This article contrasts two gospels that have found their way into the New Testament — the gospel of Jesus and a gospel about Jesus.
Jesus was born as the prophesied Messiah or anointed one. While the Jews expected a Messiah’s coming based on ancient prophecies, they were hoping for a conqueror who would free Judea from Roman domination and set up an earthly kingdom. While Jesus came as a king, his kingdom was not of this world. Rather, it was the kingdom of God – a Celestial Kingdom of Divine Love. The anointing that Jesus received involved having in his heart and soul the presence of the Divine Love imparted by the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5). This was a gift from God given first to Jesus, but thereafter available to all who would ask for it with sincere and heartfelt prayer. Thus Jesus was the first of many brethren to become a true child of God (Romans 8:29), whose soul became transformed by the Divine Love from divine image into divine substance.
The message of the Divine Love that Jesus brought became lost in the copying and rewriting of the early manuscripts that were selected for inclusion in our biblical texts. However, traces of it can be seen throughout, in the same way that other traces of the early Christian teachings are apparent.
Indeed, the New Testament gospels contain several intertwining messages. This is the result of historical events being perceived and recorded by various individuals, as well as follow-up reinterpretations and editing by later writers and editors whose thinking and prejudices found their way into the texts as well. This article addresses two of the threads – namely the message of Jesus versus a later message about Jesus.
Key thoughts of the message that Jesus brought deal with the availability of Divine Love (imparted by the Holy Spirit) as follows:
- God is love (1 John 4:8, 16). This love (Greek agape) transcends the natural human love, which at its best can include unconditional acceptance and lofty deeds.
- God’s love was displayed by sending Jesus (1 John 4:9) and through him the message that the Divine Love and nature is available to humans as a gift for the asking. This was also the message that God’s kingdom was near (Matt. 4:17). Through acquiring the Divine Love, by which the individual’s will would align with divine will, the way to God’s kingdom (the Celestial Spheres) was open (Matt. 7:21).
- Jesus, as the Messiah (Christ or anointed) was the first to experience the new birth that he taught about. He manifested the Divine Love, received through the Holy Spirit, and set an example of a life motivated by this love (Matt. 11:29). While his countrymen expected him to establish an earthly kingdom and overthrow the Romans, Jesus taught that his kingdom was not visible in the ordinary sense. Yet, the kingdom was among them – through his person, and could be within them – by receiving the Divine Love in their souls as he had (Luke 17:21 – the Greek word can have both meanings).
- Those who in their soul desire the gift of the Divine Love and sincerely pray for it will receive it and have their soul transformed from divine image into divine substance. This is the new birth – being born again of imperishable seed or being born of God (John 1:13; 3:3, 5; Titus 3:5; 1 Peter 1:23;1 John 4:7).
- Jesus practiced and taught love for one another (1 John 3:11). The apostle John, who among the disciples was spiritually the closest to Jesus, later showed how if we truly love one another and walk as Jesus did, God lives in us and we in Him, and His love is made complete in us (1 John 2:5-6; 4:12, 16). The Divine Love transforming our souls gives us the knowledge of our unity with the Father (John 17:20-26).
- The Holy Spirit is a spirit of power, love and self-control (Acts 1:8; 2 Tim. 1:7). Jesus and his disciples manifested the gift of the Divine Love by the power to heal (e.g. Matt. 4:23; 12:15; 14:14).
- Jesus also used parables to help people understand the preciousness of this powerful, yet invisible gift, comparing it to a treasure or a pearl of great value worth all that one has (Matt. 13:44-46). He also showed its power to transform through the parables of the mustard seed and yeast in a batch of dough (Matt. 13:31-32). He taught that the Father is more willing to grant this gift to His children than earthly parents enjoy giving good gifts to their offspring (Luke 11:13).
- The gift of the Divine Love is referred to in the New Testament as
- Gift of grace (2 Cor. 9:13-15)
- Salvation by grace (not because of good deeds), through the washing of rebirth / new birth and renewal by the Holy Spirit (Tit. 3:5)
- Participation in the divine nature (2 Pet. 1:4)
- God’s glory (in the form of divine nature); it unites those who possess it and through their lives makes God known to those who don’t (John 17:20-26)
- Experiencing the fullness of God (Eph. 3:19)
- Power that works in us (Eph. 3:20)
- Power of God for salvation and righteousness of God by faith (Rom. 1:16-17)
- God’s light shining in our hearts to give us the knowledge of the glory of God (2 Cor. 4:6)
- Source of life and immortality (2 Tim. 1:10)
- Love poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit (Rom. 5:5)
- Love that surpasses all other gifts as well as knowledge (1 Cor. 13:1-3; Eph. 3:18-19)
- Being rooted and established in love (Eph. 3:17)
- Gift of the Holy Spirit, the spirit of grace (Luke 11:13; Acts 10:45, Heb. 10:29)
- Streams of living waters — the received Holy Spirit (John 7:38-39; 20:22) Note: God is metaphorically called the spring of living water (Jer. 2:13, 17:13)
- Living water permanently quenching [spiritual] thirst and becoming a spring welling up to eternal life (John 4:10-14).
- Spirit in our inner being (heart or soul) (Eph. 3:16; 2 Tim. 1:14), motivating us to do what is right (Rom. 7:22)
- Spirit of love and other God-like qualities that transcend the law (Gal. 5:22-23)
- Spirit in our hearts as a deposit for our glorious future in God’s kingdom (2 Cor. 1:22)
- Spirit which makes us true children of the Father and at one with Him, as well as heirs of divine glory (Rom. 8:9, 14-17)
- Anointing (1 John 2:20-27; 2 Cor. 1:21)
- Christ (the anointing that came with Jesus) dwelling in our hearts through faith (Eph. 3:17)
- Christ in us, the hope of glory (Col. 1:27)
- Being in Christ and becoming a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17; Gal. 6:15)
- Conversion through having the door of faith opened by God (Acts 14:27; 15:3)
- Being transformed and made new by the renewing of the mind (Rom 12:2; Eph. 4:23)
- Putting on the new self to be like God in righteousness and holiness (Eph. 4:24)
- Walking in the Spirit (Gal. 5:16, 25)
- Loving one another as a result of God-given love, through which we know God and are born of God (1 John 4:7-8)
In addition to the above, many biblical references to the Holy Spirit can be seen as synonymous with Divine Love in that the Spirit, as the Divine Love, is a means of conversion, new life, new heart, becoming a new creation / creature, salvation, and resurrection to immortality. For a more detailed discussion of this concept, see Holy Spirit.
In addition to the message about the Divine Love that Jesus preached and exemplified, the gospel books and other New Testament writings also contain a second “gospel” – about Jesus and emphasizing his death by crucifixion which paid the penalty for our sins. In contrast to Jesus’ own message, this one was introduced by others who subsequently tried to make sense of and explain the “impermissible” death of the Messiah.
Jesus as the Messiah was expected to overthrow the Romans, not be killed by them – despite the fact that Jesus stressed that his kingdom was not of this world (John 18:36). His unexpected death then became interpreted as a part of God’s plan in providing a sacrifice for sin and a vicarious atonement.
In keeping with the interpretation of Jesus’ death, authors and editors of New Testament books re-framed the narratives of his life to conform to these ideas. Words were placed in Jesus’ mouth and Hebrew Scriptures misquoted or quoted out of context to substantiate the concept of Jesus as a “sacrificial lamb” paralleling the lambs killed at Passover whose blood applied to doorposts saved the Israelite firstborn from death at the time of the Exodus (Ex. 12).
It is true that Jesus fulfilled some Old Testament prophecies, but care is needed in determining what passages apply to him and which ones do not. It is true that Jesus died at Passover at the same time that the Passover lambs were being killed for the traditional Passover meal. But does that automatically make him the fulfillment of what the original Passover signified? Is the story of the Passover and the Ten Plagues on Egypt based in fact or is it symbolic or allegorical? How much of it is literally true? It is beyond the scope here to delve into details, but suffice it to say that the Pentateuch books (Gen.-Deut.) and much of the Old Testament were compiled retrospectively by scribes like Ezra during and after the Babylonian exile. There seems to be little or no conclusive evidence from Egyptian records or archaeology for the story of the Plagues and the Exodus.
In addition to the above uncertainty, there is a logistical conflict between the two messages or “gospels”. On the one hand, God’s love and salvation is a gift from a loving and merciful Father, while on the other hand, the gift first had to be paid for as a ransom to satisfy a wrathful God. These ideas are also incompatible in that Jesus (as supposed God) would have had to pay for his own gift with his life or pay for the Father’s gift – in which case it would have been a gift from Jesus, not the Father. Yet Jesus teaches that the gift of salvation is given by God (John 4:10). In addition, God owns everything and can bestow gifts and absolve debts (Luke 15:21-24) – without requiring a sacrifice.
We also get the impression that while Jesus traveled from town to town preaching, his message always dealt with present matters, not with his future death as a payment for sin. Rather the kingdom of God and the new birth were available in the present (John 3:1-8; Luke 4:21). Therefore the often quoted verse of John 3:16 stating that “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” would read better as “God so loved the world that he gave us his divine love, that whoever receives it shall not perish but have eternal life.”
In summary, there is no efficacy in Jesus’ blood to save or pay for human sins and reconcile people to the Father. The New Testament does not even conclusively prove that Jesus is God – that idea was decided by 4th century Councils of bishops after much discussion. That being the case, those who believe in Jesus’ death as a means of their salvation may be under a false sense of security. They may also be neglecting the one vital requirement for salvation, and that is the new birth (John 3:3). This and this only saves humans from their sins and fits them to enter the Celestial kingdom of God, which is the kingdom of Jesus, for he is the Prince of that kingdom, and the master and ruler thereof.
Reference in addition to personal biblical insights: The Gospel of God’s Love
© Eva Peck, 2014
Header Photo: Alex Strenzke
Other photos: Intellimon
This and related information is available for downloading in a free PDF book entitled JESUS’ GOSPEL OF GOD’S LOVE.
For a shorter downloadable Bible-based summary of the plan of salvation as taught by Jesus, teaching, please see Plan of Salvation – Bible.
Related articles on this website:
Bible as the Word of God
Evolution of Christianity
Nature of Inspiration
Divine Plan of Salvation
Salvation as Soul Transformation
At-Onement with God
You Must Be Born Again
Pentecost-Holy Spirit-Divine Love