The Christian Gospel as written by Paul ...
Tuesday, April 14, 2020. Good morning. We have celebrated easter, the festival of the death and resurrection of Jesus. Let us look into the core Christian gospel today as it is communicated by Paul, the apostle.
Jesus dies around the year 30 AD, with datings ranging from 29 AD to 33 AD. The young Christian church started immediately after this, usually Pentecost is said to be the birth of the Christian church, since it celebrates the coming of the Holy Spirit after Jesus left his disciples 40 days after the resurrection. About 20-30 years later, the early letters of the apostle Paul have been written to the young churches, which evolved through the whole Roman empire and beyond.
An early gospel …
The gospels by Matthew, Mark and Luke, the synoptic gospels, are believed to have been written between 50 and 70 AD, probably using earlier notes and sources. John is thought to be a little later usually, up to the year 90 AD written by John, one of the disciples of Jesus. Luke has been a doctor, probably one of the Christians traveling with Paul. He also wrote Acts, the book about the development of the early church between 30 and 50 AD.
Let us look at the gospel as formulated by Paul in his letter to the Philippians (dated by some to AD 60-62, by others to AD 55):
5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Phil 2, 5ff)
God became human in his son Jesus. He died at the cross and was exalted afterwards to be the Lord and focal point of the universe. Jesus is Lord, he is the lamb of God, worthy to open the book of life. Paul has already written about the righteousness, which people are given in Jesus, trusting their life into his hands.
A Different Community …
The core point of the Lordship of Jesus is a different community. Jesus humbled himself. We read in the gospels that he insisted that he came to serve. He is trying to change the mind and attitude of his disciples. It is not all about power, it is not about who gets most. It is not about who is most admired, who is the best. It is about leadership in love. It is about leadership in service. It is about a community which is built on love, truth, solidarity and mercy.
Obedience is an important command throughout the New Testament. Obedience is about following this character of Jesus. Its purpose is not to replace on human hierarchy by another stupid human hierarchy. It is about replacing a stupid hierarchy by an intelligent one, by one which is governed by reason, by love, by mercy, by truth, by freedom.
Humans have the ability to plan and to develop ideas about human society and human interaction. There have been many visions and ideologies in human history, how human society could become more equal, more socialist, more clean, more powerful. Most of human ideologies led to suppression and more injustice, to open or hidden violence and less freedom. But the approach of Christ is different. His agenda is to change humans by faith and their own free decision. Christian faith is your free personal way, to discover him, to trust him, to love him, to become a little bit like him.
Christian faith brings a fantastic perspective, which is Jesus himself, his character and his life. We are invited to look at him, to approach him, to talk to him and to trust him, today and tomorrow. (Roland Potthast)