Are we only sharing half of the gospel?

God established his eternal kingdom, and the resurrected Yeshua as the Lord of that kingdom.

If you were to ask almost any preacher or believer in any congregation today what the gospel is, you will most likely receive the answer: “the gospel is the death, burial and resurrection of Yeshua.” Where does this basic understanding come from?

As the apostle Paul is wrapping up his first epistle to the Corinthians, he includes this passage.

1 Corinthians 15:1-8 – Now I want to make clear for you, brothers and sisters, the gospel I preached to you, which you received, on which you have taken your stand and by which you are being saved, if you hold to the message I preached to you ​– ​unless you believed in vain. For I passed on to you as most important what I also received: that Messiah died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve. Then he appeared to over five hundred brothers and sisters at one time; most of them are still alive, but some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one born at the wrong time, he also appeared to me.

So this isolated passage is the source of the death, burial and resurrection gospel of the Messiah. It’s not completely without reason, because Paul is obviously trying to “make clear” the gospel that was saving them and on which they have “taken their stand.” Messiah died for their sins, was buried, and raised, all in fulfillment of Scripture. What could be clearer than that?

Well, when we look at an isolated passage, even if it is in the context of the book it is in, we can sometimes draw incomplete conclusions. So if we want to really know what the gospel is, the simplest way is to see what Yeshua taught on the subject, since Paul’s teaching would obviously have to line up with Messiah’s. Did Yeshua go around preaching about his own death, burial, and resurrection?

In fact, he did prophetically reveal to his disciples what would happen to him, even if they didn’t fully understand.

Matthew 17:22-23 – And while they were gathering together in Galilee, Yeshua said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men; and they will kill Him, and He will be raised on the third day.” And they were deeply grieved.
Mark 9:9-10 – As they were coming down from the mountain, He gave them orders not to relate to anyone what they had seen, until the Son of Man rose from the dead. They seized upon that statement, discussing with one another what rising from the dead meant.

He also did declare that his death, burial, and resurrection would be the “sign” to the non-believing Jews that he was indeed the Messiah:

Matthew 12:39-40 – But He answered and said to them, “An evil and adulterous generation craves for a sign; and yet no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet; for just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.
Luke 11:29 – As the crowds were increasing, He began to say, “This generation is a wicked generation; it seeks for a sign, and yet no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah.

But this was all very cryptic to both his disciples and his detractors, especially since he had not yet died and been risen. However, we do find a gospel, or good news message, that Yeshua clearly preached throughout his public ministry.

Matthew 4:23 – Yeshua was going throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness among the people.
Matthew 9:35 – Yeshua was going through all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness.
Matthew 24:14 – “This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come.
Luke 4:43 – But he said to them, “It is necessary for me to proclaim the good news about the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because I was sent for this purpose.”
Luke 8:1 – Afterward he was traveling from one town and village to another, preaching and telling the good news of the kingdom of God. The Twelve were with him,
Luke 16:16- “The Law and the Prophets were until John; since then, the good news of the kingdom of God has been proclaimed, and everyone is urgently invited to enter it.

The good news or gospel message that Yeshua taught was the message of the kingdom, the kingdom of God that would establish the Messiah upon the throne of his ancestor David. This good news of the kingdom arriving was the message of Yeshua’s gospel.

So was Paul’s gospel about Yeshua’s death and resurrection different than Yeshua’s gospel about the kingdom? Only if we think that the message of Yeshua’s death and resurrection is the WHOLE gospel. In reality, we find that this is only HALF of the gospel. Yeshua dying for sin and being resurrected only makes sense in the overall context of the good news about the kingdom of God. Messiah’s resurrection allowed him to assume the throne of his ancestor David in an eternal kingdom, just as had been covenanted with David and was prophesied in Scripture.

Psalm 132:11 – Yahweh swore an oath to David, a promise he will not abandon: “I will set one of your offspring on your throne.”

When we look at the larger perspective of what the apostles were actually preaching throughout the world as the gospel, it contained both the death and resurrection of Messiah AND the kingdom of God.

Acts 2:29-32 – “Brothers and sisters, I can confidently speak to you about the patriarch David: He is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. “Since he was a prophet, he knew that God had sworn an oath to him to seat one of his descendants on his throne. Seeing what was to come, he spoke concerning the resurrection of the Messiah: He was not abandoned in Hades, and his flesh did not experience decay. God has raised this Yeshua; we are all witnesses of this.

Peter here in his famous sermon spoke both about the throne of David and the resurrection of Messiah, which made attainment of that throne possible.

Acts 8:12 – But when they believed Philip, as he proclaimed the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Yeshua Messiah, both men and women were baptized.
Acts 28:23 – After arranging a day with him, many came to him at his lodging. From dawn to dusk he expounded and testified about the kingdom of God. He tried to persuade them about Yeshua from both the Law of Moses and the Prophets.
Acts 28:30-31 – Paul stayed two whole years in his own rented house. And he welcomed all who visited him, proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Yeshua Messiah with all boldness and without hindrance.

Notice Philip and Paul were both teaching about the kingdom of God AND about Yeshua as the Messiah, the Lord of that kingdom. The two narratives tie together in perfect harmony: God establishing his eternal kingdom, and the resurrected Yeshua as the Lord of that kingdom.

Even in the epistle to the Corinthians where the death/burial/resurrection gospel idea comes from, time after time Paul speaks about the kingdom:

1 Corinthians 4:20 – For the kingdom of God does not consist in words but in power.
1 Corinthians 6:9-10 – Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God.
1 Corinthians 15:24, 50 – then comes the end, when He hands over the kingdom to the God and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power. … Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.

While Paul clarifies good news in the gospel passage of 1 Corinthians 15, he says, “For I passed on to you as most important what I also received…” The most significant aspect of the good news, or that which is of primary importance, is the death of Messiah for sin and his resurrection to eternal life, witnessed by hundreds of people. If this is not true, then the kingdom of God cannot be established, since the covenant with David requires an immortal descendant of his to sit on that eternal throne.

However, if we look only at the death/burial/resurrection as the totality of the gospel message, we are missing half of the story. The real reason that his death and resurrection is important is because now the kingdom of God is established with its rightful Lord, the immortal Messiah Yeshua. He rules until all of his enemies are made his footstool; i.e., until all come to recognize his lordship.

Psalm 110:1-2: “Yahweh said unto my Lord, Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool. Yahweh shall send the rod of your strength out of Zion: rule in the midst of your enemies.”

Messiah has been firmly established upon the throne of his ancestor David and is ruling from Zion, the New Jerusalem, until his enemies are no more. This is the motivation we have to continue to spread this good news, the gospel of the kingdom AND its Lord, the Messiah Yeshua, who died for sin and rose to live as the Lord of the eternal kingdom of God.

Let’s be sure that when we are sharing the gospel or good news, that it is the WHOLE gospel of the kingdom of God and its Lord, Yeshua the eternal Messiah.


If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive on our Podcast Page, at Core of the Bible on Simplecast, or your favorite podcast streaming service.

Now also on YouTube! Just getting started, but new videos will be added regularly on many different topics, find us at: Core of the Bible on YouTube.

Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

Maintaining integrity through biblical persecution

Integrity involves standing up for what’s right, even while enduring hostile environments.

Core of the Bible podcast #45 – Maintaining integrity through biblical persecution

Today we will be exploring the topic of integrity, and how maintaining one’s integrity and righteousness through severe persecution is a characteristic that God honors. One who faithfully endures is considered blessed by God.

Yeshua stated it this way:

Matthew 5:10 -Blessed are those who have been persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.

Integrity involves standing up for what’s right, even while enduring hostile environments. In our day, the concept of persecution has been unfortunately trivialized into essentially any notion of being ridiculed or spoken out against. However, in biblical terms, the concept of persecution conveys the act of having to flee from those who are intent on injuring or even killing those who have opposing viewpoints. That’s a much different emphasis than we see today.

To illustrate this, the apostle Paul recounts to Timothy some of the persecution he endured during his missionary journeys:

2 Timothy 3:10-11 – But you have followed my teaching, conduct, purpose, faith, patience, love, and endurance, along with the persecutions and sufferings that came to me in Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra.

Here he mentions three towns in which he specifically suffered persecution and suffering: Antioch, Iconium and Lystra. Interestingly, we have these accounts preserved for us in the book of Acts, so let’s review them to get a better idea of how Paul views the topic of persecution.

Acts 13:43-46, 50 – After the synagogue [in Antioch] had been dismissed, many of the Jews and devout converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas, who were speaking with them and urging them to continue in the grace of God. The following Sabbath almost the whole town assembled to hear the word of the Lord. But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and began to contradict what Paul was saying, insulting him. Paul and Barnabas boldly replied, “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken to you first. Since you reject it and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, we are turning to the Gentiles. … But the Jews incited the prominent God-fearing women and the leading men of the city. They stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas and expelled them from their district.

Here it doesn’t say what the specific persecution was except to say that Paul’s detractors rallied enough support to have him physically expelled from their district. He was essentially run out of town.

Iconium

Acts 14:1-2, 5-6 – In Iconium they entered the Jewish synagogue, as usual, and spoke in such a way that a great number of both Jews and Greeks believed. But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers. … When an attempt was made by both the Gentiles and Jews, with their rulers, to mistreat and stone them, they found out about it and fled to the Lycaonian towns of Lystra and Derbe and to the surrounding countryside.

In this instance, Paul and those with him found out ahead of time of a plan that the Jews had rallied in a violent rush with anyone who would side with them to mistreat them (which literally means to exercise violence) and to stone them. Once again, they found out just in time and were forced out of town at the incitement of mob violence against them.

Lystra

Acts 14:8-12 – In Lystra a man was sitting who was without strength in his feet, had never walked, and had been lame from birth. He listened as Paul spoke. After looking directly at him and seeing that he had faith to be healed, Paul said in a loud voice, “Stand up on your feet! ” And he jumped up and began to walk around. When the crowds saw what Paul had done, they shouted, saying in the Lycaonian language, “The gods have come down to us in human form! ” Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul, Hermes, because he was the chief speaker.

They then began to preach to the crowds, denying that they were gods and that they were only men.

Acts 14:18-20 – Even though they said these things, they barely stopped the crowds from sacrificing to them. Some Jews came from Antioch and Iconium [the two towns which had expelled them], and when they won over the crowds, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, thinking he was dead. After the disciples gathered around him, he got up and went into the town. The next day he left with Barnabas for Derbe.

Here in Lystra, we see his persecutors finally caught up with him and stoned him until they thought he was dead. Some commentators think Paul actually did die here and the disciples prayed and he was brought back to life, but the text doesn’t explicitly say so. Either way, he was left for dead which shows the violence of the stoning, and yet he miraculously recovered enough to get back up and make it to the next town.

Recounting these experiences with Timothy, he writes:

2 Timothy 3:12 – What persecutions I endured ​– ​and yet the Lord rescued me from them all. In fact, all who want to live a godly life in Messiah Yeshua will be persecuted.

FB Meyer in his commentary on this passage writes:

“Christian piety cannot continue without persecution, because the world is hostile to the kingdom of God… “

And then he cites some of these passages as examples:

John 15:18-21 – “If the world hates you, understand that it hated me before it hated you. “If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own. However, because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of it, the world hates you. “Remember the word I spoke to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. “But they will do all these things to you on account of my name, because they don’t know the one who sent me.

Matthew 10:21-23 – “Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child. Children will rise up against parents and have them put to death. “You will be hated by everyone because of my name. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. “When they persecute you in one town, flee to another.

So we see persecution was predicted by Messiah, and was to be expected by believers who were holding to the integrity of their righteousness and the gospel of the kingdom.

Albert Barnes

Paul takes occasion from the reference to his own persecutions, to say that his case was not unique. It was the common lot of all who endeavored to serve their Redeemer faithfully; and Timothy himself, therefore, must not hope to escape from it. The apostle had a particular reference, doubtless, to his own times; but he has put his remark into the most general form, as applicable to all periods. It is undoubtedly true at all times, and will ever be, that they who are devoted Christians – who live as the Saviour did – and who carry out his principles always, will experience some form of persecution. The “essence” of persecution consists in “subjecting a person to injury or disadvantage on account of his opinions.” It is something more than meeting his opinions by argument, which is always right and proper; it is inflicting some injury on him; depriving him of some privilege, or right; subjecting him to some disadvantage, or placing him in less favorable circumstances, on account of his sentiments.

This may be either an injury done to his feelings, his family, his reputation, his property, his liberty, his influence; it may be by depriving him of an office which he held, or preventing him from obtaining one to which he is eligible; it may be by subjecting him to fine or imprisonment, to banishment, torture, or death. If, in any manner, or in any way, he is subjected to disadvantage on account of his religious opinions, and deprived of any immunities and rights to which he would be otherwise entitled, this is persecution. Now, it is doubtless as true as it ever was, that a man who will live as the Saviour did, will, like him, be subjected to some such injury or disadvantage. On account of his opinions, he may be held up to ridicule, or treated with neglect, or excluded from society to which his attainments and manners would otherwise introduce him, or shunned by those who might otherwise value his friendship. These things may be expected in the best times, and under the most favorable circumstances; and it is known that a large part of the history of the world, in its relation to the church, is nothing more than a history of persecution. It follows from this:

(1) that they who make a profession of religion, should come prepared to be persecuted. It should be considered as one of the proper qualifications for membership in the church, to be willing to bear persecution, and to resolve not to shrink from any duty in order to avoid it.

(2) they who are persecuted for their opinions, should consider that this may be one evidence that they have the spirit of Christ, and are his true friends. They should remember that, in this respect, they are treated as the Master was, and are in the goodly company of the prophets, apostles, and martyrs; for they were all persecuted. Yet,

(3) if we are persecuted, we should carefully inquire, before we avail ourselves of this consolation, whether we are persecuted because we “live godly in Christ Jesus,” or for some other reason. A man may embrace some absurd opinion, and call it religion; he may adopt some mode of dress irresistibly ludicrous, from the mere love of singularity, and may call it “conscience;” or he may be boorish in his manners, and uncivil in his deportment, outraging all the laws of social life, and may call this “deadness to the world;” and for these, and similar things, he may be contemned, ridiculed, and despised. But let him not infer, “therefore,” that he is to be enrolled among the martyrs, and that he is certainly a real Christian. That persecution which will properly furnish any evidence that we are the friends of Christ, must be only that which is “for righteousness sake” Matthew 5:10, and must be brought upon us in an honest effort to obey the commands of God.

(4) let those who have never been persecuted in any way, inquire whether it is not an evidence that they have no religion. If they had been more faithful, and more like their Master, would they have always escaped? And may not their freedom from it prove that they have surrendered the principles of their religion, where they should have stood firm, though the world were arrayed against them? It is easy for a professed Christian to avoid persecution, if he yields every point in which religion is opposed to the world. But let not a man who will do this, suppose that he has any claim to be numbered among the martyrs, or even entitled to the Christian name.

Matthew 10:38-39 – “And whoever doesn’t take up his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. “Anyone who finds his life will lose it, and anyone who loses his life because of me will find it.


In denouncing the corruption of the Jewish leaders, Yeshua foretold the horrendous actions they would perform on the “prophets, wise men, and scribes” that would be sent to continue to warn them of their wickedness:

Therefore, behold, I send to you prophets, wise men, and scribes. Some of them you will kill and crucify; and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute [i.e., chase with intent to kill] from city to city, that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zachariah son of Barachiah, whom you killed between the sanctuary and the altar. Most certainly I tell you, all these things will come upon this generation. – Matthew 23:34-36

He also warned his followers that they would experience these things in standing for the truth of his words:

But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and will persecute [i.e., chase with intent to kill] you, delivering you up to synagogues and prisons, bringing you before kings and governors for my name’s sake. – Luke 21:12

History bears out that this is exactly what happened, and believers were hunted and rooted out of synagogues for believing in Messiah. They were scourged, stoned, imprisoned, and killed for maintaining the integrity of their faith. These actions, according to the teaching of Yeshua in the Sermon on the Mount, means they were blessed by God for maintaining their integrity and righteousness in the face of the most intense persecution, and they were then inheritors of the kingdom of God.

Some of you may be familiar with Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, a work that was produced in the middle ages detailing the gruesome torture that many professing Protestants suffered at the hands of the Catholic Inquisitors in England and Scotland at that time. As shocking as some of the descriptions of the methods of torture are, it is even more sobering to consider how these practitioners could possibly be so exceedingly cruel to other humans.

This is a far cry from those today who claim persecution because of receiving negative comments on social media, or having others simply disagree with their views and call them names. While maintaining our integrity is still just as valuable in those situations, to claim those mere inconveniences as persecution is dishonoring our spiritual forebears who quite literally put their lives and the lives of their family members, their very daily existence, at risk because of their views of Messiah.

In that first century, we see that early believers suffered many risks to life and dangers, some of which are detailed for us within the pages of Scripture itself. Here are a few examples.

Peter and John put in prison

Acts 4:1-3 – While they [Peter and John] were speaking to the people, the priests, the captain of the temple police, and the Sadducees confronted them, because they were annoyed that they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Yeshua the resurrection of the dead. So they seized them and took them into custody until the next day since it was already evening.

Acts 5:17-21, 25-26, 28-29, 40-41 – Then the high priest rose up. He and all who were with him, who belonged to the party of the Sadducees, were filled with jealousy. So they arrested the apostles and put them in the public jail. But an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the jail during the night, brought them out, and said, “Go and stand in the temple, and tell the people all about this life.” Hearing this, they entered the temple at daybreak and began to teach.

… Someone came and reported to them, “Look! The men you put in jail are standing in the temple and teaching the people.” Then the commander went with the servants and brought them in without force, because they were afraid the people might stone them. … “Didn’t we strictly order you not to teach in this name? Look, you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man’s blood.” Peter and the apostles replied, “We must obey God rather than people. … After they called in the apostles and had them flogged, they ordered them not to speak in the name of Yeshua and released them. Then they went out from the presence of the Sanhedrin, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to be treated shamefully on behalf of the Name.

Stephen

After denouncing the Jewish council of their hard-heartedness toward the truth of God, the account states that the disciple Stephen was literally stoned to death.

Acts 7:55-60 – Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven. He saw the glory of God, and Yeshua standing at the right hand of God. He said, “Look, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God! ” They yelled at the top of their voices, covered their ears, and together rushed against him. They dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. And the witnesses laid their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. While they were stoning Stephen, he called out: “Lord Yeshua, receive my spirit! ” He knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them! ” And after saying this, he died.

Then in the following chapter, we read:

Acts 8:1-3 – Saul agreed with putting him to death. On that day a severe persecution broke out against the congregation in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout the land of Judea and Samaria. Devout men buried Stephen and mourned deeply over him. Saul, however, was ravaging the congregation. He would enter house after house, drag off men and women, and put them in prison.

Acts 12:1-3 – About that time King Herod violently attacked some who belonged to the congregation, and he executed James, John’s brother, with the sword. When he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter too, during the Festival of Unleavened Bread.

So far we have prison, flogging, and stoning to death, disciples being chased out of their homes, and execution. The record goes on to list other mob actions, imprisonments and trials. In fact, there is almost no chapter in the book of Acts where some type of persecution is NOT taking place. This is a sobering thought and to my way of thinking, one that is not emphasized enough in contemporary Bible teaching.

Paul and his companions lived out this very mantra he related to Timothy:

2 Timothy 3:12 – …all who want to live a godly life in Messiah Yeshua will be persecuted.

It may seem overwhelming and slightly depressing to recognize that persecution should be considered routine for the believer. However, it needs to be noted that many positive events resulted due to the persecutions they endured. The disciples were noted as joining in prayer, being filled with the Spirit, creating unity and having a positive witness. There was spreading of the gospel, people coming to Messiah, and larger witnesses to the ruling authorities of the power of God. When they were persecuted, the disciples continued to preach and to witness to others.

But in the eyes of God, the persecution was to be expected, and it’s still ok today when it happens. It had happened to the faithful who had preceded the disciples, as outlined in the book of Hebrews:

Hebrews 11:35-39 – Women received their dead, raised to life again. Other people were tortured, not accepting release, so that they might gain a better resurrection. Others experienced mockings and scourgings, as well as bonds and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawed in two, they died by the sword, they wandered about in sheepskins, in goatskins, destitute, afflicted, and mistreated. The world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and on mountains, hiding in caves and holes in the ground. All these were approved through their faith, but they did not receive what was promised…

If it was only together with the believers in Messiah that these saints received their inheritance, then how much more can we be motivated to withstand the resistance we face today? Light and darkness cannot coexist in the same space, so it’s not unreasonable to conclude that those who don’t want to be exposed will tend to resist. Remember the words of Yeshua that I shared earlier:

John 15:18-21 – “If the world hates you, understand that it hated me before it hated you. “If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own. However, because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of it, the world hates you. “Remember the word I spoke to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. “But they will do all these things to you on account of my name, because they don’t know the one who sent me.

While there are areas of the world where legitimate persecution for the kingdom still exists, we can be truly thankful to God that in free societies our voices can be heard, and our lives are not daily in jeopardy for believing in, and sharing the light of, his Messiah.

This should motivate us all the more to demonstrate integrity by maintaining the truth of our faith in all of our words and actions, and in our relationships and interactions with those around us. Doing so can result in many of the positive aspects of those persecutions, the unity, witness to others and expansion of the kingdom coming to pass in each and every generation.


If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive on our Podcast Page, at Core of the Bible on Simplecast, or your favorite podcast streaming service.

Now also on YouTube! Just getting started, but new videos will be added regularly on many different topics, find us at: Core of the Bible on YouTube.

Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

How the Good Samaritan teaches us about inheriting eternal life

“What must I do to inherit eternal life?”

Core of the Bible podcast #43 – How the Good Samaritan teaches us about inheriting eternal life

Today we will be exploring the topic of compassion. In order to review this topic of compassion, I’m going to take a familiar section of Scripture, the story Yeshua told of the Good Samaritan, and break it down in a unique way, starting at the end and working back towards the beginning. I think it’s important to focus not only on compassion as Yeshua defines it, but on the motivation behind our compassion for others.

So let’s begin with how Yeshua, in story form, expresses what true compassion looks like:

Yeshua took up this question and said, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. … But when a Samaritan on a journey came upon him, he looked at him and had compassion. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Take care of him,’ he said, ‘and on my return I will repay you for any additional expense.’

Luke 10:30, 33-35

This famous passage is Yeshua’s definition of having compassion on one’s neighbor. True compassion is not just having a feeling of sympathy, but it is a sympathetic feeling that takes action. The Samaritan did some field first-aid, used his own transportation and brought him to a place where he could rest and recover with on-site care. The Samaritan was moved by compassion so strong that he was willing to interrupt his life to assist someone else, even if that someone was a stranger to him. Therefore, biblical compassion according to Yeshua looks outward to others who are in need, beyond the comfort of one’s own personal situation or condition and says, “What can I do to help?”

Well, with that basic understanding, let’s begin our study of this passage at the conclusion to see how that objective is where Yeshua wants this questioner to arrive.

Luke 10:36-37 – “Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?”

“The one who showed mercy to him,” he said.

Then Yeshua told him, “Go and do the same.”

So the conclusion is that Yeshua says that this practice exhibited by the Good Samaritan is one that is to be copied and practiced. By saying, “Go and do the same,” Yeshua is commissioning this man, and by extension believers everywhere, to follow the example of the teaching of this story. We should all exhibit compassion in action to others when it is within our ability to do so.

Continuing to work our way backwards through this passage of the Good Samaritan, we see that the story itself was prompted from a discussion of the Law. An expert in the Law had come to Yeshua to find out more about how Yeshua viewed the totality of the Law. In response, Yeshua first asks his opinion about it.

Luke 10:26-28  – “What is written in the law? ” [Yeshua] asked him. “How do you read it?”

He answered, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind;” and “your neighbor as yourself.”

“You’ve answered correctly,” he told him.

Yeshua had also on other occasions verified that these two commandments were the most essential part of all of God’s Torah, his Word.

Matthew 22:35-40 – And one of them, an expert in the law, asked a question to test him: “Teacher, which command in the law is the greatest? “

He said to him, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the greatest and most important command.

“The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.”

Here, we see that the centrality of the two greatest commandments is key to Yeshua’s understanding of the entirety of the Law. To love your neighbor as yourself is a primary facet of belief; in fact, a sincere and true belief in the God of the Bible will result in love for others. Therefore, the primary motivation behind loving others ultimately stems from a deep, all-encompassing love for God. To “love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind” should be the desire of every believer.

To love him from the heart means it’s not just a rote belief, like a belief that maybe one’s family or parents have, but one that comes personally from a place of deep desire and personal longing.

To love God with all the soul is to recognize that the complex of emotional and moral understanding is in alignment with his standards and his will.

To love him with all of the mind is that the rational balance of all personal longing and moral understanding are worked out in practical ways of thinking and imagination. All of the being is wrapped up in seeking to understand God’s workings in this world and to align oneself as much as possible with this reality and worldview.

Only when one is imbued with this sense of love for God will one have the appropriate motivation to help others as needed.  Then, loving others becomes simple and achievable, because the motivation and the perspective align with accomplishing all of God’s desires.

Luke 10:31-33 – “A priest happened to be going down that road. When he saw him, he passed by on the other side. In the same way, a Levite, when he arrived at the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan on his journey came up to him, and when he saw the man, he had compassion.”

To make a finer point, Yeshua mentions that the religious people in the story, the priest and the Levite (who was of the Jewish tribe of priestly helpers) were too preoccupied with their own righteous indignation to provide any help. The stranger on the side of the road could have been anyone, possibly unclean. By contrast, the Samaritan, someone hated by the religious Jews, was ultimately the one to provide the necessary help to the person who had been attacked. He was the one who demonstrated that he truly loved God, and that he had the proper motivation for the task at hand.

Here’s an interesting thought: To the Jewish mind in that day, having a Samaritan as the hero of a story on morality would have been a detestable outcome, in a similar way as having a member of an opposing political party be the hero might affect us today. There was a diametrical opposition to doctrinal ideals between the two.

Even Yeshua understood that, in general, the Samaritans held incorrect doctrinal beliefs. We know this from an exchange Yeshua has with a Samaritan woman over proper worship. The Samaritan woman kept pressing Yeshua over his unusual discussion they were having at the well of Jacob, which culminated in a discussion of the appropriate place to worship.

John 4:20-22 – “Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews say that the place to worship is in Jerusalem.”   Jesus told her, “Believe me, woman, an hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know. We worship what we do know, because salvation is from the Jews.

Yet, even with a recognition of the reality of these types of doctrinal difference between the Samaritans and the Jews, Yeshua makes a Samaritan out to be the hero of the story that he is telling to a religious Jew about what true compassion looks like. What does that say about Yeshua? Is he validating that doctrine just doesn’t matter, as long as one is sincere in what one believes? No, not really.

The largest difference between the Samaritans and the Jews was over the canon of Scripture at the time. The Samaritans believed that only the first five books of the Bible by Moses were inspired; there were no more inspired writings beyond those. The Jews of the day, including Yeshua, believed all of the Psalms, Prophets, and other historical writings that are now included in our Old Testament were inspired writings as well.

We can understand more about this exchange by considering that the woman doesn’t apparently have any depth of commitment to her Samaritan doctrinal beliefs about the books of Moses; she is merely parroting the disagreements of others. How can we know? Well, Yeshua revealed she had a hidden record of insecurity and disobedience to the very Law that Samaritans claimed was inspired. He prophetically revealed that she had multiple husbands and was currently living with someone she was not married to. The practical outworking of her beliefs were evidenced in her actions. Her practices weren’t acceptable even by Mosaic standards.

Leviticus 20:10 – “If a man commits adultery with a married woman ​– ​if he commits adultery with his neighbor’s wife ​– ​both the adulterer and the adulteress must be put to death.

Yeshua knew her heart. She was not really a follower of the one true God, but a follower of her own passions using a doctrinal smokescreen to obscure the real issues. His conversation with her was an attempt at drawing her and ultimately her villagers to an understanding of his Messiahship.

To Yeshua, doctrine clearly does matter, otherwise, he would not have disputed with the religious leaders of the day. But to him, even more important than doctrine is where the heart, soul, and mind are in the service of that doctrine. In Yeshua’s way of thinking, even if one only has the five books of Moses and has a deep devout recognition of God and also of loving their neighbor, they can be exemplified as doing what God desires. The practical outworking of this core belief is evidenced by its actions.

The early disciples understood this as well, since we have only to read the rest of the New Testament teachings to show how this conclusion was continued on in the messages to their congregations.

For example, the apostle James, whom many consider to be the brother of Yeshua, drills down even further into the practicality of true faith in the practice of compassion with others:

James 2:15-16 – Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you tells him, “Go in peace; stay warm and well fed,” but does not provide for his physical needs, what good is that?

Paul also was sure to bring this topic up in his guidance of the early Galatian congregation.

Galatians 6:2 – Help carry each other’s burdens. In this way you will follow Messiah’s teachings.

Paul’s original wording here in his message to the believers in Galatia can be rendered within its Hebraic cultural context as, “In this manner you shall fulfill the torah of the Messiah.” This aspect of assisting others in need is considered by Paul to be the essence of Yeshua’s teaching, central to everything he stood for and practiced. We can see that Paul’s understanding of the centrality of this topic to Yeshua’s teaching, which is always in conformity with the Law, is indeed validated.

Okay, so we can see that the conclusion is to “go and do likewise” as the Samaritan did, and how doctrinal differences, while still important, can be placed on the back burner in light of the practical outworking of our love for God. But why even discuss this at all? What was it that began this discussion between Yeshua and this expert in the Law?

We can see that this whole discussion between the Law expert and Yeshua was prompted by this direct motivation:

Luke 10:25 – “Then an expert in the law stood up to test him…”

Notice first that the question being asked had an agenda behind it. Apparently this question about inheriting eternal life would force Yeshua to respond in a way that would potentially isolate some of the people from his teaching. If he answered in a way that consisted in some aspect other than the Law of God, he would isolate the very people he came to minister to: the lost sheep of Israel.

So, in a masterful move, Yeshua puts a pin his response while he reverses the question back on the Law expert himself:

Luke 10:26 – “What is written in the law? ” [Yeshua] asked him. “How do you read it?”

By having the man state what the “official” Jewish doctrine of how to attain eternal life should be, Yeshua would then be able to show how his own teaching in fact agrees with it.

Luke 10:27-28 – [The man] answered, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind;” and “your neighbor as yourself.”

“You’ve answered correctly,” [Yeshua] told him. “Do this and you will live.”

The man may have been stopped in his tracks for a moment when he saw that Yeshua was not contradicting the Jewish ideas of how to attain eternal life. According to Yeshua, loving God and loving one’s neighbor, when done sincerely and with the correct motives, results in eternal life.

Since the man’s previous goal of causing Yeshua to slip up had failed, he then asks a similarly loaded question of “who is my neighbor?” This may have been out of an attempt to still try to divide Yeshua’s audience over this question on how a neighbor is defined (a divisive topic at the time), or it may have been out of a sincere desire to know more, since the text says that he was wanting to “justify himself.”

Either way, this question was loaded in the sense that there were many Jewish debates of who was to be considered a neighbor. Was your neighbor just the person living next to you, or another member of your tribe, or only another member of the country and people of Israel? Did this “neighborliness” apply to non-Jewish people or members of other nations who were residing in the land, as well?

So to answer these questions, Yeshua then tells the story, which, as we have seen, extends neighborliness to even those who are not doctrinally aligned with you, and even if they are strangers. Loving actions overcome doctrinal differences.

So beyond the agenda of the law expert, what I find most interesting is the question that led into this whole discussion to begin with. “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”

Some scholars think that the Hebrew concept of eternal life was one that was not introduced into the Jewish way of thinking until during or after the Babylonian captivity. However, in the Graeco-Roman environment of Yeshua’s day, it was a well-known and much discussed issue.

What is even more interesting to me is the answer that Yeshua gave to that question. One might expect him to say something like, “believe in me,” or “I am the way, and the truth, and the life,” as he did in John’s gospel. But in this instance, he doesn’t say that. The expert in the Law had said the way to eternal life was to love the Lord your God with heart, soul, strength, and with all your mind, and to love your neighbor as yourself. To this, Yeshua simply answered, “You’ve answered correctly. Do this and you will live.”

This is a telling answer. By doing this (loving God and loving your neighbor) you will live.

In today’s terms, we might have different answers to this question, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” If someone came to you today and asked that same question, how would you answer it?

Some answers might include ideas about circumcision (if you’re Jewish), or being baptized (if you’re Christian). It might involve some other ritual to become “worthy” of eternal life. Maybe it might be a discussion over which version of the Bible is the only way to eternal life, or which denomination or group is the sole source of life. Perhaps it would be some specific doctrine or set of beliefs about God according to a creed that would be required.

No, the answer is much simpler: Love God with heart, soul, strength and mind. And it means the God of the Bible, not just any god of one’s own choosing. We need to recognize that all of this discussion about eternal life is in the context of the one true God of the Bible, with individuals who were raised on the Hebrew Scriptures. It is these Scriptures that do not allow for any other gods to be recognized as legitimate, so it’s important to keep that perspective in place when we are talking about God. There is only one God, Yahweh, the Creator of all, who deserves the devotion of our whole heart, soul, strength, and mind.

And the second part of the answer is to love others, not just your fellow congregants or neighborhood residents, but even strangers if they are in need. Yeshua even goes so far as to include loving enemies!

Loving God and loving your neighbor is the gospel of the kingdom that Yeshua shared with us. Since he is the way the truth and the life, then loving God and loving your neighbor is what it means to believe in Yeshua. This is because everything he taught was in alignment with the entire message of the Bible.

To demonstrate this, here are some examples of this message throughout the pages of Scripture.

Deuteronomy 6:4-5 – “Listen, Israel: Yahweh our God, Yahweh is one. “Love Yahweh your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.

Leviticus 19:18, 34 – “Do not take revenge or bear a grudge against members of your community, but love your neighbor as yourself; I am Yahweh.  … “You will regard the alien who resides with you as the native-born among you. You are to love him as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt; I am Yahweh your God.

Micah 6:8 – He has shown you, O man, what is good. What does Yahweh require of you, but to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?

Matthew 7:12 – In everything, then, do to others as you would have them do to you. For this is the essence of the Law and the Prophets.

Matthew 22:37-40 Yeshua declared, “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Romans 13:10 – Love does no wrong to a neighbor. Love, therefore, is the fulfillment of the law.

Galatians 5:14 – The entire law is fulfilled in a single decree: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

James 2:8 – If you really fulfill the royal law stated in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well.

Loving of one’s neighbor through compassion is only half of the equation of fulfilling the torah of God. Loving one’s neighbor can only be truly carried out when one first fully loves Yahweh; heart, soul, strength, and mind. And doing both of these demonstrates you are a follower of Yeshua the Messiah, and that he is Lord of your life when you act in compassionate ways because of your love of Yahweh.

Loving God and compassionately loving all others; this is the core of the Bible message and the path to eternal life that Yeshua represented.

If this is the lens through which we should be viewing the life and ministry of Yeshua, then, as his followers, how much more should these same qualities be evident in our own lives? Well, we know the answer to this question because he told us:

“Go and do likewise.”


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Sharing the truth responsibly

While those sacred pearls of wisdom that you have received from God may be priceless in your sight, they may not have the same effect on others who are not in a similar spiritual frame of reference.

Core of the Bible podcast #25- Sharing the truth responsibly

In this episode we will be exploring the topic of vigilance, and how we need to be highly aware of our audience when we are attempting to share the good news of the Kingdom of God. Yeshua stated it this way:

“Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.” Matthew 7:6

In essence, what he is saying is not to share something sacred or spiritually pure with those who are not receptive. While the message of the Bible can be good news to those who need to hear its message, not everyone is receptive to its principles.

In the Expositor’s Greek Testament commentary, the following explanation delves into that a little bit deeper.

“The “holy” and the “pearls” must define themselves for each individual in his own experience. They are the things which are sacred and precious for a man or woman, and which natural feeling teaches us to be careful not to waste or expose to desecration. For this purpose knowledge of the world, discrimination, is necessary. We must not treat all people alike, and show our valuables, religious experiences, best thoughts, tenderest sentiments, to the first comer. Shyness, reserve, goes along with sincerity, depth, refinement. In all shyness there is implicit judgment of the legitimate kind. A modest woman shrinks from a man whom her instinct discerns to be impure; a child from all hard-natured people. Who blames woman or child? It is but the instinct of self-preservation.”

This is not a new condition, and Yeshua was also no stranger to this principle:

Proverbs 9:7-8  He who corrects a scoffer gets dishonor for himself, And he who reproves a wicked man [gets] insults for himself. Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you…

Proverbs 29:27 An unjust person is detestable to the righteous, and one whose way is upright is detestable to the wicked.

John 7:7 The world cannot hate you, but it does hate me because I testify about it ​– ​that its works are evil.

Yeshua also gives us insight as to why some people are more receptive than others.

John 3:19-20 This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.

We need to exercise vigilance among those with whom we are sharing our insights and understanding. While those sacred pearls of wisdom that you have received from God may be priceless in your sight, they may not have the same effect on others who are not in a similar spiritual frame of reference.

The apostle John, in his gospel, relates how the depths of Yeshua’s teachings were not always well-received, even by some of his own followers; and yet he made no attempt to console them or win them back, he simply let them go.

John 6:57-69 As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father; so he who feeds on me, he will also live because of me. This is the bread which came down out of heaven—not as our fathers ate the manna, and died. He who eats this bread will live forever.” He said these things in the synagogue, as he taught in Capernaum. Therefore many of his disciples, when they heard this, said, “This is a hard saying! Who can listen to it?” But Jesus knowing in himself that his disciples murmured at this, said to them, “Does this cause you to stumble? Then what if you would see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the spirit who gives life. The flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and are life. But there are some of you who don’t believe.” For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who didn’t believe, and who it was who would betray him. He said, “For this cause have I said to you that no one can come to me, unless it is given to him by my Father.” At this, many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him. Jesus said therefore to the twelve, “You don’t also want to go away, do you?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

So while the disciples recognized the truth of Yeshua and his message, many others didn’t, and simply stopped following him.

In another place, when Yeshua was sending out the twelve disciples to the cities throughout Israel, he provided them the following direction.

Luke 9:2-5 He sent them forth to preach the Kingdom of God, and to heal the sick. He said to them, “Take nothing for your journey—neither staffs, nor wallet, nor bread, nor money; neither have two coats apiece. Into whatever house you enter, stay there, and depart from there. As many as don’t receive you, when you depart from that city, shake off even the dust from your feet for a testimony against them.”

Yeshua cautioned his disciples to walk circumspectly with those who are unreceptive, primarily as a testimony against them, but also for their own safety and well-being. This is a cautionary reminder to us as well that our brief time here will be better spent on investing in those who have willing and open hearts.

—–

As we move to stories of the early believers, we see the apostles also recognized this aspect of the gospel, that it would be best received by those who are most willing to hear it.

Acts 13:44-46 The next Sabbath almost the whole city was gathered together to hear the word of God. But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with jealousy, and contradicted the things which were spoken by Paul, and blasphemed. Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, and said, “It was necessary that God’s word should be spoken to you first. Since indeed you thrust it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we turn to the Gentiles.

Regarding the selective nature of whom the apostles were sharing the message with, Matthew Poole in his commentary adds the following:

“The gospel is to be preached to every creature, Mark 16:15. But when the Jews were hardened, and spake evil of that way before the multitude, Acts 19:9, the apostles left preaching to them. The precept doubtless is general, directing the ministers of Christ to administer the holy things, with which they are intrusted, only to such as have a right to them, and under prudent circumstances, so as the holy name of God may not be profaned, nor they run into needless danger.”

I find it interesting that he says believers are to minister holy things “only to those who have a right to them.” While I believe everyone has a right to understand the things of God, not everyone receives it equally well, and we need to be on guard to recognize that. The admonition for believers is to exercise care and discernment in sharing the wisdom of God with those who are not just resistant, but with those who are, or become, aggressive.

Going back to the passage that Matthew Poole referenced in Acts 19, we see this exemplified for us.

Acts 19:8-10 He [Paul] entered into the synagogue [in Ephesus], and spoke boldly for a period of three months, reasoning and persuading about the things concerning the Kingdom of God. But when some were hardened and disobedient, speaking evil of the Way before the multitude, he departed from them, and separated the disciples, reasoning daily in the school of Tyrannus. This continued for two years, so that all those who lived in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks.

Here in the Ephesian synagogue, some of the Jews had not only hardened themselves to the message of the gospel of the Kingdom, but they began trash-talking the believers of the true Way. Because of this, in his vigilance and care for the true believers and the integrity of the message, Paul simply separated himself and those who were sincere into a different meeting place. Ultimately, this was for their protection, but also for their edification. As such, this strategy appears to have been successful, as essentially all of Asia ended up hearing the message within a period of about two years.

As an aside, this may be a casual reference to the first recorded regular meeting place of the followers of Yeshua outside of an actual synagogue.

At any rate if we learn to spend our time and attention with those who are most willing to seek God‘s kingdom and to follow his precepts, we will be more successful in fulfilling God’s purpose.

Proverbs 9:8-9 …Reprove a wise man and he will love you. Give instruction to a wise man and he will be still wiser, Teach a righteous man and he will increase his learning.

Today we call this “discipling,” when in ancient times it was known simply as “giving knowledge.”

Yeshua alludes to this giving and receiving aspect of God’s wisdom when he explains to his disciples why he spoke in parables.

Matthew 13:10-17 The disciples came, and said to him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” He answered them, “To you it is given to know the mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven, but it is not given to them. For whoever has, to him will be given, and he will have abundance, but whoever doesn’t have, from him will be taken away even that which he has. Therefore I speak to them in parables, because seeing they don’t see, and hearing, they don’t hear, neither do they understand. In them the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled, which says, ‘By hearing you will hear, and will in no way understand; Seeing you will see, and will in no way perceive:

for this people’s heart has grown callous, their ears are dull of hearing, they have closed their eyes; or else perhaps they might perceive with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their heart, and should turn again; and I would heal them.’ “But blessed are your eyes, for they see; and your ears, for they hear. For most certainly I tell you that many prophets and righteous men desired to see the things which you see, and didn’t see them; and to hear the things which you hear, and didn’t hear them.

The message of God’s kingdom is one of selective hearing, to be sure, but it is also one of selective teaching. For those who are willfully resistant, the message of the kingdom was preached by Yeshua, but couched in parabolic symbolism. For those who were willing to receive the message, the information was shared freely, and further corroborated and illumined by the Spirit of God within them, as John explains.

1 John 2:27 And as for you, the anointing which you received of him abides in you, and you need not that any one teach you; but as his anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is no lie, and even as it taught you, abide in him.

If we are to follow the example of Messiah and the early believers, we should likewise be vigilant in recognizing our audience whenever we are sharing the good news of the kingdom. It not only makes sense, but it actually appears to be preferential in the Word of God to spend much more time sharing the truths of God’s Word with believers and those who are willing to listen than to cast our pearls before those who would only throw them back at us in disdain. As we do so, we can become much more efficient in sowing the seeds in the good soil, and less seeds on the rocky soil. In this way, we must take the time and wisdom to learn to not be reckless with the truth.


If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive here. Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.