Mark 1:1 Commentary - Church Pulpit CommentaryWHAT IS THE GOSPEL?
‘The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.’
As God the Father gave His Son to be the Saviour of the world, so He also appointed faithful witnesses to teach men the salvation procured for them by Christ. Mark here gives a summary of what he intends to write. He says, in effect, that he is going to expound the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, which was begun in the manner the ancient prophets had predicted, and the progress of which corresponded in all points with what they foretold concerning it.
I. Define the term ‘Gospel.’—The word signifies glad tidings. The subject-matter of these tidings must be sought for in the writings of the Apostles. St. Paul (Rom 1:16) calls this Gospel ‘the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth.’ Perhaps the fullest and clearest definition of the Gospel is contained in 2Co 5:18-21 : ‘All things are of God, who hath reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ,’ etc. John in like manner describes the Gospel as being the testimony concerning Jesus Christ of those who had seen, handled Him, etc. (1Jn 1:1). The Gospel announces that God has fulfilled all the promises made to the Fathers by His Son Jesus Christ, Who became a man, undertook our cause, atoned for our sins by His death, conquered death by His resurrection, reconciles us to God, and consecrates us to His service by the obedience of faith. The Gospel, indeed, includes everything bearing upon our salvation.
II. Wherein does the preaching of the Gospel consist?—Look at the express teaching of Christ Himself, Who before His ascension said (Luk 24:46-47) ‘Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer.’ This definition of Gospel preaching contains—
(a) A record of facts, including both the Passion, and the Resurrection. It was with a view to these that the whole mystery of the Incarnation took place.
(b) The practical bearing of these facts, including Repentance and Remission of sins. He was exalted that He might give repentance and remission of sins (Act 5:31). These are preached in His name.
III. What is the end or design of Gospel preaching?—The obedience of faith (Rom 1:16; 2Co 10:5). By faith we acknowledge Christ as our only Saviour, and such a confession of Him produces obedience to Him. In this are comprehended all the duties which He requires of us, and indeed all true religion; our whole life is to be framed according to the rule prescribed by Christ in the Gospel. Mark calls Christ expressly the Son of God. He is speaking of Him as the source of salvation, and by calling Him the Son of God shows that He is so not as a man simply, but as co-eternal and co-essential with the Father. He places this at the very beginning of his Gospel, in order to show that Christ is able to save us, inasmuch as all things were made by Him.
IV. The method and scope of Christ’s life, teaching, and work.—Mark says it began and was carried on as the prophets had foretold. His purpose by this remark seems to have been to meet the objections of those who affirm that the doctrine of Christ was a novelty and an innovation. Novelties in religion have among all nations been strongly objected to, and Satan has taken advantage of this fact to prejudice men’s minds against the Gospel. Mark accordingly makes at once the announcement that the Gospel narrative agrees in all points with the ancient prophets. The way of salvation propounded in the Gospel is the most ancient of all doctrines, for it is contained in the first promise (Gen 3:15), which is expanded and developed in all subsequent promises made by God to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
(1) ‘As long as the twelve were still at Jerusalem, they were in themselves abiding witnesses to the facts which they announced; and if we may believe the accordant traditions of the early Church, it was not till they were scattered, and their work of preaching well-nigh finished, that the first authoritative record of the Gospel was composed. Thus Mark is said to have written down the substance of St. Peter’s public preaching. “Luke,” in like manner, “committed to a book the Gospel which Paul used to proclaim”; and though this rests upon a later authority, Matthew, when he was about to go to a fresh field of labour, left his Gospel to supply the place of the oral teaching in Palestine. The Gospel of John belongs to a yet later period, and is wholly separated from the cycle of oral narratives.’
(2) ‘In Mark we have not so much as in Matthew, the point of convergence of the prophetic rays in the Messiah, the son of Abraham and David. Not so much as in Luke, the fairest of the children of men, Priest and Victim, the Teacher of grace and forgiveness. Not so much as in John, the Eternal Word made flesh, floating in a robe of heavenly light. It is the Gospel whose emblem is the Lion, whose Hero is full of Divine love and Divine strength. It is the Gospel which was addressed to the Romans, to free them from the misery of scepticism, from the grinding dominion of superhuman force unguided by a loving will. Here, brief as it is, we have, in its essential germs, all the theology of the Church. Had every other part of the New Testament perished, Christianity might have been developed from this.’
(3) ‘The words, “the Son of God,” conveyed far more to Jewish minds than they do to ours. They were nothing less than an assertion of our Lord’s divinity. They were a declaration that Jesus was Himself very God, and “equal with God” (Joh 5:18). There is a beautiful fitness in placing this truth in the very beginning of a Gospel. The divinity of Christ is the citadel and keep of Christianity. Here lies the infinite value of the satisfaction He made upon the cross.’
(4) ‘Mark has the special gift of terse brevity, and of graphic painting in wonderful combination. While on every occasion he compresses the discourses, works, and history into the simplest possible kernel, he on the other hand, unfolds the scenes more clearly than Matthew does, who excels in the discourses. Not only do single incidents become in his hands complete pictures, but even when he is very brief, he often gives, with one pencil stroke, something new and peculiarly his own.’
THE GENESIS OF THE GOSPEL
I. Christ’s incarnation was a great beginning for humanity.—What birth is to a man, our Lord’s Incarnation was to the human race. Humanity then commenced a fresh lease of life—passed from infancy into manhood. It was the birthday of immortal hope. This was a moral evolution, an epoch in human development. Jesus Christ Himself is our Gospel. ‘God was in Christ’; this is the marrow of the ‘good news.’ Had not the Son of God become a Son of man, the sons of men had ne’er become the sons of God.
II. This beginning had its hidden roots in the past.—To the narrow horizon of our vision, it seems an event altogether new. Yet it was the natural outcome of the past. It was but another step in the unfolding of God’s eternal purpose. All the history of the past was culminating in the birth of Jesus Christ. Sinai foreshadowed Calvary. We can begin a new chapter in life; nevertheless, we cannot suddenly break with the past. Some thread of continuity, perhaps concealed, will bind the two parts.
III. This new creation is both like and unlike the old.—It is like, in that it opens with a voice. Attention is challenged for the message, not for the man: it is a Voice. The man is a cipher; the doctrine everything. It is unlike in the fiat uttered. In creation it was, ‘Be done!’ Now it is, ‘Prepare!’ Still that voice resounds ‘Prepare!’ To enjoy larger discoveries of God, Prepare! To receive richer donations of blessing, Prepare! For life’s tremendous responsibility, Prepare! For the heavenly scene and service, Prepare!
IV. Beginnings are often attended with pain.—The desert-life of John, with its ascetic austerities, was painful. The beginning of the Gospel was struggle, battle, upheaval, overthrow. The birth of the new means the death of the old.
V. The Gospel of Christ is a beginning without an end.—In the kingdom of Messiah, the prophecy becomes fact. ‘Thy sun shall no more go down.’ Where shall the reign of this Gospel end? In man’s reconciliation with God? in regeneration of character? in sonship? in elevation to heavenly seats? These are but successive steps in exaltation. ‘We shall be like Him!’ The Gospel is power—infinite power. Is there no limit to man’s development? None. By virtue of Christ’s Gospel, we are always beginning.
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Church Pulpit Commentary
The Church Pulpit Commentary includes work by various important members of the church such as Thomas Arnold who was a supporter of the Broad Anglican Church Movement, English theologian and socialist Rev. F.D. Maurice and John William Burgon who served as the Dean of Chichester Cathedral in 1876 and was an English Anglican Divine.