefurther in Westcott s Counncntary on the Gospel of St.John ; also in Dissertation V. of my Galatians.Turning now to these documents, we notice at oncea complete difference in tone, in modes of thought, andin phraseology, from the Epistles of Paul. Righteousness through Faith, Justification through Faith, Faithreckoned for Righteousness, Reconciliation to God, meetus no more. Other phrases take their place. Evidentlywe have in the documents now before us an altogetherindependent and very early witness about the teachingof Jesus of Nazareth.The substantive faith or belief is found in thesedocuments only in I John v. 4. But in the FourthGospel the verb believe occurs more frequently than inall the Epistles of Paul. Our Lord is represented asteaching again and again that to believe is a unique
LECT. XIII.] THE GOSPEL OF CHRIST. 121condition and channel of salvation. In the expositionof His teaching given to Nicodcmus, as recorded inJohn iii. 15, 16, Christ declares with emphatic repetitionthat God "gave His Only-begotten Son in order thatevery one who believes in Him may not perish butmay have eternal life." (Similarly John vi. 40.) Christgoes on to say that " He that believes in Him is not judged. But he that believes not is already judgedbecause he has not believed." In John iii. 36, v. 24,vi. 47, Christ declares that he who believes in Him haseternal life, and is passed out of death into life. Similarteaching in ch. xi. 25, 26; and in I John v. I, 5, TO, 13.In other words, the doctrine of eternal life as a privilegeand present possession of all who believe in Christ isas conspicuous in the writings of John as is Justificationthrough Faith in the writings of Paul.These phrases, each a characteristic of a school of New Testament thought, are, from the point of viewof spiritual life, absolutely equivalent. For Paul teachesthat " the wages of sin is death," and that the unsavedare already dead through their sins ; but that theywho are saved by faith and whose sins are forgiven arealready made alive in Christ : Rom. vi. 23, Eph. ii.i, 5, Col. ii. 13, etc. This life, which all who believealready possess, and which will develop into the endless joys of heaven, is manifestly equivalent to the" eternal life " which Christ says that they have whobelieve in Him. Since death is the punishment of sin, " eternal life " involves pardon of sin. And inI John ii. 12 (cp. ch. 1. 9) we find this as a present122 JUSTIFICATION THROUGH FATTH. [PART II.possession, in close verbal agreement with Eph. i. 7,Col. i. 14, Acts xiii. 38. Moreover, since as we shallsee Christ is the Judge of the world, to announceeternal life for all who believe is to announce Justification through Faith. Thus the teaching of Paulinvolves, and is involved in, the teaching attributedto Christ in the Fourth Gospel.A close coincidence of thought under total differenceof phraseology is found in John vi. 29 and Rom. iii. 27.To Jews who thought only of salvation by works,Christ said " This is the work of God, that ye believein Him whom He has sent." And Paul, whose entirethought was moulded by the idea of law, describesthe Gospel as "a law of faith." In each case, faithoccupies a unique place as a condition of salvation.We turn now to the SYNOPTIST GOSPELS. Of these, as already said, the First was accepted throughout the Roman world with complete confidence inthe latter part of the second century as written by anApostle, and the Second and Third as written bycompanions of Apostles. And in or before the middleof that century abundant quotations in the writingsof Justin prove that the early Christians possessedthe teaching of Christ in a form practically identicalwith that contained in the first three Gospels. Thewide difference in phraseology and modes of thoughtbetween these and the Fourth Gospel assures us thatwe have in them another independent witness aboutthe teaching of Christ.In the FIRST GOSPEL, not faith but obedience to
LECT. XIII.] THE GOSPEL OF CHRIST. 123the commands of Christ is the conspicuous conditionof salvation. No one " will enter into the kingdom of Heaven " except " he that does the will of My Fatherin Heaven:" Matt. vii. 21. The prudent builder,whose house will stand, is he who hears and does thewords of Jesus : v. 24. To an inquirer Christ says" if thou desirest to enter into life, keep the commandments :" ch. xix. 17.We notice however that faith is frequently mentioned as a condition of blessing. To an afflictedwoman whose faith had said " If I touch only Hisgarment, I shall be saved," i.e. healed, Christ said"Thy faith has saved thee : " Matt. ix. 22. Twoblind men who were craving His help, He askedwhether they believed that He was able to heal them ;and on receiving an affirmative reply said " according to your faith be it done to you." The disciplescould not heal the demoniac boy because of theirunbelief; whereas to those who have faith nothingwill be impossible : ch. xvii. 20. Still more stronglyin ch. xxi. 21 : "verily I say to you, if ye have faithand doubt not, not only the matter of the fig treeye shall do, but even if ye say to this mountain, Betaken away and cast into the sea, it will be done."Throughout the First Gospel faith is conspicuouslya condition of spiritual power. In Mark i. 15 Christopens His public ministry by bidding men to " repentand believe in the Gospel." In Luke viii. 12 "thedevil comes and takes away the word from theirhearts lest they should believe and be saved."I2 4 JUSTIFICATION THROUGH FAITH. [PART II.The forgiveness of sins, which we have alreadytraced to the pen and lips of Paul, and which isinvolved in his doctrine of Justification through Faith,is conspicuous in the teaching of Christ as recordedin the Synoptist Gospels. He taught His disciples inthe Lord s prayer to say " forgive us our debts."Faith is in Matt. ix. 2 connected with forgiveness of sins : and Christ asserts in v. 6 that " the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins." Inch. xii. 31, 32 He teaches that, with one exception,"all sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven to men."Similar testimony is found in the Second and ThirdGospels. And in Mark i. 4, Luke iii. 3, this is saidto be the aim of the preaching of the Baptist. Veryconspicuous is the teaching of Christ at the institutionof the Lord s Supper, as recorded in Matt. xxvi. 28,that His blood was being shed "for forgiveness of sins ; " as is the announcement by the Risen Saviour,as recorded in Luke xxiv. 47, that " in His nameforgiveness of sins " is " to be proclaimed to all thenations." These assertions imply that to obtain formen pardon of their sins was a chief aim of themission and death of Christ.In close harmony with the above we find PETER atPentecost (Acts ii. 38) bidding his hearers to "repentand be baptized ... for forgiveness of sins." In stillcloser agreement with the teaching of Paul, Peter says(Acts x. 43) to Cornelius "to Him all the prophetsbear witness that through His name every one thatbelieves in Him shall receive forgiveness of sins."

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