Sunday, September 6, 2009

Why Four Gospels? Part I

God has given to his church four separate gospels with the intention of revealing himself and the plan of redemption for those whom he calls sinners. The first question that should come to mind is, Why Four Gospels?
We will attempt to answer the question of Why Four Gospels? by looking at the following four areas:
Peculiarities of each gospeleach gospel has peculiarities unto itself
Purpose of each gospeleach gospel was written with a distinct purpose
Preferences of each gospeleach gospel includes only what the particular author believed was necessary to serve and suit his distinct purpose
Partisanship of each gospeleach gospel is independent of the others
It goes without saying that the Gospels have always been very precious documents to the church. They have been loved and reverenced with great care from the moment they were written and circulated in the early church. So, Let’s take just a minute and answer the question, What is a gospel? A gospel is a theological narrative about Jesus Christ; a gospel teaches its theology while recounting the events surrounding the live of Jesus Christ. A gospel is told from the perspective of an observer of the events, who then guides you and me through the actions and thoughts of those who occupy this history. There is a second question you might ask, How does a gospel make its point?
A gospel makes it point through dialogue, narratives, speeches, activities and actions of the subjects involved. The gospel of John concentrates on portraying Jesus – it reveals to us his life, his character, his person, his values, his mission and his ethics.
Harry Ironside wrote: “In beginning a study of any of the gospels it is a good thing to ask and try to answer the question, why are there four gospels and why do they seem to differ one from another? Our God surely could have inspired one of His servants to write a continuous record of what Jesus said and did. Men write books in that manner, but it did not please the Father to do this. Instead of that He has given us four distinct records…” [1]
Keep in mind...
1. No section of the bible has been studied more than these four gospels.
2. The peculiar design and the character of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are rarely understood. 3. The need to study each gospel in its specific context, setting, grammar, and design is imperative to get the proper and intended glimpse of Jesus Christ and His Father, whom He was sent to reveal.
4. When you read through the four gospels you find very quickly that none of them provide a complete biography of the life and ministry of Jesus.
So, we come back to the question, Why four gospels? We will try and answer that question by providing for distinct reasons. This morning we will only look at the first reason. The first reason is seen by examining their Distinctive Peculiarities. All four gospels have several distinctive peculiarities. Let’s look at the first peculiarity and that is Their Design Their design is to provide us with pertinent details about the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. I think the key is pertinent, not every detail. Jesus himself states that he came to reveal the Father to those who had eyes to see and ears to hear. Matt 11:27 – “All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and know one knows the Son except the Father, and none one knows the Father except the Son and anyone whom the Son chooses to reveal Him.” John 17:25-26 – “O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these (apostles) know that you have sent me. I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.” So, what is their design? It is to reveal the Father who up until now had been really hidden behind, first, his glory, and secondly behind clouds, fire, smoke, fear, or mystery. God was a mystery to the Jews in the Old Testament. Now we are seeing God revealed in and by Jesus Christ. We can’t miss that when we read and study the gospels. We need to see more of and learn more of God the Father each time we read the gospels. Or we miss their design. It isn’t just the Christmas story, or parables, or miracles, or an encounter with an immoral woman at Jacob’s well. Each passage in the gospels is designed to reveal to us more and more of the character and the nature of the Father. So, when you read the gospels, and as we study John, look prayerfully and carefully for the character and nature of God. Never come to a passage in the gospels without learning more about God, about who he is, and what he has chosen to reveal to us through Christ. So, we see the first distinctive peculiarity of the four gospels by examining their design. The second distinctive peculiarity of the four gospels is Their Deficiency As I have already alluded to, none of the four gospels form a complete collective biography of the life of Jesus Christ. When we look at the accounts of Jesus ministry we soon discover that even these accounts are bits and pieces. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John select portions of Jesus teaching and they describe only a few of his miracles. Even John makes this clear when he writes, “Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.” (John 21:25 ESV)
Wouldn’t you like to know more about Jesus Christ?
Well, if the gospels are not complete biographies, what are they? First of all, they are four different accounts fully inspired by God We can have complete and absolute confidence in these four books. They are inspired by the HS and therefore are flawless, without error, they are true and they are perfect. Secondly, they are four different accounts, complete within themselves, written with distinctive design that by God’s choosing are deficient only in the fact that they are limited in what they record. What each author chose to include and what they chose to exclude is based upon their own distinct design and purpose for writing. What ever Matthew included, or John did not include was chosen because it was strictly relevant and pertinent to their peculiar theme or subject. Each one wrote exactly what supported, illustrated, or completed their design. Everything else was left out. This was why each writer was very selective in his material. Each writer selected material to help him accomplish his goal. Ernest Burton wrote: It must be remembered that it in accordance with the literary method of the first Christian century and of the adjacent periods to employ historical material into the form of an argument, or even stating anywhere in the course of the narrative what the facts were intended to prove. It was assumed that the reader or hearer would be shrewd enough to discover this for himself and this assumption was apparently amply justified.” [2] Thirdly, they are four different accounts with limitations that cause us to search all of Scripture to “fill in the blanks” We have to dig deep into various parts of the bible to fill in as much detail as we can. Otherwise it becomes easy to accuse the bible of having mistakes, errors, or discrepancies
To Be Continued....
[1] Harry A. Ironside, Addresses on the Gospel of John, (Loizeaux Brothers: Neptune, N.J.), p. 9
[2] Ernest DeWitt Burton, A Short Introduction to the Gospels, p.13

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