On Jesus’ “gospel”

I really liked Mike Bird’s blog post dealing with John Piper’s sermon on “Did Jesus preach Paul’s gospel?”  This topic is confusing to me to say the least – perhaps I am reading into it too much but why would Jesus preach Paul’s gospel (whatever that was)?  For Piper it is imputed righteousness as seen through the lens of the WCF and LBC (makes me wonder, is it anochronistic?).

For Mike Bird here is what he avered:

I submit that the WCF and LBC 1689 are not the contexts for understanding Jesus’ proclamation of a gospel. Rather, I would say that Isa. 52.7, Ps. Sol. 11.1-7, 4Q521, and the Priene inscription help us to understand what Jesus and the Evangelists meant by “gospel”. When I read Mark 1:14-15; Luke 4:16-21; Matt 24:14, imputation does not come to my mind or to the the mind of any ancient Gospel commentary that I know of. Jesus’ “gospel” is Isaianic not Calvinistic (and this is coming from a Calvinist!).

This bears repeating: Jesus’ “gospel” is Isaianic not Calvinistic [or Lutheran or Arminian, etc].   Indeed.

Later he writes, which reflects my question above (which I asked to myself when I learned about the sermon and before I read this post):

Piper’s Jesus, on this point about imputation, is a construct conducive to a particular hermeneutical community, but it is neither canonical, nor catholic, nor historical.  Piper is setting off on a noble task of trying to show the parity of Jesus and Paul when it’s all the rage to drive them apart. The problem is that rather than showing that Paul was a faithful follower of Jesus, he seems to make Jesus an advocate of a theologically freighted reading of Paul (for a better effort on this task I recommend the work of David Wenham).

I know in the comments Bird noted he was trying to be sympthetic to Piper – but at this point I stand in complete agreement with Mike Bird on this issue – Paul’s gospel was actually a reflection of the gospel Jesus and the Apostles preached, not the other way around.

In other words, Piper sees the “gospel” Jesus preached through a particular interpretive lens (the theologically freighted stuff Bird noted), which is deemed by himself and his followers, as the “right” interpretive lens – ie., “right” doctrine.  In reality, it reflects his own theological commitments over and against a committment to read and understand the Gospels and Paul’s Letters as they stand, and in their historical context.

I could be off on this and looking at it from the wrong angle – if so, let me know how to see it differently.

ps., I guess we shouldn’t really pick on just John Piper, he isn’t the only person who does this (read Jesus through Paul instead of vice versa).


3 responses to “On Jesus’ “gospel”

  1. Hmmm. Interesting. I need to think this through a bit before I respond more in depth. Thanks for the links, though. I appreciate it. Have you read Trevin Wax’s thoughts on the subject?

  2. In my study on this topic of imputed righteousness, the Greek term “logizomai” is the English term for “reckon/impute/credit/etc,” (all terms are basically equivalently used) and when I look up that term in a popular lexicon here is what it is defined as:

    QUOTE: “This word deals with reality. If I “logizomai” or reckon that my bank book has $25 in it, it has $25 in it. Otherwise I am deceiving myself. This word refers to facts not suppositions.”

    The lexicon states this term first and foremost refers to the actual status of something. So if Abraham’s faith is “logizomai as righteousness,” it must be an actually righteous act of faith, otherwise (as the Lexicon says) “I am deceiving myself.” This seems to rule out any notion of an alien righteousness, and instead points to a local/inherent righteousness.

    The Lexicon gives other examples where “logizomai” appears, here are some examples:
    Rom 3:28 Therefore we conclude [logizomai] that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.

    Rom 4:4 Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted [logizomai] as a gift but as his due.

    Rom 6:11 Likewise reckon [logizomai] ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.

    Rom 8:18 For I reckon [logizomai] that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.

    Notice in these examples that “logizomai” means to consider the actual truth of an object. In 3:28 Paul ‘reckons’ faith saves while the Law does not, this is a fact, the Law never saves. In 4:4 the worker’s wages are ‘reckoned’ as a debt because the boss is in debt to the worker, not giving a gift to him. In 6:11 the Christian is ‘reckoned’ dead to sin because he is in fact dead to sin. In 8:18 Paul ‘reckons’ the present sufferings as having no comparison to Heavenly glory, and that is true because nothing compares to Heavenly glory.

    To use logizomai in the “alien status” way would mean in: (1) 3:28 faith doesn’t really save apart from works, but we are going to go ahead and say it does; (2) 4:4 the boss gives payment to the worker as a gift rather than obligation/debt; (3) 6:11 that we are not really dead to sin but are going to say we are; (4) 8:18 the present sufferings are comparable to Heaven’s glory.
    This cannot be right.

    So when the text plainly says “faith is logizomai as righteousness,” I must read that as ‘faith is reckoned as a truly righteous act’, and that is precisely how Paul explains that phrase in 4:18-22. That despite the doubts that could be raised in Abraham’s heart, his faith grew strong and convinced and “that is why his faith was credited as righteousness” (v4:22). This is also confirmed by noting the only other time “credited as righteousness” appears in Scripture, Psalm 106:30-31, where Phinehas’ righteous action was reckoned as such. This is confirmed even more when one compares another similar passage, Hebrews 11:4, where by faith Abel was commended as righteous.

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