By Femi Aribisala
Those who followed Jesus did so because of his life. But because of Paul’s ignorance about his life, many who follow Jesus now do so because of bogus claims about his death.
The good news proclaimed in the churches today is false. It is different from the one Jesus preached. Today’s good news is the one declared by Paul: “the good news of the grace of God.” (Acts 20:24). This says: “Rejoice: Jesus died for our sins.” (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). Accordingly, Christians insist Jesus carried away all our sins at Calvary. In exchange, he is alleged to have imparted to us the righteousness of God.
If this were true, it would be wonderful news indeed. It would mean once we answer the altar-call and declare that Jesus is our Lord and Saviour; we are automatically “born again.” We become heaven-bound because we believe and trust in “the completed works of Christ.” Whatever happens; Jesus has done it for us. We are saved by the magnanimity of God’s grace and not because of any works of righteousness on our part. (Ephesians 2:8).
However, the problem with this good news is that it is one big deception. It is actually contrary to the true good news that Jesus delivered. Paul was not one of Jesus’ disciples during his ministry. He never heard Jesus preach and he displays unpardonable ignorance about Jesus’ doctrine in his epistles. Bereft of the discipleship of Jesus, Paul fabricated his own Christology. His epistles ignore Jesus’ life while focusing exclusively on his crucifixion. Thus, Paul says disingenuously: “I decided to concentrate only on Jesus Christ and his death on the cross.” (1 Corinthians 2:2).
Kingdom of God
However, the good news Jesus proclaimed has nothing whatsoever to do with his “death” on the cross or with any sacrifice for sins. This is because Jesus and his disciples preached their good news before his crucifixion. So doing, not once did they say he would die for our sins. On the contrary, their good news requires everyone to carry his own cross and do away with his own sins.
Jesus says: “The time has come. The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!” (Mark 1:15). This shows Jesus’ good news is about the coming of the kingdom of God. If it was about him taking away our sins, there would have been no point in asking us to repent for the same sins. What would be the point of repenting if Jesus has taken or will take away our sins?
Indeed, if Jesus has really taken away our sins, how come Christians are still so sinful? How come “sinless” priests are still raping young boys? How come “sinless” pastors continue to swindle the gullible poor of their meager savings? If, according to Paul, Christians are now new creatures in whom “old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17); why are we still stealing, cheating, telling lies, fornicating and committing adultery?
Don’t be deceived by enticing words. The true good news is not about the unmerited grace of God. If it were, there would be no need to repent for repentance is by works and not by grace. The true good news is about the coming of the kingdom of God. Moreover, compulsive and unrepentant sinners are not welcome in God’s kingdom. Entry into the kingdom is also by works and not by grace. Jesus says: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who DOES the will of my Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 7:21).
For this reason, John the Baptist was sent as a forerunner of Jesus. He came “preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” (Mark 1:4). Accordingly, Jesus’ good news requires a penitent response. If we believe the good news that God’s kingdom has come down to men, then we should repent of sin so that we can enter and secure our inclusion in the kingdom.
I repeat: the true good news is that Jesus brought the heavenly kingdom of God down to earth. The evidence for this is right there in his superlative ministry. Jesus raised the dead; signalling the triumph of life over death. He healed the sick; announcing the end of human suffering. He multiplied loaves of bread; pointing to the satisfaction of all physical need.
He stilled the storm; heralding the emergence of peace on earth. He forgave sins; proclaiming the dawning of righteousness. He cast out demons; demonstrating the overthrow of the kingdom of Satan. Therefore, he said to his Jewish opponents: “If I drive out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come to you.” (Luke 11:20).
Children of God
The true good news is also that what used to be the exclusive preserve of God, has now become available to men through Jesus Christ. It is now possible not only to be like God, but actually to become children of God. That is why John exclaimed: “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God!” Therefore, he counsels: “Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure.” (1 John 3:1-3).
Those who have this hope in them do not fool themselves that Jesus has taken away their sins by sacrificing himself. Those who have this hope in them purify themselves. They are purified by hiding the words of Jesus in their hearts, and by repenting of sin and abstaining from sin. In short, the good news offers a narrow gate that leads to life; while the deceitful news offers a wide gate that leads to destruction. (Matthew 7:13-14).
Those who are disciples of Jesus receive the power to become children of God. (John 1:12). We are indwelt by the Spirit of God and can do the wonderful works of God. Jesus says: “As you go, preach this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven is near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received, freely give.” (Matthew 10:7-8). This is most certainly good news.
Life or death
Jesus’ birth brought the good news and not his “death.” (Luke 2:10-11). Jesus came that we may have abundant life. (John 10:10). Therefore, we are required to emulate his exemplary life. Indeed, those who followed Jesus did so because of his life. But because of Paul’s ignorance about his life, many who follow Jesus now do so because of bogus claims about his death.
Paul says: “If Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty.” (1 Corinthians 15:14). However, Jesus’ resurrection is not part of the good news. On the contrary, the resurrection is “a sign of Jonah;” reserved for those who do not believe. Jesus says: “A wicked and adulterous generation looks for a miraculous sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah.” (Matthew 16:4).
Without Calvary, Zacchaeus received the good news of the kingdom and Jesus declared that salvation had come to his house. (Luke 19:8-10). As a matter of fact, in one of Jesus’ stories, Abraham de-emphasises the resurrection by saying: “If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.” (Luke 16:31).