Sunday, November 22, 2015

The Gospel According To Matthew

Because of some unexpected health issues, this post has been pre scheduled and I may not be able to respond to comments.  Posting may be sporadic during this time of troubled health.  It has also been 'written' with speech recognition software. Please pardon any sound-alike words that escape me as I proofread.

How are we saved?  There is a lot of debate over that in Christian circles.  There is tension (at least) between Paul and James.  But what about the actual apostles who knew Jesus in person and were among his followers?

If you read the Gospel of Matthew and trace the message there, the theme that stands out is mercy. When people come to Jesus for healing, what they ask for is mercy.  When people come to him for forgiveness, what they ask for is mercy. When people challenged him whether it was right to heal on the Sabbath, he told them to go and learn what it means that God desires mercy, not sacrifice.

In his preaching, he begins his preaching career with the beatitudes, including this: Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.  Towards the end of the Sermon On The Mount, he makes sure we have not missed his point: With the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. In his famous teaching of the Last Judgment, people are received by God (or not) only based on whether they have shown mercy to other people.

There is a new covenant described in Matthew, one for all the world rather than just one nation: a covenant of forgiveness. At times I wonder if we aren't supposed to understand that every one, everywhere is forgiven for every sin.  And all that remains is that we show each other mercy.

It is natural to wonder (based on our current debates), doesn't that mean we are earning our salvation? I think it means that the whole world finds itself in the middle of Jesus's parable of the unmerciful servant: the forgiveness was already given to us, but our actions can cause us to lose it.

Does a covenant really work that way?  If you consider the old covenant at Sinai under Moses, there was in fact provision for the forgiveness of sins.  The most serious offense was considered to be idolatry, because it puts you outside the covenant under which sins are forgiven.  In the new covenant, the equivalent would be refusing mercy to someone who asked for it.  It's not merely a sin, it's a rejection of the covenant where sins are forgiven.

How are we saved?  God has shown us all mercy.  That is how we are saved.

3 comments:

Martin LaBar said...

Sorry for your health problems, whatever they are.

Aron Wall said...

I too am sorry, and hope you are feeling better soon!

Joe Hinman said...

excellent article. get in touch 3with me please?