Sunday, September 13, 2009

Why Four Gospels? Part II

We come back to the question, Why four gospels? We are trying to answer that question by providing four distinct reasons. Last time we looked at the first reason. The first reason was seen by examining their Distinctive Peculiarities. We stated that each gospel has at least two distinctive peculiarities – their design and their deficiency. Now we will look their Distinctive Purpose. Why four gospels? Well, because one or maybe even two gospels would not have been sufficient enough to give to us a perfect presentation of Jesus Christ. Each gospel when studied carefully reveals a distinctive purpose. Let’s take a moment and examine the distinctive purpose of each gospel. We will begin with Matthew Matthew was written to present to the Jewish nation Jesus as Messiah and King. Matthew is considered the Jewish gospel. Matthew presents the life and ministry of Jesus Christ in such a way so that it appeals to the Jewish mind, particularly for the Jew who knows his Old Testament. Matthew presupposes knowledge of the Old Testament. Matthew presents Jesus as the Messiah of Israel. His message is, “Behold, your King.” All the material that he chooses to use or not use supports his primary purpose. Matthew crafted his gospel to demonstrate Jesus’ messianic identity, his inheritance of the Davidic kingship over Israel, and that he is the fulfillment of the promise made to his ancestor Abraham to be a blessing to all the nations. Matthew wrote his gospel for at least three (3) specific reasons: to encourage and confirm the persecuted Jewish Christians in their faith to confute their opponents and to prove that the gospel was not a contradiction of the teachings of the Old Testament. He makes 65 references to the OT! Only Jews would have appreciated and benefited from such references. to prove that the gospel is a fulfillment of the promises made to both Abraham and David The Jews needed a clear proof of the nature of Christ’s person and mission along with a clear refutation of the objections of unbelieving Jews. Next, let’s look at the purpose of Mark. Matthew traces the spread of the gospel to the dispersion of the Jews that came on the heels of the stoning of Stephen. Then the gospel, or the good news, spread from Judea to Samaria. At Caesarea a Roman centurion became a Christian. Acts records for us the forward movement of the gospel through Syria, Asia Minor, Macedonia, Greece, and to Rome. Many people became converts – the majority of these converts were Romans. So the time came for a gospel designed specifically for Romans. The tradition states that many Roman believers asked Mark to write down the preaching and teaching of Peter. So it seems that after Peter and Paul’s death in Rome, Mark took some time and wrote what he had learned and heard from Peter. What did he learn?
Well Mark presents Jesus as the servant and prophet. The Romans were active people. They were interested in actions & activities. Romans didn’t care about beginnings or pedigrees. Jesus is in the world to do, to do the will of God. Mark’s ultimate purpose seems to be to present and defend Jesus’ universal call to discipleship and service. As you read Mark you see that Mark designs his gospel to categorize his audience as either a follower or an opponent of Jesus Christ. Mark clearly delineates that discipleship is a relationship with Jesus not merely following a certain code of conduct. In other words, you be active in faith. Mark writes primary to a gentile audience. It appears that his audience is the Romans. His message is, “Behold My Servant.” Third, we move to Luke. Luke was moved by the desire to confirm Theophilus in the faith of Christianity. Theophilus had become a believer and needed further instruction and confirmation in his new found faith. On a secondary level, it is agreed through church history that Luke’s gospel was also intended for a public distribution. It seems that Luke’s gospel was intended to be released to the Greek public, or to Greek Christians. Many who heard the gospel were bi or even tri-lingual, the primary language was Greek. At Antioch the gospel had been given to Greeks. So a need for a gospel suited to the Greek mind became evident. In keeping with the Greek mind this gospel would have to have a world-outlook. It would have to be excellent in its form, presentation, and style. God knew this and used Luke to produce this gospel that would appeal to Greek Christians. Luke reveals the humanity of the Lord Jesus Christ. Luke presents Jesus as the Perfect Man. As a matter of fact the only perfect man to have ever lived. Luke presents Jesus in any number of circumstances with all types of people. Luke’s message is, “Behold, the Son of Man.” So, in trying to answer the question, why four Gospels, we see that first of all each gospel had distinctive peculiarities which we saw in both their design and deficiency, and that each gospel has distinctive purposes which we saw displayed in a three fold view of Jesus given by Matthew, Mark, and Luke. We move to the third reason that answers the question, why four gospels? We see their Distinctive Preferences. There are really only two (2) preferences that I want to bring out and each one can be seen briefly. These preferences are their chronological meter and their cataloging of material. Let’s look first at Their Chronological Meter If we did not have John, and only had the first three gospels it would appear that Christ only attended one Passover in Jerusalem and that his ministry only lasted approximately one (1) year. John records 3; if not 4 Passovers and more than one visit to Jerusalem and give us the chronology of a three + year ministry by Jesus. The three gospels center on the ministry of Jesus in Galilee and the surrounding areas. John focuses more on Jesus various visits to Jerusalem to observe various feasts Finally, we also see their preferences in their Cataloging of their Material. The center of the OT is the manifestation of the glory of God revealed to his chosen people. John declares that this glory appears essentially in Christ. Each of the gospels catalog specific material akin to their purpose. None of the gospels contradicts the other gospels, including John. John, written last, and possibly some 20-30 years after the others, does not set out to find the errors in the other gospels in order to correct them. John does imply knowledge of other events in Jesus’ life that he does not record or tell us about. He just catalogs what is necessary to his peculiar purpose or design. Well, we wrap up this lesson on why four gospels, with a look at their Distinctive Partisanship. It should be obvious by now that each gospel stand independently on their unique purpose and design. These gospels can not be harmonized perfectly or completely. They were written as God directed through inspiration to complete a divinely ordained task. Just like the democrats, the republicans, and the independent party have their own partisan platform, the gospels have theirs. Remember - the gospels were not written to complete each other. They were written for specific purposes directly related to what the individual writers intended to say. Look for that purpose and interpret accordingly. When you interpret accordingly you can then make proper applications. Matthew – partisan to the Jewish Christians with an OT background Mark – partisan to the Roman Christians who were concerned about action Luke – partisan to the Greek Christians who were contemplative & intellectual
Secondly, I want you to Resist -, trying to synthesize them when you study these gospels individually. Don’t try and put them together. Use them together to properly interpret scripture but don’t try to harmonize them.
Thirdly, I want you to Recognize their individuality, their unique and specific purpose, their definite partisanship and increase your knowledge of the gospel and of Jesus Christ.
Next week we will take a look at the purpose of John. See ya then!!

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