Mark 1:1 Commentary - The Great Texts of the BibleThe Beginning of the Gospel
The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.—Mar 1:1.
1. The Gospel had a beginning. With reverent and affectionate interest we look back to the beginnings of those things which possess our allegiance as established powers, or are daily enjoyed as familiar blessings. The thought that they had a beginning, that there was once a time when they were not, gives a freshness to the feelings with which we regard them; while the comparison of the state of commencement with the state of perfection brings with it a natural pleasure, in marking the tendencies and the tokens of all that has happened since. No words can open the heart to these impressions so powerfully as those which have just been uttered. “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God,” places us at the opening of the mystery of godliness, of the salvation of the world, of the glory which fills the heavens, and of the Kingdom which endures for ever.
2. What does St. Mark mean by the beginning of the Gospel? Professor Menzies thinks that he regards the whole earthly life of Jesus as the beginning of the Gospel. For, he says, “to the Apostles the earthly life of Jesus was not the main part of the Gospel. His life in heaven at God’s right hand, His presence with His people through His Spirit, and His second coming to judgment, these bulked much more largely in the preaching, not only of Paul, but of all the Apostles, than His ministry on earth.”1 [Note: 1 The Earliest Gospel, 57.] If this opinion is correct, the opening words of St. Mark would correspond with St. Luke’s opening words in the Acts: “The former treatise I made, O Theophilus, concerning all that Jesus began both to do and to teach, until the day in which he was received up.”
But it is more natural to take the preaching of the Baptist as the beginning. This is the beginning of the Gospel according to St. Peter. “The word,” says St. Peter, “which God sent unto the children of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ,—that word began from Galilee, after the baptism which John preached” (Act 10:36-37); and St. Paul in presenting to the Jews “the word of this salvation,” dates its proclamation from the time “when John had first preached before his coming the baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel” (Act 13:24). Thus each of the Evangelists has a different “beginning.” St. Matthew sees it in the ancestry and birth of the Messiah; St. Luke, in the birth of the Baptist; St. John looks back to the “beginning” in which the Word was with God.
3. What is to be regarded as the beginning of the Gospel depends, however, on what is meant by the Gospel. The Gospel, considered as fact, began from the Incarnation, and was completed at the Resurrection; but the Gospel, considered as doctrine, began from the first preaching of Jesus, and was completed in the dispensation of the Spirit. And we may go yet further back. The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ was not in the New Testament, but in the Old; it began in the simple first promise to our fallen parents; in their sacrificial offerings; in the bleeding lambs of Abel’s altar; in the simple faith and worship of the patriarchs. Once more, it may be said to have begun in the predictions of the prophets, who declared in words, as the legal service did in acts, the coming Saviour, and not only foretold, but exhibited to all believers, “the beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” And we may go further back still, and say that the Gospel, as a message of salvation, began in the eternal counsel of the Divine will; in the eternal purpose of the God who sent it. Known unto God are all His works from the beginning of the world. The Gospel of Christ could never terminate in our salvation, if it had not first begun in God’s decree.
I have read somewhere an ancient Hindu legend to this effect. In an extensive district of the country a terrible famine long prevailed. The parched land refused to yield any sustenance for man or beast, and the wretched people were perishing miserably. A princess of the country knew of their condition and boldly went forth to see for herself; and what she saw of their sufferings filled her with unutterable compassion. The wise men had declared that the only hope for the country was that some worthy person should die for them and so remove the heavy curse. She quietly resolved to become the needed sacrifice, and retiring among the mountains had a grave dug. She crept into it, and was buried; and forth from her grave there gushed a pure stream of water. It rushed down the valley, gathering volume as it flowed, and went forth into the wide plain a river bearing freshness, fertility and life to all the land. That river of life in the old legend did not originate in the grave of the dead princess, but in the warm loving heart of a noble maiden, who, in mighty compassion, gave her life for her perishing people. Even so, the Gospel of Jesus Christ has not its beginning in the manger of Bethlehem, in the ministry of John the Baptist, in the Galilean ministry of Jesus, nor yet in the atoning death upon the cross, but in the loving heart of the Eternal God who so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that all might have eternal life in Him.1 [Note: W. T. Fleck.]
4. But the Gospel had a new beginning in the preparatory ministry of John the Baptist. If not expressed, it is at least implied and necessarily indicated, in St. Mark’s introductory expression, that John the Baptist’s preaching in the wilderness the baptism of repentance, with a view to the remission of sins, was the beginning of the Gospel,—its immediate precursor, the appointed preparation for its full disclosure, so that John’s instructions and his baptisms derived all their worth and meaning from the fact that in the verse explained they were the actual beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. We find, accordingly, that when John’s ministry was closed, and that of Christ Himself succeeded, it was at first simply a continuation of John’s preaching; that the burden of both cries was, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!”
The effective teacher must always have a Gospel to proclaim. He cannot place himself on the common level of man’s life merely. He must have something to say from God, some Divine message to deliver, something that will attract, cheer, and uplift, something that will appeal to that deepest in man which also becomes the highest. He must come, as both John and Jesus did, with “good tidings” from God.1 [Note: W. L. Walker, The True Christ, 110.]
The biographer of Michael Angelo tells that he was once seen standing, chisel in hand, gazing intently on a rough block of marble. Upon being asked what he saw there, he said, “I see a beautiful angel imprisoned, and I mean to set it free.” So God gazing on the rough undeveloped mass of humanity saw there the vision of the Ideal Man. The Incarnation of the Divine Son was the deliberate beginning of God on the plane of time to develop the thought of man that was His in all eternity.
i. The Word “Gospel”
1. The English word. The word “gospel” is an English word. It is a translation of the Latin bona adnuntiatio, which was a translation of the Greek word (εὐαγγέλιον) used in our text. Its original form was godspel, god being the Anglo-Saxon adjective “good,” and spel meaning “news.” Afterwards god was taken for the name God, and godspel was understood to be “God’s story,” or the Book of God; but that was when the name Gospel was used chiefly of the first four books of the New Testament. The Greek word was also turned into the Latin evangelium, and that into the Saxon “evangel,” and the two words “gospel” and “evangel,” one English, the other classical, were used indiscriminately. Taverner in his Postils, of date 1540, speaks of “the euangell or glad tydynges of oure saluation (whyche thynge we call commonly in Englyshe a gospell).”
2. The Greek word. The Greek word (εὐαγγέλιον), of which the English word “gospel” is a translation, was used in classical Greek for the reward given to a man who brought good news; but in later Greek it was used of the good news itself. The latter is its meaning in the Greek of the New Testament. And what was the good news? Throughout the whole New Testament, says Zahn,1 [Note: Introduction to the New Testament, ii. 373.] the whole Gospel is “the oral proclamation of God’s plan of salvation as made known and realised by Jesus.” As verb or substantive the word occurs in the New Testament more than seventy times. The underlying idea is always “good news” or “joyful annunciation.” In course of time, the word “gospel” was used of the books which contain the Gospel. That is to say, the longer but more exact form “the Gospel according to St. Matthew” was contracted into “the Gospel of St. Matthew,” and then it became customary to speak of the “four Gospels.” This expression occurs as early as Justin Martyr (Apol. i. 66).
3. The use of the word in the New Testament. The history of the word in the New Testament books is worth notice. It seldom occurs in those lives of our Lord which are now emphatically so called, and where it does occur, it is “the gospel of the Kingdom” quite as frequently as “the gospel” of the King. The word is never used in Luke, and only twice in the Acts of the Apostles, both times in quotations. The Apostle John never employs it, either in his “Gospel” or in his Epistles, and in the Apocalypse the word is only once found, and then it may be a question whether it refers to the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ. John thought of the word which he had to proclaim as “the message,” “the witness,” “the truth,” rather than as “the gospel.” We search for the expression in vain in the Epistles of James, Jude, and to the Hebrews. Thrice it is used by Peter. The great bulk of the instances of its occurrence are in the writings of Paul, who, if not the first to use it, is at any rate the source from which the familiar meaning of the phrase, as describing the sum total of the revelation in Jesus Christ, has flowed.”2 [Note: A. Maclaren.]
I was a little girl, and scarcely knew anything, and this old man seemed to me such a different sort of a man from anybody I bad ever seen before, that I thought he had perhaps come down from the sky to preach to us, and I said, “Aunt, will he go back to the sky to-night, like the picture in the Bible?”
That man of God was Mr. Wesley, who spent his life in doing what our blessed Lord did—preaching the Gospel to the poor—and he entered into his rest eight years ago. I came to know more about him years after, but I was a foolish, thoughtless child then, and I remembered only one thing he told us in his sermon. He told us as “Gospel” meant “good news.” The Gospel, you know, is what the Bible tells us about God.1 [Note: Dinah Morris in Adam Bede, ch. ii.]
4. The Gospel is described in the New Testament by different phrases.
(1) The “gospel of Christ.” It is His, not so much because He is the author, as because He is the subject of it. It is the good news about Christ. He is its contents and great theme. And so we are led up at once to the great central peculiarity of Christianity, namely, that it is a record of historical fact, and that all the world’s life and blessedness lie in the story of a human life and death. Christ is Christianity. His biography is the good news for every child of man.
(2) The “gospel of God.” This form of the expression, though by no means so frequent as the other, is found throughout St. Paul’s Epistles, thrice in the earliest—Thessalonians (1Th 2:8), once in the great Epistle to the Romans (Mar 1:1), once in Corinthians (2Co 11:17), and once in a modified form in the pathetic letter from the dungeon, which the old man addressed to his “son Timothy” (1Ti 1:11). It is also found in the writings of St. Peter (1Pe 4:7). In all these cases the phrase, “the gospel of God,” may mean the gospel which has God for its author or origin, but it seems rather to mean “which has God for its subject.” It was designated mainly as the good news about Jesus Christ, but it is also the good news about God. So in one and the same set of facts we have the history of Jesus and the revelation of God.
There is a double modification of this phrase. We hear of “the gospel of the grace of God” and “the gospel of the glory of God,” which latter expression, rendered in the English version misleadingly “the glorious gospel,” is given in its true shape in the Revised Version. The great theme of the message is further defined in these two noteworthy forms. It is the tender love of God in exercise to lowly creatures who deserve something else that the Gospel is busy in setting forth, a love which flows forth unbought and unmotived save by itself, like some stream from a hidden lake high up among the pure Alpine snows. The story of Christ’s work is the story of God’s rich unmerited love, bending down to creatures far beneath, and making a radiant pathway from earth to heaven, like the sevenfold rainbow. It is so, not merely because this mission is the result of God’s love, but also because His grace is God’s grace, and therefore every act of Christ which speaks His own tenderness is therein an apocalypse of God.
The second of these two expressions, “the gospel of the glory of God,” leads up to the great thought that the true glory of the Divine nature is its tenderness. The lowliness and death of Christ are the glory of God! Not in the awful attributes which separate that inconceivable Nature from us; not in the eternity of His existence, or in the Infinitude of His Being; not in the Omnipotence of His unwearied arm, or in fire-eyed Omniscience,—but in the pity and graciousness which bend lovingly over us, is the true glory of God. These pompous “attributes” are but the fringes of the brightness, the living white heart of which is love. God’s glory is God’s grace, and the purest expression of both is found there, where Jesus hangs dying in the dark. The true throne of God’s glory is not builded high in a remote heaven, flashing intolerable brightness and set about with bending principalities and powers, but it is the Cross of Calvary. The story of the “grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,” with its humiliation and shame, is the “gospel of the grace,” and therefore it is the “gospel of the glory of God.”
(3) The “gospel of salvation” (Eph 1:13) and the ‘gospel of peace” (Mar 6:15). In these expressions we pass from the consideration of the author or of the subject-matter of the good news to that of its purpose and issue. It is meant to bring to men, and it does in fact bring to all who accept it, the wide and complex blessings described by those two great words.
(4) “The gospel.” By far the most frequent form in which the word “gospel” occurs is that of the simple use of the noun with the definite article. The message is emphatically the good news. It is the tidings which men most of all want. It stands alone; there is no other like it. If this be not the glad tidings of great joy for the world, then there are none.1 [Note: A. Maclaren.]
A poor little street girl was taken sick one Christmas, and was carried to the hospital. While there she heard the story of Jesus coming into the world to save us. It was all new to her, but very precious. She could appreciate such a wonderful Saviour, and the knowledge made her very happy as she lay in her little cot. One day the nurse came round at the usual hour, and “Little Broomstick” [her street name] held her by the hand and whispered, “I’m havin’ real good times here, ever such good times! S’pose I shall have to go away from here as soon as I get well; but I’ll take the good time along—some of it anyhow. Did you know ’bout Jesus bein’ born?”
“Yes,” replied the nurse, “I know, sh-sh-sh! Don’t talk any more.”
“You did? I thought you looked as if you didn’t, and I was goin’ to tell you.”
“Why, how did I look?” asked the nurse, forgetting her own orders in her curiosity.
“Oh, just like most folks—kind of glum—I shouldn’t think you’d ever look glum if you knowed about Jesus bein’ born.”1 [Note: M. S. Braithwaite.]
ii. The Contents of the Gospel
Let us pass from the expressions used to designate the Gospel to its contents.
1. One way of discovering the contents of the Gospel is to ask what the Gospel meant to St. Paul. Principal W. B. Selbie finds that the Gospel which St. Paul preached contained three essential things.
(1) First of all, St. Paul taught men that this Jesus was the Son of God. A close study of his letters concerning Jesus Christ leads to the conclusion that while he holds, or seems to hold, that the Lord Jesus Christ was in some way inferior and subordinate to God the Father, he yet very frequently puts Him, as it were, side by side with God, and reads God in terms of His revelation. To him God is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. To him Jesus Christ has the religious value of God; to him Jesus Christ is the centre, sum, and beginning of the Christian religion. It is in Christ that men find God, it is through Him that they discover God’s truth, and it is by their relation to Him that they enter into communion with God Himself.
(2) But to St. Paul Jesus was not only the Son of God, He was the Saviour of the world. His saving work centred in, and was made possible by, His cross. To St. Paul the cross of Jesus Christ is the great central pillar of his faith; and he is determined that he will know nothing among men save Jesus Christ and Him crucified, and that he will glory in nothing save in the cross of Jesus Christ, by whom the world was crucified unto him, and he unto the world. In his attempts to describe the meaning of the death of Jesus on the cross, St. Paul almost exhausts the possibilities of human speech. It is a sacrifice, a propitiation, a means of reconciliation, an atonement. In every possible way, and by every possible kind of illustration, he tries to bring home to the hearts of men this thought, that in Jesus Christ’s death, in the love that that death involved and manifested, there is a ground and reason for man’s hope and peace, for his forgiveness, his justification, his salvation, his sanctification.
(3) Once more, to St. Paul Jesus Christ was not only Son of God and Saviour of the world, but He was Lord of Life. In the writings of this Apostle the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and His present life and power resulting from it, play a very large part. To him the resurrection was vital. It meant everything. It meant all the difference between a dead and a living Christ. It meant all the difference between hope and despair. “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.” To St. Paul Jesus Christ was not a sacred and beautiful memory, He was a living power; and in Him the Apostle himself lived.
2. From a study of the early preaching of the Acts of the Apostles, Dr. Campbell Morgan concludes that there are four notes characterising the Gospel.
(1) The first note in the early preaching of the Acts of the Apostles is the proclamation of the Lordship of Jesus Christ. The first thing the Gospel says is “Jesus is Lord.” It is that “God hath made that same Jesus both Lord and Christ” (Act 2:36). And this should be first in the preaching of the Gospel still. For the first business of the evangel is to bring to man the consciousness of sin. Now there is no way of bringing a man to consciousness of sin so powerfully as by bringing him into the presence of Christ as Lord.
Mount Sinai never made me afraid in my life. I was born of Christian parents, nurtured in a Christian home, and I never cease to thank God for it. I passed into personal relationship with Christ without volcanic consciousness. I cannot find you the day of my new birth. I came into the presence of Sinai; was overawed by its majesty, was conscious of the stupendous dignity, but I never said in its presence, “I am a sinner.” But there came at last with the passing of the years the consciousness of this Christ. I came into the Presence of Him with His supernal loveliness, with His self-emptying love. And when I stood in His Presence and saw Him—nay, I have never seen Him yet in all His glory; it is too bright for the feebleness of a sinner’s sight—when I began to measure my life no longer by standards of a law written upon tables of stone, no longer by the standards of my neighbours or friends or the average man—that dreadful average man who is ruining so many; but when I began to measure my life by the standard of that one Supreme Life, when I came into the presence of the Lordship of Christ, I went down into the dust and said, “If that was the ideal, then God have mercy upon me a sinner.”1 [Note: G. Campbell Morgan.]
(2) The second note is the proclamation of the Cross, the sacrifice for sin. When the spirit is bowed, and a man becomes conscious of the paralysis and the power of sin, we show him the vision of this same King going to death.
(3) The third note is the preaching of the Resurrection. For He went to the cross willingly. No man took His life from Him; He laid it down of Himself “that he might take it again.” In the vision of the Lord I come to know my sin; in the mystery of the cross my conscience is satisfied with pardon; now I need strength to stand and power to do. Christ rose to communicate a dynamic by which I may live. Pardoned in His death, I am saved in His Life.
(4) There is a fourth note. It is the proclamation of the perpetual presence of that Lord, that Saviour, that Risen One. He ascended on high and “gave gifts.”
On one occasion, when Tennyson was rusticating in a country place, he asked an old woman if there was any news. She replied, “Why, Mr. Tennyson, there’s only one piece of news that I know, and that is, Christ died for all men.” He responded, “That is old news, and good news, and new news.”
The Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God
1. That is, the Gospel of which Jesus Christ is the subject, the good news concerning Him who, when this book was written and this title placed in front of it, was known to the Church as Jesus the Messiah. “The wonderful name Christ is first added to the proper name Jesus after He had shown Himself to be divinely consecrated king whom the Old Testament predicted (Act 2:36). But the Evangelists write the double name Jesus Christ above the portals of their Gospels (Mar 1:1; Joh 1:17) as an anagram or emblem of the entire following history, similarly as the Torah stamps the name Jehovah Elohim as such an anagram upon the entrance of the sacred history.”1 [Note: F. Delitzsch, Old Testament History of Redemption, 182.]
There is some doubt as to the genuineness of the words “the Son of God “here. But the doubt was not sufficient to compel the Revisers to place the words in the margin. If accepted as part of the text, says Professor Menzies, they must be understood, like all the terms in this verse, in the Pauline sense. In the body of the Gospel, Jesus is spoken of as Son of God by the demons (Mar 3:11, Mar 5:7), and by the heavenly voice at the baptism (Mar 1:11), and at the transfiguration (Mar 9:7). In these cases the phrase is an official Messianic title, denoting the representative of God who is empowered, like David of old, to execute Divine purposes. It implies no doctrine as to His extraction or essential nature. In Paul, on the other hand, the Son of God is a heavenly figure (Rom 1:4; Gal 4:4), who was with God before He appeared in the world, and has now been exalted to still higher honours than He enjoyed before. In this verse the words must express the writer’s own view of Christ’s nature; and as he writes for Gentiles, only the latter, metaphysical sense of the phrase can be thought of. The doctrine of the Son of God could not arise on Jewish soil, but to Greek-speaking people it presented little difficulty. The root of the Christian doctrine is undoubtedly to be sought in Jesus’ own teaching as to His relation to God, and in Paul’s development of that teaching.2 [Note: A. Menzies, The Earliest Gospel, 57, note.]
2. The name Jesus (that is, Joshua) was in the post-exilic times a common Jewish name: Joshua is equivalent to Jehoshua, which means “Jehovah is salvation.” In the Septuagint as well as in the New Testament (as Heb 4:8) the name of the patriarch Joshua is written Jesus. “Our Lord did not have an exceptional name, for He was a man, and, as such, a member of a people, a child of an age and of a country. This name, however, is the most fitting that He could have had. It signifies ‘Jehovah is salvation,’ and, as the name of the Lord, the bearer and the mediator of salvation. The designation is prepared by such passages as Gen 49:18, Isa 49:6; Isa 52:10, especially in the Book of Isaiah; even the name of this prophet signifies ‘the salvation of Jehovah,’ or ‘Jehovah saves.’ The name Christ united with Jesus, is made a proper name by the omission of the article, as Elohim in the designation Jehovah-Elohim becomes a proper name in the same way.”
For us, the Lord is known by a sweeter, tenderer, more human name than Jehovah. For us the Lord is—Jesus. For us the secret is deeper, more wonderful, more unutterable. It is a knowledge more intimate, more immediate, more personal, than was possible for men for whom God was in the heavens beyond the blue. The secret of the Lord for us is that of one who has come very near to us, and has been found in the likeness of a man. It is the secret of one who has made Himself known to us in the breaking of the bread. What that secret is to each one of us depends on what Jesus is, and has become, to us.
St. Francis of Assisi steeps his mind in the Gospels. He is caught and held by the winsome beauty of his Lord. He sees Him, in a fresh vision, going about doing good, and he goes through the villages of Italy, a gracious and tender presence, reminiscent of the compassion of Christ. John Wesley passes through his nights and days of enlightenment and consecration, rises into a new knowledge and an unshakable assurance of Christ’s love, and goes out to the almost pagan villages of England with his Master’s message of life from the dead. Thomas Chalmers, rising from his sick-bed to spend a year of Elysium as he pulses with a new affection of joy to Christ, goes forth to pour all his roused energy into the evangelisation of Scotland. Father Damien—to take men of all communions—marks Jesus as He touches the leper. He sees the deep significance of the deed, and goes forth to lay his hands in Christ like pity on the outcasts of Molokai.1 [Note: W. M. Clow, The Secret of the lord, 6.]
3. Why is the Gospel called the Gospel of Jesus Christ?
(1) Because there is good news in what He said. There is a directness, a reality, and a force about His words that set them in a category by themselves. He spake out of His own inner consciousness and experience; and though some corresponding experience is needed to enable us to understand His words, the first judgment passed on them remains good, that “never man spake like this man.” Yet the only really new things that He can be said to have taught concerned Himself. Such words as “I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever”; or “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me”; or “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father,”—were so new and so startling as to be “hard sayings,” regarding which even disciples asked, “Who can hear him?” And they are hard still to many who seem full of admiration of the words of grace which proceeded out of His mouth so long as they relate to already known ethical and spiritual truth.
As we listen to Him we are conscious always and everywhere of matchless elevation. He is far above His countrymen,—far above the wisest wisdom of His time,—far above the wisest wisdom of all succeeding ages of which He has not been directly or indirectly the Author. As we listen to Him we feel that He lives and speaks in an atmosphere to which we can ascend only at rare intervals, and by considerable efforts. As a Teacher, no less than as our Redeemer and our Lord, He invites the praises of the Church: “Thou only, O Christ, with the Holy Ghost, art most high in the glory of God the Father.” And, since He is thus above the level of human thought, His words will live. Time effaces that which belongs only and fundamentally to the mind of man; but here is a teaching which bears on it the imprint of a higher origin and a more commanding standpoint; the centuries may pass, but it will not pass away.1 [Note: H. P. Liddon, Some Sermons on the Words of Christ, 13.]
(2) Because there is a Gospel in His work and influence. One of the most striking contrasts between heathendom and Christendom is in their respective attitudes towards nature and its forces. That of heathenism untouched by Christianity is one of uncertainty, distrust, timidity, even dread or terror; that of Christianity, on the contrary, is one of confidence, fearlessness, cheerfulness, and admiration. The heathen man moves to and fro like a slave; and the Christian walks the earth with head erect, feeling, if not exactly thinking, that as the Book of Genesis puts it, he was meant to have dominion over earth and sea, and all things that are therein. We are no longer as strangers on the earth; we regard and treat it as our home. What is the reason of the contrast? How has the gulf been bridged over? A common answer is, the progress of science and the arts of civilisation and culture. Yes; but the progress of science and the arts is the very thing that needs to be explained. That is the bridge; and the question is, How came the bridge to be built? It was Christ who by His attitude towards and full control of nature—so marvellous and yet so natural and easy, so tremendous in authority and yet so full of goodness and kindness—became for all time that most effective agency by which the human race has been put in possession of its birthright of free and fearless movement and activity in the midst of the complex and tremendous forces of the system to which it belongs. His influence, indeed, was not directly intellectual or scientific, but moral and personal.
Let a man think of the general fruits that have followed from faith in Christ, of the difference between Christian and non-Christian civilisations, of the social spirit and social advances that have followed wherever Christ has been preached; let him remember that all that is best in our own national life is due to the Christian missionaries who preached Christ to our ignorant, half-savage ancestors. Thoughts like these crowd in upon him, and he says, “Surely He to whom all this was owing, or from whom it started, cannot have been an ordinary Person; there must have been at least an exceptional power of God in Him; all those who believed in Him and found such experiences through Him cannot have been wholly deluded; they were not all fools or ignorant people. What I witness as the effects of Christianity is very much like what I see when the Spring sun begins to shine on the cold ice-bound earth and the Divine beneficent forces of nature are set a-working, so that under warm skies, from the bleak ground, life begins to sprout, and leaf, bud, flower, and fruit gradually to appear. It looks very much as if this Christ were a sun in the spiritual heavens, through the shining of which, on the hearts of men, those higher Divine forces which make for true life and manhood have been made active, so that if I see God in nature, I must see God also there—more manifestly there.1 [Note: W. L. Walker, The True Christ, 51.]
And it is there the difference comes in between a visionary and a Christian. A visionary dreams his dreams, and builds his castles in the air, and they are radiant, and wonderful, and golden, and the light of heaven glitters on every minaret. And then, because he cannot realise them now, and cannot draw them in all their heavenly beauty down to earth, the visionary folds his hands, does nothing, and the vision goes. But the true Christian, with hopes as glorious as any visionary’s, because they are the hopes of Jesus Christ, carries the glory of them into his common duty, and into the cross-bearing of the dreary day. And though the generations die, and the purposes of God take a thousand years to ripen, he serves and is content.2 [Note: G. H. Morrison, Flood-Tide, 212.]
Jesus shall reign where’er the sun
Doth his successive journeys run.
(3) Because He Himself is the good news, because He is what He is. “Jesus,” says Harnack, “belongs to His Gospel, not as a part of it, but as its embodiment. He is its personal realisation and its power. And such He will always be felt to be.”
In placing the statement of the person of Christ as the first work of the Gospel histories, we speak in accordance with the spirit of those books and of the whole ensuing system of doctrine. Jesus Christ created the Gospel by His work; He preaches the Gospel by His words; but He is the Gospel in Himself. The expression is but the condensation of a hundred passages of Scripture which declare Him to be that which, in more timid but less adequate language, we might say that He wrought, or that He taught, or that He gave. “I am the resurrection and the life” (Joh 11:25). He “is our peace” (Eph 2:14), He “is our life” (Col 3:4), He “is the hope of glory” (Col 1:27), He “of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption” (1Co 1:30); and they who are saved “are made partakers of Christ” (Heb 3:14), not merely of His gifts, whether they be gifts of grace or glory. Is it not indeed the distinguishing feature of the Christian system that it places the foundation of salvation in living relations with a living person, rather than in the adoption of opinions or of habits? that under it the believer is, not the man who maintains the doctrine of the Trinity, or holds “justification by faith,” but the man who has “come to” Christ, and “abides in” Him?1 [Note: T. D. Bernard.]
I think it is the keeping of all the parts of Christian truth in due connection with and subordination to the central truth that makes some High Churchmen so “evangelical.” People expect to hear them talk of nothing but the Church and the Priesthood and the Sacraments, and they find that there is one subject which towers above them all, and gives life to all. First, and before all, or rather in and through all, they preach Christ. That is Apostolic preaching—for the first Christians, it has been said, did not believe in Christianity, they believed in Christ.2 [Note: A. L. Moore, The Message of the Gospel, p. 23.]
O Jesu, better than Thy gifts
Art Thou Thine only Self to us!
Palm branch its triumph, harp uplifts
Its triumph-note melodious:
But what are such to such as we?
O Jesu, better than Thy saints
Art Thou Thine only Self to us!
The heart faints and the spirit faints
For only Thee all-Glorious,
For Thee, O only Lord, for Thee.3 [Note: C. G. Rossetti.]
The Beginning of the Gospel
Alexander (J. A.), The Gospel of Jesus Christ, 7.
Alexander (W.), The Leading Ideas of the Gospels, 51.
Bernard (T. D.), The Progress of Doctrine in the New Testament, 30.
Hort (F. J. A.), Sermons on the Books of the Bible, 95.
Hort (F. J. A.), Village Sermons, 1st Ser., 221.
Lewis (E. W.), The Unescapeable Christ, 110.
Maclaren (A.), Expositions: Mark i.–viii., 1.
Selbie (W. B.), Aspects of Christ, 39.
Simon (D. W.), Twice Born, 232.
Thompson (H.), Concionalia, 80.
Christian World Pulpit, lxv. 371 (Morgan); lxxvii. 17 (Scott Holland).
Church Times for January 7, 1910 (Scott Holland).
Consult other comments:
The Great Texts of the Bible
This extensive twenty-volume collection is a commentary of different essays, sermons, anecdotes, and interpretations of various Scripture passages. Scottish Presbyterian minister James Hastings compiled The Great Texts of the Bible in the early twentieth century.
James Hastings (1852–1922) was a Scottish Presbyterian minister and theologian and the editor of many biblical works. He studied at the University of Aberdeen and the Free Church Divinity College. In 1884, he was ordained a Free Church minister. Born in Huntly, Aberdeenshire, he studied the classics at the University of Aberdeen and attended the Free Church Divinity College in Aberdeen. He was the founder and editor of the Expository Times.