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What is the Gospel?

Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel, for which I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal. 2 Timothy 2:8-9.

Timothy was, it seems, quite timid by nature (2 Timothy 1.7) and a large part of Paul’s purpose in writing this letter to him is to encourage him to stand up boldly for the faith. That is the context of these verses; and this is to be the source of the courage Timothy needs — remembering “Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David,” which is, says Paul, “my gospel” — the gospel for which he is in chains.

At first reading that seems strange. If I were asked to sum up the gospel in nine words (eight in the Greek) it would certainly not be the words Paul chooses here, which are literally: “Jesus [the] Messiah having been raised from [the] dead of [the] seed of David.” Yet, clearly, they are very deliberately chosen words, for Paul sums up his gospel in almost these same terms elsewhere, in Romans 1:1-4 …

“Paul, a servant of the Messiah Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God — the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures — regarding his Son, who as to his human nature was a descendant of David, and who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus the Messiah our Lord.”

But this fuller summary of Paul’s gospel in Romans 1 helps me to see what he is getting at in reminding Timothy of it. It is a declaration that the resurrection has marked out Jesus of Nazareth, descended from David, as the true Messiah of Israel, the authentic son of God, and thus the rightful ruler of the world. No wonder Paul was in chains! Caesar claimed that he was the son of a god and the ruler of the world, but Paul’s gospel is a straightforward denial of that. There is only one king and it is King Jesus. That is the truth which, whatever opposition and mockery and persecution he encounters, Timothy is to hang onto and the truth from which he is to draw his courage … and it is, of course, the truth from which I am to draw mine too.

King Jesus, keep me loyal to you this day in all I am and do and say. Amen.

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